SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: October 2019

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The October 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the D.C. Policy Center discussing the need for increased access to high quality schools for at-risk students and one from The Education Trust that examines why teachers of color leave schools and what schools can do to retain them.

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.

“Access to Schools that Level the Playing Field for D.C.’s At-Risk Students” D.C. Policy Center, September 2019

Summary: This D.C. Policy Center report finds that though student test scores have improved, there are still achievement gaps that persist. That is why access to high quality schools is especially important for at-risk students. The report discusses “leveler schools”, or schools that level the playing field for at-risk students. In order to be a leveler school, schools must meet the target of growth (90th percentile) on the state report card in either ELA or Math. Twenty elementary schools and 12 middle schools met this target, and so, are considered leveler schools. There are leveler elementary schools in all wards aside from wards 2 and 3 and leveler middle schools in all wards aside from wards 3 and 6 however, the students who need these leveler schools the most often live the farthest away from them. Furthermore, there is simply not enough space for all the students who need access to leveler schools. While improving geographic access to high quality schools would help the situation, it is more important to improve and support schools that are not leveler schools but that serve at-risk to help accelerate academic gains. The D.C. Policy Center highlights ways that D.C. can support those schools:

  • ­Using data and information in frequent and intentional ways
  • Increasing collaboration within the classroom, as school as well as across schools
  • Setting high expectations for students
  • Creating a warm socio-emotional environment
  • Monitoring growth outcomes for at-risk students
  • Improve public transit options

SBOE Context: The D.C. State Board of Education’s Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Task Force is committed to addressing issues such as student access and opportunity, high school growth, and school climate. The Task Force, which was made up of parents, community leaders, students, teachers, school leaders, and nonprofit personnel, worked to ensure an equitable educational experience for all DC students. The committee recommended that the District support additional research to ensure equitable outcomes, offer additional support to lower-rated schools, and draft a plan to reduce gaps in academic growth, rigor, and achievement between different student groups. The State Board recognizes that there are inequities in the District and is working hard to ensure that all students have access to high quality education.

The Office of Student Advocate (OSA) has also worked with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education on safe passage—recognizing that not every student has safe public transit options to and from school. A copy of OSA’s Safe Passage Community Resource Toolkit can be found here.

“If You Listen, We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover” The Education Trust, September 2019

Summary: This report discusses problems that teachers of color, in this case teachers who identify as Black or Latinx, face in schools as well as ways that schools can improve those teachers’ experiences. The researchers in this study find that teachers of color face many challenges in the workplace. Teachers of color explained that they often experience an antagonistic school culture which may come from bias or a lack of representation of people of color in leadership. They also described feeing undervalued by their administration despite being asked to take on greater responsibilities because of their shared identity with students of color. But there are actions that schools, districts, and states can take to confront these problems. Some steps include creating a culturally affirming school environment, affirming teachers’ racial identity, and actively working to invest in and retain teachers of color. Finally, the report provides four recommendations that schools, districts, and state leaders can do to retain teachers of color:

  1. Value teachers of color by providing loan forgiveness, service scholarships, loan repayment incentives, and relocation incentives.
  2. Collect and disaggregate data (by race/ethnicity) on teacher recruitment, hiring, and retention.
  3. Invest in the recruitment, preparation, and development of strong, diverse leaders committed to positive working conditions for a diverse workplace.
  4. Empower teachers of color by ensuring curriculum, learning environments, and work environments are inclusive and respectful of all racial ethnic groups.

SBOE Context: SBOE is currently working very hard to address the issue of teacher attrition in the District and recently released a report on teacher and principal turnover in D.C. public schools. The Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) (in partnership with TNTP) and DCPS have also recently released reports/factsheets on teacher workforce and retention in the District. Further SBOE research efforts include surveying former teachers to understand their reasons for leaving and surveying current teachers to understand their reason for staying. SBOE members continue to hear compelling testimony during monthly public meetings from teachers and leaders—they provide valuable insight into current issues that teachers and leaders face in their classrooms, schools, and sectors. All of this information is used to develop a better understanding of why teachers choose to leave and what can be done to ensure that they stay so that all D.C. students receive a high-quality education.

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