SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundup: February 2019

By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

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 February 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from Chiefs for Change on the importance of implementing high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum and a second from the American Academy of Pediatrics on chronic absenteeism and student health.

As we did last month, SBOE will discuss the key findings of each report, as well as explain the implication of the reports on the State Board’s work and priorities.

“Honoring Origins and Helping Students Succeed: The Case for Cultural Relevance in High-Quality Instructional Materials” – Chiefs for Change, February 21, 2019

Summary: With an increasingly diverse student population and a predominantly white educator workforce, the implementation of high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum and instructional materials “can play an important role in helping to systematically remove prejudices about race and class and in honoring students’ diverse backgrounds.” In urban districts, students of color now represent 80 percent of the student body—and people of color make up only about one-fifth of all teachers and principals. Chiefs for Change highlights the work of forward-thinking districts and states that are transitioning to rigorous instructional materials that honor the origins and experiences of their diverse students. The report makes three recommendations for states and districts seeking to incorporate cultural relevance into high-quality curriculum and instructional materials:

(1) Partner with experts to assess the status quo in every subject, and transition to high-quality curriculum and instructional materials that have been reviewed by  school leaders, teachers, parents, and community members.

(2) Ensure that teachers and school leaders receive appropriate training and development to work with high-quality, culturally relevant instructional materials.

(3) Partner with institutions of higher education and other teacher-preparation programs to ensure that teacher-preparation programs provide training on cultural relevance.

DC Context: SBOE is responsible for approving state academic standards. The State Board is also responsible for ensuring that those standards specify what students are expected to know and be able to do, contain coherent and rigorous content, encourage the teaching of advanced skills, and are updated on a regular basis. The District’s social studies standards were last updated in 2006. The State Board has heard public testimony from constituents about the need to update these standards—Rachel Bergsieker at American Friends Service Committee discussed the need to incorporate human rights and humanitarian law principles, DCPS librarian Christopher A. Stewart shared his thoughts on history courses depicting “a fragment of the rich history of African Americans and Africans in the Diaspora or Latino Americans and Latinos throughout the world”, and last night Jacob Bournazian discussed the importance of the standard related to the Armenian Genocide. Attention has also been called to the shortage of instructional time dedicated to social studies in some of DCPS schools. This year, SBOE is prioritizing work on social studies standards with a large number of members interested in this topic. Over the coming months, State Board members will be forming a small working group to discuss next steps.

The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health – American Academy of Pediatrics, February 2019

Summary: The American Academy of Pediatrics highlights the health-related causes of chronic absenteeism in U.S. schools—causes include common health conditions (e.g., flu, diabetes, asthma, poor oral health, obesity), mental and behavioral health conditions, and substance use disorders. The report recognizes the approximately 13 percent of all students who are chronically absent from school (i.e., miss 15 or more days of school each year) and discusses strategies to improve school attendance through physical and mental health interventions.

DC Context: Per the District of Columbia Public Schools (DPCS) February 2019 monthly attendance report, nearly 28 percent of DCPS students were chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism in the District measures the percent of students who miss 10 percent or more days in a school year from the start of the school year. During SBOE’s Performance Oversight Hearing (held on February 12, 2019), Committee on Education Chairman David Grosso asked about the State Board’s work related to the 80/20 rule (defines students who miss 20 percent of the school day as “absent”). SBOE is working on releasing an attendance brief of the Board’s authority related to attendance and the potential problems the 80/20 rule is causing and the changes that could be made.

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