Visit to Chavez Prep Middle School

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow and Matt Repka, Policy Analyst

Last week, two SBOE staff members had the chance to visit a Chavez Prep Middle School open house. Chavez Prep is one of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, a DC-based charter school network. Serving grades 6-9, Chavez Prep has served Columbia Heights since 2009.The open house, which attracted several prospective students and their parents, consisted of a presentation by Director of Campus Operations Myisha Trice and introductions to the administrative personnel like Principal Kourtney Miller and Special Education Manager Aireen Sampson before concluding in a tour of the school. The administrators were engaged with the potential students present throughout their presentation, asking questions about their favorite subjects in school or what they would want to buy at the school store.

The Chavez Prep MS motto is “to prepare scholars to succeed in competitive colleges and to empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free, and equal world.” Administrators emphasized a dual focus on college and on public policy: at Chavez Prep, middle schoolers not only prepare for high school, but for college and beyond. They use “warm, but strict” methods and a 1-to-1 laptop-to-student model to aspire for success for their hardworking students. This could be seen through student incentives like a school store where students use credits for good behavior and work to earn small prizes or field trips, “Student of the Week” awards, and charts in hallways that display academic accomplishments and the progress of the whole grade throughout the semester.

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Pre-K Teachers: Ensuring Access to High-Quality Bachelor’s Degrees

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

On January 26th, New America held an event highlighting the publication of the report Preparing Pre-K Teachers: Envisioning Equitable Pathways to High-Quality Bachelor’s Degrees and creating a space for discussion of the report’s findings. Early childhood education (ECE) is an important phase for cognitive, behavioral, and social development in a child’s life and has been emphasized in recent conversations about the District’s educational landscape, including the February 27th public oversight hearing for Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Thus, early childhood educators have a crucial function; however, the industry is deprofessionalized and the effectiveness of existing higher ed programs are questionable. Therefore, New America and Bellwether Education Partners posit that “the training that pre-K teachers have, and the compensation they receive, often don’t match the complexity or importance of their work.”

These questions are all highly connected to each other. Unfortunately, as noted by the Director of Early & Elementary Education at New America Laura Bornfreund, 75% of ECE teachers make less than $15/hour. This means they are worried about paying rent and putting food on the table, not about allocating resources or time to higher education. This is especially true as the typical ECE worker is first generation, minority, low income, and female. In the fight for higher wages, Rhian Evans Allvin, the CEO of National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC), emphasized that we must be careful not to “whiten the workforce” in the progress, or that reforms don’t disproportionately benefit white individuals. Otherwise, we are preparing students for under-paying jobs. The report cited several strategies as possible means for reform:

  • Improving Access and Completion
    1. Advising services
    2. Flexible scheduling
    3. Creating stackable credentials and articulation agreements
  • Building on Non-traditional Instructional Models
    1. Competency based
    2. Online education
  • Creative with scholarships and financing
    1. TEACH scholarships in 20+ states
    2. Federal aid
    3. Loan Forgiveness in Tulsa, OK
  • Revamping Coursework and Field Experience
    1. Use latest research to improve quality
    2. Job-embedded Approaches
      1. i) Apprenticeships
    3. Observation tools
  • Recruiting the Future Workforce
    1. High School coursework
      1. i) Dual enrollment
      2. ii) Embedded CDA programs

The panel was then introduced as a means to discuss the report’s findings. The panel consisted of Shayna Cook, a Policy Analyst at New America; Marnie Kaplan, a Senior Analyst at Bellwether Education Partners; Kathy Glazer, President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation; and Sue Russell, Executive Director of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center. It was moderated by Jeneen Interlandi, a writer for New York Times Magazine. The panelists focused on themes like motivation under stress, program quality, affordability and accessibility.

The inability of an ECE degree or job to support a family was an important topic. An ECE degree has the lowest lifetime earnings out of 137 majors surveyed. Furthermore, while online degree programs have the benefits of flexibility and accessibility, especially to rural communities, they are often expensive and lack a support system for the individual. Students may not have access to up to date devices or high speed internet, and they must be self motivated to achieve without the support of classmates, advisors, and professorial relationships.

