Diversity Matters: Getting Public School Choice Right

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

On May 15, Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3 Representative) and I attended Diversity Matters: Getting Public School Choice Right. The event was sponsored by The Century Foundation (TCF) and hosted at the Newseum. The morning opened with the release of a new research report, National Snapshot of Charter Schools’ Integration Efforts. The research focused on “diverse-by-design” charter schools, meaning those with both a stated commitment to diversity and a diverse student body, defined as both socioeconomically diverse (30% – 70% of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch) and racially diverse (no more than 70% of any racial group). The researchers, Halley Potter and Kimberly Quick, identified 125 schools that met these criteria out of 5,692 they studied. In 100 districts that held these successful charter schools, common practices included:

• Redrawing boundaries (this included 40 of the 100)
• Weighted lotteries
• Intentional charter school locations
• Targeted outreach to families of underserved students
• Weighted pre-k lotteries, with opportunities for pre-k students to stay at the school in the years to come
• Magnet schools that pull from the entire district
• Transfer policies with preferences for low-income students

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Not Losing Sight of Achievement Goals for All

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

Between 2003 and 2015, the District of Columbia experienced large achievement gains for its students: double-digit gains in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a growth in attendance and graduation (despite recent setbacks), and more students reported satisfaction in their schooling. For a school district that struggled for so many years, there is so much positive. But during my time as a Policy Fellow for the State Board of Education, I’ve had the chance to absorb the data and hear upfront about some of the challenges families face here in the District. Overall, while there is much to celebrate, there is much more to do.

First, let’s examine the two most recent NAEP scores for the District – 2015 and 2017. Below is a graphic that compares the NAEP results for the District by race.

NAEP

Overall, there are distinct differences between races when it comes to student achievement. How can we make these equal? What positives can we take from the overall strengthening of scores over time and apply to everyone? How can we ensure that success is shared by all?

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My Final Thoughts – Abby Ragan

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

My name is Abby Ragan and I am finishing up a term as a Policy Fellow here at the State Board. I graduated magna cum laude from American University last December with a bachelor’s in International Relations. Although my background has been more in the nonprofit space, I later realized I wanted to pursue a career in education policy and soon obtained a job offer joining Teach For America (TFA) here in the District of Columbia. Because of the gap between a December graduation and a summer start to my commitment with TFA and, thus, the opportunity to really explore anything I wanted, I searched long and hard for experiences where I would feel like I was making a difference and learning new things about the world around me.

In thinking about the months since, I know I will never be able to put into words the growth I have experienced here. As it comes to a close, I look forward to taking this new knowledge forward into the classroom as a English teacher this coming fall. Unlike many other internships and fellow positions, I didn’t spend my time making coffee or filing papers. At the State Board, I have had the opportunity to really engage with policy during a huge time of change for the District by writing memos and resolutions and watching DC Council hearings as well as push my research, data management, and writing skills to the next level. I have learned so much about the policy process and the educational landscape of the District while making a real impact on SBOE work, and I have never felt more a part of the DC community.

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Implications of the 2017 NAEP Results

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

On April 25th, three big names in education policy research gathered to discuss the implications of the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results. All three are senior fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Chester Finn is the president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a member of the Maryland State Board of Education. He has been at the forefront of the national education debate for 35 years. Eric Hanushek is a widely-cited researcher known for his combination of economic analysis and educational issues. He has authored or edited 24 books and over 200 articles, and earned his Ph.D in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Finally, Paul Peterson is currently a government professor at Harvard University and the senior editor of Education Next magazine. Four of his more than 30 books have been recognized by the American Political Science Association as the best works in their field. The discussion was moderated by Amber Northern, the senior vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

“What do the scores mean?” was the first question posed to the group, and each speaker had a different take on the NAEP data: “each year we generate excitement about a flat line” was Dr. Hanushek’s response; “something changed in 2009” was Dr. Peterson’s response; and Dr. Finn noted that the achievement gains in NAEP have been inequitable. But the conversation quickly focused on accountability – did the scores flatline in 2009 because of the end of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) -era provisions, or in spite of them? Dr. Chester pointed out that the heavy-handed accountability may have worked to elevate scores for a time, but the flattening NAEP scores in later years of the Act demonstrated a ceiling for student achievement under the NCLB provisions. The panelists agreed with his point, but were also quick to note that NCLB was a “bad law” which the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has done a great job in replacing.

