At first, I had no idea what the role of Student Representative of the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) would entail or that it even existed. But, after my teachers at McKinley Technology High Schoolintroduced me to the opportunity, I knew this would align with my personality and life goals.
My name is Dayja Burton and I am a senior at McKinley Technology High School. My school focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) and I participate in the information technology (I.T.) department with a concentration in networking/cybersecurity. This program provides me with a hands on education and opportunities that will help me in college and later in my career. Outside of the classroom, I am a member of the flag football team and the editor-in-chief of the YMCA Youth and Government program. My involvement with various organizations correlates to something that is important to me.
By Alex O’Sullivan, SY2019–20 Student Representative
I applied to be a SY2019–20 student representative on the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) because I know the importance—now more than ever—of fulfilling my civic duty by actively engaging with my community, and serving with elected officials and driven high school students to provide voices for youth throughout the city is a great way to do so.
I am a sophomore at BASIS DC PCS where my favorite classes are English Language, US Government, and Calculus. Outside of school, I play baseball, and am an avid fan of other sports such as basketball and football. I enjoy politics, and I am a board member and delegation leader of YMCA’s ‘Youth and Government’ program, a mock youth form of city government. I also write poetry and serve as the co-founder and President of my school’s poetry club. I love math and I tutor third-grade students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary Schoolin English and Math, and this school year I will be a member of the NSBE Jr. (National Society of Black Engineers), where I will participate in math-related competitions. Throughout the school year, I participate in youth speech competitions, and in 2019 I won the 2019 BIG (Blacks in Government) Youth Oratorical Chapter Competition on the injustices of the American judicial system.
So many firsts. My first government job. My first time working with politicians. My first time running multiple social media accounts and a blog. In October 2016, I stepped into a position that did not exist before. Excited, yet intimidated, I relished the opportunity to develop the role into what it is today. Much thanks goes to our Executive Director John-Paul Hayworth, our tremendous staff, and our passionate Board members for trusting me with this role and allowing me to make it my own. As I finish up my final week serving as public affairs specialist for the DC State Board of Education, here are a few moments I won’t soon forget.
As a staff member, I loved getting out into the community and visiting District public schools as often as possible. This helped keep my ears to the ground and helped to connect the education policies we were working on with the realities of children attending school. Whether it was Back-to-School events, school tours, education events, or student representative swearing-ins, I always felt honored I was able to capture these moments as they happened. In spring 2017, we embarked on the first #SBOESelfieTour, a public engagement campaign where staff and Board members visited a variety of schools over a one or two-day period to help promote specific policy issues or campaigns. During these quarterly tours, we dropped off flyers and materials about our open applications for student representative and Student Advisory Committee, applications to join our High School Graduation Requirements and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) task forces, and back-to-school information on the work of the State Board, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Office of the Student Advocate. The ultimate bonding experience for staff, these outings proved to be a great way for us to connect with the schools we served.
2. Going Live
Running a livestream for every public meeting, working session, and task force over the last three years was thrilling, challenging, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Every conversation, debate, vote, public testimony, and ceremonial resolution was captured live via our Periscope or FacebookLive feed. I wouldn’t call myself an expert videographer or photographer, but I managed to hone my craft as time went on. The toughest parts were when the WiFi or phone connection would drop or when I needed to inconspicuously capture substantive conversations at our task force meetings. Our dedicated group of viewers always keep me on my toes in the chat box, never really leaving me a moment to relax. But, I loved engaging with them in real time to help make their viewing experience valuable.
3. ESSA Community Engagement
In February 2017, the State Board partnered with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to co-host community meetings in all eight wards of the District. Members engaged with the public on the draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to find out what community members wanted DC to include in its final accountability plan. With a smaller staff back then, John-Paul and I traveled around to schools in the District with translation equipment, projectors, printed materials, and a projector screen to ensure these events went off smoothly. It was a sprint that month, with three meetings per week for four weeks straight in the evenings. But, it was worth it! It was a great way for me to learn the unique challenges and concerns of residents in every part of this city early on in my time at SBOE.