By requiring bachelor degrees, the panel hopes employer buy in would increase and get them involved with programs like TEACH. Some employers might even be able to use these programs as a recruitment tactic. During the Q+A, when one individual asked about teacher motivation for participation on top of professional and personal responsibilities, the panelists claimed that college is the dream for many individuals and that the question relies more on affordability, motivation, and support. Many women work this overtime to act as a role model and support their communities. According to one study mentioned, over 40% of ECE teachers are depressed, with turnover rates in ECE centers skyrocketing above 50%. With these statistics, the question of wellbeing must be included in the push of higher qualifications. Paid release time is one solution to this quandary. By paying teachers for time out of the classroom whether in class or with their own children, these teachers pushing for a greater quality education for themselves and their students can achieve greater work life balance.

Although the report and corresponding discussion were meant to have a general, nationwide perspective, many of these problems and solutions work well within the District’s context and should be considered in conversations going forward. ECE policy must not only consider facilities and licensure, as was prominent in the recent OSSE oversight hearing, but teacher qualifications and how to create opportunities for those ECE teachers already in the system.

SBOE Visit to DCI School

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

Earlier this week, Ward 3 representative Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 4 representative Lannette Woodruff and SBOE staff visited the new campus of DC International School. The group was welcomed by Principal Simon Rodberg and taken on tours of the building by pairs of student ambassadors. The SBOE team was able to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Principal Rodberg, Ms. Deirdre Bailey, the grades 9/10 Assistant Principal, Allison Sandusky, the Director of Student Culture and Lauren Games, the Communications Associate.

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DCI is a Tier 1 school serving grades 6-10 (with plans to expand to 6-12) with a one-to-one technology system based on three areas: International Baccalaureate, Student Agency, and Language Immersion. DCI plans to provide IB program offerings in both the Diploma and Careers tracks. DCI students are from all 8 wards, but a majority are from wards 1, 4, and 5- the same wards where DCI’s feeder schools are located. 51% of DCI students qualify for free or reduced lunch while 14% of the population receive special education services. These demographics present a diverse student body with varied opportunities and interests in clubs such as Baking, Debate, Sewing, Italian cooking, Star Wars, Homework Help, and Rock Band.

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State Board in the Community: 02-27-2018

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

Even though Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow at the beginning of the month, and six more weeks of winter were predicted, the SBOE Board members have been active in attending many events across the District during the month of February.

Joe (Ward 6), Laura (Ward 1), and Markus (Ward 8) attended the Standing Ovation awards ceremony, honoring DCPS students, faculty, and staff for their accomplishments during the 2017 calendar year:

Karen (Ward 7) and Markus (Ward 8) attended a Community Meeting held at Ballou High School, to address the attendance issues impacting DC schools:


CALDER Research Conference 2018

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

From January 23rd to 26th, the World Economic Forum held their annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Davos was a chance for the great minds of economics to come together to discuss pressing issues facing the world today. Similarly, the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) held their annual research conference in Washington, DC, just one week later, bringing together the top researchers and advocates of education policy. It was a chance for education researchers to showcase their work and discuss the upcoming policy ideas and challenges to education on the horizon. Each panel contained researchers who presented their latest work, after which a policy practitioner would react to the findings. Next, panelists discussed each other’s work, and each panel concluded with questions from the audience. The four panels were:

  • K-12 Student Achievement Gaps: What Are the Contributing Factors, and What Can Be Done About Them
  • Policy and Practice Potpourri
  • Prospects for Changing Higher Education
  • Dealing with the 3rd Rail: The Politics of Data Access

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School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

Student discipline has been a hot topic in DC lately; Education Chair of the DC Council, David Grosso, proposed legislation that would ban non-violent infractions as a reason for suspension, which would lead to a decrease in school suspensions. He also held a hearing, inviting the public to testify on discipline policy, and roughly 90 witnesses signed up to testify[1].

In addition to Councilmember Grosso’s proposed legislation, there have been a few public events in DC about student discipline. SBOE Policy Fellow Kit Faiella wrote a blog post about one event at the Center for American Progress (CAP), “In Class Not Cuffs: Rethinking School Discipline.” Ombudsman Joyanna Smith was at the CAP event with Kit and noted that while the conversation was held in DC, none of the speakers or panelists addressed DC’s pending legislation or the multiple hearings Councilman Grosso has held on student discipline. I attended another event at the Fordham Institute entitled “School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines.” I was curious to see how this event might compare – would it make more connections to the DC context?

