SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: February 2020 – Science of Reading & Homeless Youth

This month, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The February 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which examines teacher preparation programs and one from the National Center for Homeless Education, which assesses the prevalence of homeless students in the United States.

As we have done previously, the State Board will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.

“2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction” National Council on Teacher Quality, January 2020

Summary: This report explains the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) findings of teacher preparation programs’ adherence to the science of reading. The “science of reading” refers to methods of reading instruction that have been proven successful by research. To assess whether teachers are actually acquiring the skills to teach the science of reading, NCTQ looked at programs’ required readings and assignments, syllabi, lecture topics, textbooks, and opportunities to practice. Researchers looked for evidence of dedicated course time to the five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. They also looked for measures to hold teacher candidates accountable for learning each component. Some of their key findings include:

• The number of elementary programs teaching scientifically-based reading instruction to their aspiring teachers continues to increase.
• The science of reading now prevails in undergraduate programs. However, graduate programs and non-traditional programs do not show that same improvement.
• There is substantial variation in adherence to reading science depending upon the state.
• Of the five components of scientifically-based reading instruction, programs are most likely to omit phonemic awareness, which is the most challenging skill.
• The use of textbooks that reflect the science of reading is increasing.

Overall, NCTQ found that more than half of teacher preparation programs are covering four or more of the components of reading. This number has steadily increased since 2013.

State Board context: The D.C. State Board of Education recently heard from panelists about the science of reading and teaching students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Among those that shared their thoughts, panelists stated that:

• The District should ensure dyslexia screenings are administered in early years.
• Teachers must be better trained in areas such as decoding, language development, and reading acquisition and evidence-based interventions.
• Undiagnosed dyslexia or other reading disabilities have significant effects on learning.

The State Board plans to use this insight from the panelists to increase awareness of what the District should be doing to ensure that students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities are receiving the proper educational supports.

“Federal Data Summary School Years 2015-16 Through 2017-18: Education for Homeless Children and Youth” National Center for Homeless Education, January 2020

Summary: This report examines the prevalence of homeless youth in the United States. Specifically, it looks at who is homeless, what type of nighttime residence they use, their academic performance, and the grants that school districts receive. Key findings include:

• The number of identified students reported as experiencing homelessness increased 15 percent from school year 2015–16 to school year 2017–18.
• 16 states experienced growth in their homeless student populations of ten percent or more over the three-year period of study.
• States provided an average per-pupil amount of $76.50 in McKinney-Vento funding to school districts in school year 2017–18.
• The change in the unaccompanied homeless youth subgroup was consistent with the growth of the homeless student population overall, with an increase of 16 percent between school years 2015­–16 and 2017–18.
• During school year 2017–18, approximately 29 percent of students experiencing homelessness achieved academic proficiency in reading (language arts). During the same school year, 24 percent of the students achieved proficiency in mathematics, while 26 percent achieved proficiency in science.

State Board Context: During the 2019 December public meeting, the D.C. State Board heard from local organizations about the challenges and barriers that students experiencing homelessness in the District face. The organizations that came to testify included SchoolHouse Connection, The Office of the Student Advocate (OSA), Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, and Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). They indicated a number of barriers preventing homeless students from achieving educational success.

One barrier identified is the difficulty in accurately assessing how many students are living in unstable housing situations. While the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) reported that 7,728 children and youth were homeless during the 2018–19 school year, it is likely that number is an undercount. This makes it hard for city officials to ascertain what supports and resources schools need to adequately support their students in need.

Another major barrier is transportation. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to provide homeless students transportation to and from school at the request of the parent or guardian; however, the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project has stated that families living in shelters and hotels report up to three-hour commutes to get to school and hundreds of dollars spent on ride-share services. To combat this barrier, the District implemented a shuttle service that takes homeless students to and from school, although, the service is set to end on the last day of school in June 2020.

OSA has done extensive research on the challenges that students experiencing homelessness face. They have provided families multiple resources so that a lack of information does not result in a greater lack of access. The State Board recognizes that these barriers prevent students experiencing homelessness from educational opportunities and is working to identify what can be done to break down these barriers.

“The Best Team in District Government” – Matt’s Top 5 Moments at the State Board

I first started at the State Board in late 2017. Since then, I’ve been on staff for 28 working sessions, 27 task force meetings, 26 public meetings, three performance oversight hearings, two budget oversight hearings, and one public forum on teacher retention. Throughout this time, the State Board has continued to develop as an institution, expanding its reach to take on important issues of equity in education in the District.

One thing I’ve appreciated about the State Board is its ability to work in collaboration with District’s education institutions on policy matters, including compliance with federal law, while maintaining the independent status that allows it to serve as a conduit for the voices of residents interested in addressing important issues in their school communities.

This is my final week at the State Board, and I’ll really miss the team here. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to support the State Board members in thinking about the most critical challenges in public education. But as a District resident myself, I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the State Board and hearing about the office’s ongoing projects—this time as a constituent.