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The Future of American Schools is Bright

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

On April 25, The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute and George W. Bush Institute co-hosted a forum called “Beyond Reading and Math: How to Accelerate Success for Students.” Under the new federal school accountability law, ESSA, states and schools now have the ability to both widen the definition of school accountability and push towards improved school quality and student achievement. The forum featured framing remarks by Jason Botel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Delegated Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, and a roundtable. Furthermore, the event publicized the release of a new Hamilton Project strategy paper on ESSA implementation, discussing state strategies for reducing rates of chronic absenteeism and framing the conversation going forwards.

After Mr. Botel grounded the forum’s conversation in student-centered solutions and empowered state innovation, the research authors presented their findings on chronic absenteeism. Theories connecting being physically present in school to better academic outcomes have never been more substantiated, yet NAEP scores show stagnation nationwide and a widening gap between subgroups while about 6.8 million students in the United States missed more than three weeks of school during the 2013- 2014 school year (Attendance Works and Everyone Graduates Center 2017). Further, the research shows that chronic absenteeism is persistent; in other words, schools that experience chronic absenteeism tended to show similarly high rates of such year after year. The District, too, has been battling these same issues for several years.

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SBOE Stops By Seaton Stingers

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

On April 19, State Board of Education members Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3), Joe Weedon (Ward 6), and staff members from SBOE and the Ombudsman’s office visited Seaton Elementary School, located a few blocks northeast of Logan Circle in Shaw. An enthusiastic and multicultural school, the Stingers are a very diverse community of students! The after school coordinator, Ms. Kirkpatrick, was our tour guide and we were joined by prospective parents.

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Seaton has a very progressive approach to technology in the classroom, using a blended learning model starting in Kindergarten. There are also carts of laptops and iPads on each floor of the school, bringing the school very close to a 1:1 ratio for students and computers. There can be more done, however, to achieve that goal of 1:1.

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State Board in the Community: May 2018

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

Spring has officially sprung for State Board members! This past month, the members of the Board participated in and attended enlightening and fascinating events around the District.

Ashley (At-Large) read to students at Cedar Tree Academy as part of the Read Across DC Campaign.

 

Ruth (Ward 3) braved the cold and attended the Nationals opening day game.

 

Similarly, Joe (Ward 6) attended opening day… for the Capitol Hill Little League!

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Foundations Give Back to DC Schools

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

LaSalle-Backus Education Campus was the recipient of a generous library transformation grant from the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Heart of America, and the Dale Jr. Foundation. The school, located in Ward 4, won the award because its students showed a consistent commitment to literacy through the Redskins Read Program. On Friday, April 20, Ward 4 Representative Dr. Lannette Woodruff and I went to the grand opening of the beautiful new library. The three foundations donated $100,000 to the project, and in addition to a complete redesign, the library also gained 350 books, 20 iPads, 20 laptops, 20 sets of headphones, new furniture, and a Smartboard.

When we arrived, we saw Redskins players painting an inspirational message on the wall outside of the library, and they were happy to interact with students, staff, and other attendees. Dr. Woodruff also had the opportunity to meet Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The school had prepared a short ceremony, complete with a ribbon cutting, and they had chosen a group of 2nd and 8th grade students to watch the ribbon cutting. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans spoke, as did the school’s principal, Justin Ralston, and its Assistant Principal who oversees literacy, Shelly Gray. Heart of America’s President and CEO, Jill Heath, spoke directly to students and asked them to commit to reading more and taking advantage of their new space.

The event was fun for everyone involved, and we were excited to see the beautiful new space for LaSalle-Backus’ students. We hope it inspires even more students to become lifelong readers!