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Tour of Eagle Academy PCS

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

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At the Board’s January Public Meeting, we heard testimony on the ESSA school report cards that the SBOE is working with the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) to produce. Two school leaders testified that the format of the report cards disadvantages schools that only serve early childhood students, because it only includes growth from 3rd grade onward. Pre-K through 3rd grade schools make tremendous gains with their students during those years, which won’t be evident to families who look at school report cards in their current form.

With this information, the Board aims to partner with OSSE to think about nuanced ways to present early childhood schools’ student outcomes. Board member Dr. Lannette Woodruff (Ward 4) wanted to understand what an early childhood campus really looks like, so I joined her for a tour of Eagle Academy PCS. Eagle’s CEO, Dr. Joe Smith, was one of the school leaders who testified at our meeting. We visited the Congress Heights location, since it’s the larger of the two.

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State Board in the Community: 01-31-2018

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

In December 2017 and early January 2018, the Board members attended a variety of events around the DC community, interacting with students and parents alike. Many Board members took tours of schools during December and January, witnessing teachers and students in action firsthand.

• Ashley Carter (At-Large) visited Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

• Laura Wilson Phelan (Ward 1) highlighted the tremendous work of our #DCGradReqs Task Force as a panelist on a National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) webinar focused on equity in high school graduation requirements.

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In Class, Not Cuffs: A Discussion about Rethinking School Discipline

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

The Center for American Progress hosted an intriguing panel on January 17th discussing the role of over-punishment in our schools and how it can lead to negative outcomes over time. This is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and is a disturbing, ongoing trend affecting many Districts, LEAs, and schools across the country. Unfortunately these well-researched occurrences disproportionately impact minority, low-income, and disabled students. Some research cited from the presentation:

  • Black students are suspended and expelled three times the rate of white students
  • Disabled students are suspended and expelled two times the rate of non-disabled students
  • Higher funding for mental health professionals in districts and schools can lead to better student outcomes
  • Suspension is correlated with almost all negative achievement outcomes (prison, low grades, low socio-economic status later in life)
  • Moving to a new location, a trauma a child has experienced, or a major life event impacts the chances of a child being suspended

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New SBOE Leadership for 2018

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

At this month’s public meeting, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) elected Ms. Karen Williams of Ward 7 as President and Mr. Jack Jacobson of Ward 2 as Vice President. Both members served in these roles during 2017 and both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their roles.

Additionally, the SBOE formally adopted a structure for upcoming policy, governance, and engagement committees to help achieve the goals of increasing equity and academic excellence in District public schools. The Board looks forward to continuing its work on the ambitious goals laid out in the SBOE strategic plan.

Below are the 2018 SBOE Committee assignments:

Administration & Budget – This committee monitors and oversees the State Board’s budget, personnel and governance.

  • Chair: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2
  • Members: Mark Jones, Ward 5; Lannette Woodruff, Ward 4; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Student Advisory – The Student Advisory committee ensures the voice of students is heard in improving education in the District.

  • Co-Chairs: Tallya Rhodes & Tatiana Robinson
  • Members: Students, Karen Williams (ex officio)

Educational Excellence & Equity – Regulations & Laws – This committee will focus on conducting high-quality policy research and analysis to support the State Board’s role in approving District education regulations.

  • Chair: Laura Wilson Phelan, Ward 1
  • Members: Ashley Carter, At-Large; Markus Batchelor, Ward 8; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Educational Excellence & Equity – Educational Standards – This committee will focus on reviewing and analyzing District educational standards.

  • Co-Chairs: Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 3; Mark Jones, Ward 5
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Karen Williams (ex officio)

ESSA Task Force – ESSA implementation began during the 2017-18 school year. The task force will work diligently with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to continue gathering input from diverse stakeholders on the design and development of the new accountability system for the District.

  • Chair: Lannette Woodruff, Ward 4
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Joe Weedon, Ward 6; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Public Engagement & Outreach – This committee is tasked with ensuring that all voices are heard on key education policy issues. Priorities will include developing a community engagement strategy that includes diverse stakeholders and expanding the breadth of participation at SBOE community meetings, forums, and roundtables around the District.

  • Co-Chairs: Markus Batchelor, Ward 8; Ashley Carter, At-Large
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Karen Williams (ex officio)