Before I go, here’s a reflection on my five favorite things about my State Board tenure:

5. Representing the State Board at EdFEST

Collage of two photos. The left is of Matt standing next to a mascot of Abraham Lincoln in a Washington Nationals jersey. The left photo is of Matt and Alex tabling at EdFEST.
Tabling at EdFEST!


Held each year in December at the DC Armory, EdFEST is the District’s annual school fair. It’s an opportunity for prospective students and families from preschool through high school-age to come out and meet with teachers and leaders from just about every school in the District of Columbia. The State Board, along with many other community-based organizations and government agencies, staffs a table at EdFEST, and in the three times I attended the event as a staff member, I always found it a great opportunity to chat with students and parents, meet teachers and school staff, and even get a picture with a mascot or two.

4. The 2019 Aurora Institute Symposium

Photo of a screen that says "Aurora Institute: Shining a Light on the Future of Learning Symposium 2019"
Aurora Institute Symposium

The Aurora Institute (formerly iNACOL) held its 2019 annual conference in Palm Springs, California. We sent a delegation to the conference in October last year to present on some of the agency’s work around community engagement, which you can read all about in a previous blog post. Weather-related travel delays aside, it was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to meet and learn from people from all over the world.

3. Advancing the State Board’s research objectives

Ward 4 Representative, Frazier O'Leary, testifying before Council on teacher attrition. He is seated at a table, speaking into a microphone, and is seated next to state superintendent, Hanseul Kang, and DC public schools chancellor, Dr. Lewis Ferebee.
Ward 4 Representative, Frazier O’Leary, testifying before the Council on teacher attrition

In the past few years, the State Board has become more active in commissioning research that investigates topics of interest to the State Board, including research on teacher attrition in 2018 and 2019 that jump-started a discussion in the District on how to improve the retention of teachers at the school, school district, and city level. More projects—on the relevance and use of education standards and access to a well-rounded education—are underway, and I look forward to seeing the results of the State Board’s work soon.

2. Supporting the State Board’s public meetings

A picture of one of the State Board's monthly public meetings. The members of the state board are seated at the dais and members of the public are seated in rows.
One of our monthly public meetings

Every third Wednesday of the month—with few exceptions—the State Board’s public meeting brings public witnesses, expert panelists, and honorees together with the elected representatives. The State Board staff is a small team, and putting together the materials for the meeting so that it can proceed on schedule is a big effort: we handle everything from the assembling the slides displayed on-screen in the room to monitoring and maintaining the microphones for members and witnesses. Though there’s always a lot to do, it was always wonderful to see everyone come together to talk about issues that mattered, and it was tremendously rewarding to be a part of the team that made it happen every month.

1. Completing the work of the ESSA Task Force

A group photo of the ESSA Task Force members at their final meeting. There are fourteen individual standing between the United States flag and the District of Columbia flag.
A group photo of the ESSA Task Force members at their final meeting

When I first started at the State Board, the agency’s ESSA Task Force was less than two months old. As a group of community stakeholders, the task force was assigned a broad but important task—“enhance the involvement and engagement of the community in the development of State Board policy in relation to the Every Student Succeeds Act,” per State Board Resolution SR17-7.

In 2018, Ward 4 Representative Lannette Woodruff resigned her seat on the State Board—and with it, her role as chair of the ESSA Task Force. Ward 7 Representative Karen Williams took over that responsibility, and together, we worked to set an agenda for the group in year two. Working together, we had the opportunity to finish out the work of the task force in 2018 and 2019, including putting together a final report that collected some of the recommendations and observations of the group throughout two years of meetings into a single document. That report was adopted by the State Board and sent on to education policymakers in the District, including the deputy mayor for education and the state superintendent.

This type of meaningful, sustained stakeholder engagement is a model for how the District can bring more voices into the policymaking process to build systems that work on behalf of all its residents. I was very proud to be a part of it, and that’s why it’s here at the top of my list.

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2020 – Social Studies & Civics

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

In the new year, the D.C. State Board of Education will continue its “Research Roundup” series in an effort to increase the focus on selected education research and policy concepts, with a specific emphasis on the implications of research and policy on stakeholders in our communities.

This January 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Center for American Progress that examines state civics requirements and one from the National Congress of American Indians that examines state efforts to implement high-quality curriculum about Native American people and culture.

As we have done previously, the State Board will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.

This month, both reports relate to social studies and civics. The State Board is currently embarking on a process to update the District’s social studies standards under the leadership of Ward 6 Representative Jessica Sutter. The state social studies standards have not been updated since 2006.

Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2020 – Social Studies & Civics”

Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions

By Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Our education system is more student-centered and student-driven than ever before. This means that policymakers and decision-makers must ensure student voice is elevated and actively heard.

Watch: Empowering the Student Voice

Since 2006, the D.C. State Board of Education has appointed two students to serve as representatives on the State Board. The student representatives are high school students in the District’s traditional public or public charter schools, and they each serve one-year terms. Each student representative is selected from a pool of applicants by the elected members of the State Board. They participate in all meetings and committees of the State Board by providing policy recommendations and testimony, and they co-lead the drafting of written reports; their votes are always recorded but do not affect the outcome of a State Board action.