4. Spotlight on Teacher Retention
In May 2018, SBOE contracted with local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy to produce a report on teacher and principal retention in the District of Columbia. In October last year, we released the commissioned report along with three recommendations. The report found that teacher turnover at the DCPS system level is roughly 19 percent, and average annual teacher turnover at the school level in both traditional public schools and charter schools has consistently been about 25 percent. The report also found that turnover in DCPS neighborhood schools is highest in Wards 5 and 8, but that charter school turnover rates are largely the same regardless of location. The impact of this report has been wide-ranging, and the State Board has continued to analyze this issue in 2019. Through community forums, expert panels, and engagement with teachers and administrators throughout the District, we have deepened our knowledge on this issue. The SBOE is poised to continue the conversation in the new school year and I am grateful to have been a part of these efforts to shine a light on such an important issue.
5. Launching the SBOE Blog
When I started my role, I wanted to create a way for us to connect more with the community. I felt that SBOE needed a way for Board members and staff to share their views on specific education policy issues. I also wanted a space for us to publish information, feedback, and takeaways from key events. Thus, this blog was born in December 2016. With the breadth of communications and media relations functions I performed over the years, it was a challenge at times to carve out time each month to get content posted. But, with the help of our dedicated staff, we’ve managed to post a few blogs each month. It’s been a great outlet for us to get our voice across in a unique way.
Together, we’ve worked hard to communicate the message of the State Board through meetings, task force sessions, selfie tours, press releases, community newsletters, media responses, and countless community events. With a focus on transparency, we streamed every public meeting, working session, and task force meeting live on Periscope and FacebookLive. With the help of staff and our dedicated fellows, we’ve been able to expand our social media presence – adding an Instagram and LinkedIn account and maximizing our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages.
And now, I am fully ready to take on a new professional challenge! I am staying in DC, so I’ll be close. From time to time, I may pull up a SBOE meeting on Periscope to catch the latest on the work of the State Board. It will be a nice change to be on the other side, watching as an interested and supportive District resident. I can’t wait to see what’s next for SBOE.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to serve as a panelist at the first in-person convening of the Leadership Exchange for Adolescent Health Promotion (LEAHP) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our State Board of Education (SBOE) developed and approved some of the most comprehensive health education standards in the country in 2017, so it was a great opportunity to share our story with five state teams of government education and health officials, non-profit leaders, and practitioners and collaborate with them to address adolescent health in three priority areas: sexual health education, sexual health services, and safe and supportive environments. D.C. has one of the five teams in this first cohort of the LEAHP project (others are Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin).
The panel I was a part of focused on how to work with state and local policymakers to develop policy systems in which all students can thrive and have what they need to be safe, healthy and supported in school. Panelists shared best practices, common challenges and strategies to overcome them, and real-world success stories. I spoke about how to initiate, foster and maintain relationships with policymakers and their staff. We also discussed the “ick factor” that can limit or stymie vital conversations around topics that are uncomfortable for some people including sexual activity, mental health and LGBTQ issues.
Earlier this summer, the State Board of Education was thrilled to announce the selection of Dayja Burton, a rising senior at McKinley Technology High School, and Alex O’Sullivan, a rising sophomore at BASIS DC PCS, as Student Representatives for the 2019–20 school year. For the length of their term, these outstanding students will join our nine elected State Board members in policy discussions and community engagement efforts, bringing the voice of students directly to decision makers. With their direct experience in the classroom, student representatives provide a unique voice during policy discussions and offer a vital perspective on teacher retention, education standards, and our state accountability system.
Dayja Burton is a McKinley Technology Zelinger award winner, a recipient of the Perseverance Award, and a member of the Principal’s Honor Roll and National Honor Society. Alex O’Sullivan is a member of Youth and Government, co-founder and president of his school’s poetry club, and a volunteer tutor at his local elementary school. As Student Representatives, Burton and O’Sullivan will also co-chair the 2019–20 Student Advisory Committee (SAC), a volunteer group of students from District high schools in both D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and the public charter sector.
