2020 in Review Part 1: Office of the Student Advocate Annual Report

By: Office of the Student Advocate

What is the Office of the Student Advocate?

The DC Office of the Student Advocate guides and supports students, parents, families, and community members in navigating the public school system in D.C. Our mission is to empower D.C. residents to achieve equal access to public education through advocacy, outreach, and information services. Our hope is to continue to challenge the notion that public education is not only a public asset and right but is something that should be community-focused and community-informed.

A Year in Review

During School Year (SY) 2019-20, our office continued to expand our scope of resources and supports to all education stakeholders across the District of Columbia. We prioritized our role as connectors and collaborators to amplify the voices of students and families in the DC education landscape. As a result, we were able to accomplish the following tasks during SY 2019-20:

Our social-media based resource, “Don’t Mute Mental Health.”
  • Received 401 unduplicated requests for assistance, via our live answered hotline, addressing education-related questions and providing resources, referrals, and one-on-one coaching on all public education issues.
  • Distributed more than 4,850 resources in English, Spanish, and Amharic across every ward in the District.
  • Engaged with more than 3,000 education stakeholders through outreach and engagement, beyond our RFA line. We focused on students, families, service providers, and government agencies, and participate in more than 100 in-person and virtual meetings and events citywide.
  • Engaged with more than 1,250 students, families, and stakeholders virtually in compliance with social distancing orders.
  • Developed a social media-based resource dedicated to discussing topics related to mental health and student success. Weekly sessions were hosted on our social media pages and viewed by more than 500 listeners.
  • Collaborated with Decoding Dyslexia DC to produce a handbook for parents and schools seeking local and national resources regarding Dyslexia.
  • Expanded the ward-based Safe Passage/Student Safety Working Group sessions to bring education, health and safety, and community leaders together to create solutions for students and families facing safety barriers getting to and from schools in Ward 7 & 8.
  • Grew the “Safe Spot” initiative in collaboration with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education to more than 40 safe spots in Wards 7 and 8.
  • Launched our My Teacher DC webpage. This resource provides information and questions for families to consider during the school selection process.
  • Launched our Race, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) Toolkit to provide school communities with a framework to create and sustain race, equity, and inclusion meetings and trainings within schools.
  • Revamped our Parent & Family Go-To Guide with additional information for Mental Health, Bullying, Military/Service Families, and Homeless Students. Also, the guide was made available in print in Spanish and Amharic.

Our relationships with families and community members are at the center of our work. Each school year we work to deepen our outreach and partnerships to address the specific needs and concerns of parents and community members. While our collaboration with families is integral to our work, our partnerships with government stakeholders and education-focused organizations make this collaboration possible. The office engages in education policy discussions and thought-leadership through membership on several task forces, advisory committees, working groups, panels, and conference participation ranging from attendance to student safety.

Recommendations

This year we offered the following recommendations:

  1. INCREASE TRANSPARENCY ON LEA SPECIAL EDUCATION CAPACITY
    1. There is an urgent need for information about available supports, specific programming, and additional resources offered by the LEA in the selection and enrollment process. Provide families with comprehensive access to resources and organizational supports, to ensure true school choice.
  • TEACHER DIVERSITY AND RETENTION DATA SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN DC’S STAR RATING FRAMEWORK
    • In a District where nearly 85 percent of all public and charter school students identify as either Black (67%) or Latinx (19%), improving the teacher recruitment pipeline to include a more representative group of teachers can result in a significant boost in student achievement for an overwhelming majority of public school students.
  • PRIORITIZING THE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH AT EVERY LEVEL
    • As we adjust and recover from the effects of the global pandemics our students have experienced this school year we must recognize that this year’s events only served to exacerbate the existing issue of behavioral health for our youth in all of our communities across the District. As the recovery progresses, we must establish a comprehensive multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) for all students and ensure that culturally relevant training on supporting students with mental health needs is prioritized for all adults in school buildings especially those in staff support roles such as security and administration.

We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving families, and we welcome your partnership in making it all possible. You can find all of our annual reports on our website here.

Published by DC State Board of Education

The DC State Board of Education is the District's elected voice on educational issues and advocates for a world-class education for D.C. students.

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