The State Board began an open application process for both the Student Representative positions and the SAC in March, receiving 40 applicants from both traditional public and public charter school students. The SBOE sought students who were passionate about serving their community, as these individuals bring a vital voice to the education policy-making process in the District.
The SAC serves as the voice of students in the State Board’s work. They are consulted on issues of policy before the Board. The SAC meets at least once per month. Each year, the Committee sends the SBOE a report on a matter of importance to District students, providing recommended next steps. If rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are interested in joining the Student Advisory Committee, contact us at email@example.com. For more information, please visit sboe.dc.gov/studentvoices.
This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continued its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The July 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Center for American Progress (CAP) about the unique debt burdens Black and Latinx educators face and a second by David M. Houston & Jeffrey R. Henig on the effects of showing parents growth data when they search for new schools.
As we did last month, SBOE will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.
Summary: In this report, CAP outlines the way student debt uniquely impacts Black and Latinx educators. Black and Latinx students are more likely than their white counterparts to borrow money to complete their education as well as attain graduate degrees, making their student debt a barrier to attracting and retaining them as teachers. On average, Black teachers earn less than their white counterparts, which makes it even more difficult to repay the higher loan burden they carry. CAP outlines some policy recommendations:
Attracting and retaining teachers who are not only qualified, but good, is a problem in every state. At this year’s National Forum on Education Policy earlier this month in Denver, Colorado, delegates heard presentations on teacher retention and credentialing, new ideas on career and technical education and insights from teachers of the year.
One of the biggest topics discussed by the executive directors of state boards of education across the country was how each state was attempting to tackle the problem of losing good teachers. We talked about how higher salaries were important, but that research (and teachers directly) had shown that the biggest impact on a teacher leaving a school is the support they get from the leadership and their peers.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) began in 1965 with the adoption of the Compact for Education by Congress. ECS serves as an education research and policy reporting body for all the states, territories and the District of Columbia. The President of the State Board of Education is a Commissioner of ECS. For the past three years, ECS has utilized grant funding to also bring together the executive directors from state boards of education across the country to compare notes and strategize on policy problems.
The Forum left me feeling hopeful for education policy across the nation and with some new and innovative ideas that might work for the District of Columbia.
This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its effort to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The June 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) on how to support families with choosing a school and a second from the Office of the D.C. Auditoron the use of at-risk student funds in our public schools.
As we have done previously, SBOE will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.
Summary:Today, across 47 states and the District of Columbia, families can enroll their children in a public school outside their neighborhood. In about 200 school districts across the country, at least one in ten students in the public school system attend charter schools. Navigating the school choice process can be complicated for families and providing support to them is essential to ensuring that public education systems are working for everyone. CRPE highlights the work of D.C. School Reform Now (DCSRN) and what the organization has done to help families in the District’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods find success with school choice and enroll in high-quality schools. CRPE highlights effective strategies and learnings for helping families navigate choice landscapes: Continue reading →
Last week, our outgoing Student Representatives Tatiana Robinson (Ballou High School) and Marjoury Alicea (Capital City Public Charter School) joined Student Advisory Committee (SAC) members Hannah Dunn & Aaliyah Dick (both of Wilson High School) to present the end-of-year SAC report to State Board members. During the June public meeting, these student leaders shared highlights from the Committee’s recommendations, which focused on solutions for teacher retention and equity across District schools.
Aiton Elementary School partnered with DC Central Kitchen to teach students about different fruits and vegetables that could be grown in the District. Students were able to touch and taste local fruits and vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers grown from a truck garden. In addition, the students learned proper knife techniques and cut strawberries, kale, and carrots. They mixed the ingredients together with a strawberry vinaigrette dressing to create a fresh summer strawberry salad that everyone enjoyed.