My colleagues and I had the opportunity to share the work of our impressive student representatives and the power of student voice and representation while at the 2019 iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs, California. We led a session titled, “Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions”  which featured a virtual panel of three former student representatives—Brian Contreras, Tallya Rhodes, and Tatiana Robinson. They discussed the role of the State Board’s student representatives, the leadership they provided as co-chairs of the District’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), and the policy-facing work they accomplished on college readiness, teacher retention, and school equity.

Continue reading “Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions”

Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement

By Matt Repka, Policy Analyst

In late October, the State Board attended the iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs, California.

iNACOL, short for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, is a D.C.-area organization that advocates for online, competency-based, and personalized learning opportunities for students. Since 2017, the organization has expanded to focus more broadly on personalized learning and promote policies that advance student-centered experiences.

On the first day, we attended pre-conference workshops, an opening keynote, and a surprise: iNACOL itself would be undergoing a surprise rebrand—effective immediately. Now known as the Aurora Institute, the organization formerly known as iNACOL would continue to focus on innovation and the transformation of education systems, but under a new banner that reflects its expanded, not-just-online-learning focus.

Over the next two days, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to sit in on keynote addresses, conference breakout sessions, and workshops with incredible people from all over the country (and beyond). But we were also there to lead two sessions of our own: one workshop on empowering student voice in policy discussions led by SBOE policy analyst Alex Jue and one on stakeholder engagement in education and the work of the State Board’s task forces.

In “Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement,” we had the opportunity to break down some of the work the State Board has accomplished in the District over the past two years with respect to community voice and stakeholder engagement around state-level education policy.

Continue reading “Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement”

Civics Education, Inequities Facing Incarcerated Youth, and More: Takeaways from the 2019 NASBE Conference

By Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 Representative

On October 16, I headed off to Omaha, NE along with a small group of SBOE colleagues and staff for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) annual conference. NASBE is a membership organization that “develops, supports, and empowers citizen leaders on state boards of education to strengthen public education systems…” (see more about NASBE’s mission and purpose here).

I generally love the concentrated learning and networking that takes place at conferences, but this was my first time attending a gathering of state board members, and I had no idea what to expect. After three days packed with impressive keynote speakers, motivating panel presentations, inclusive decision-making sessions and ample time for unstructured discussion, I was not disappointed!

I am still processing everything I took in during my three days in Omaha, and there was far too much to share it all in this post, but I will attempt to seize on some common threads that ran through the talks and sessions I attended and share my key takeaways with you all:

Civics Education

One theme that ran through several of the convenings was the importance of providing students access to authentic, empowering civics education that leads directly to real-world opportunities. This resonated with some of the work I am leading on our Board with the Well-Rounded Education committee, which is conducting research to learn the degree to which DC schools are able to ensure students have access to non-tested subjects including arts, sciences, and social studies.

Some action- and thought-provoking points I took away from the panel on “Transforming Civics Education in an Era of Polarized Politics”:

• Asked to define what meaningful civics education entails, panelists generally panned the idea of using the US Citizenship test, which they deemed to be too narrow and inert, and instead noted that strong civics education both connects with and expands students’ lived experience. Several panelists, including one high school student, noted that authentic projects with real outcomes are more likely to engage students and lead them to feel more connected to the community and civically empowered to effect positive change.
• Panelists shared multiple models worth emulation:

• In Florida, the entire middle school curriculum is focused on civics education.
• Similarly, as of this year, in Massachusetts, the entire 8th-grade curriculum is dedicated to civics. In addition, state law now requires all middle and high schools to dedicate at least one semester to “’action civics’ – having students research and use local civic channels to solve problems in their community.”
• Illinois has also passed a statewide law requiring high schools to spend at least one semester on civics education. And in Chicago Public Schools, every high school has a “Student Voice Committee” designed to help students develop leadership and decision-making skills that will impact their school and home communities.

• Two related challenges panelists raised was how to effectively assess the quality of civics learning and how to make civics education a curricular priority without necessarily dragging it down with a narrowing accountability incentive.

Continue reading “Civics Education, Inequities Facing Incarcerated Youth, and More: Takeaways from the 2019 NASBE Conference”

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:

Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: October 2019”

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: September 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 September 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Education Commission of the States discussing STEAM education and its impact on student success and one from FutureEd that looks at how state testing systems are changing under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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.

Preparing Students for Learning, Work and Life Through STEAM Education” Education Commission of the States (ECS), Mary Dell’Erba, September 2019

Summary: The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) conducted a study on state policies that include STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education. They defined STEAM education as “an approach to teaching in which students demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem-solving.” This type of education focuses on learning through experience, exploration, inquiry, and creativity. Specifically with the addition of arts into a more traditional STEM program, they found that students had increased opportunities to practice active learning and divergent thinking, to build social and emotional skills, and to develop cultural competency. Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: September 2019”

A Voice for Change: Dayja Burton, Student Representative

By Dayja Burton, SY2019–20 Student Representative

At first, I had no idea what the role of Student Representative of the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) would entail or that it even existed. But, after my teachers at McKinley Technology High School introduced me to the opportunity, I knew this would align with my personality and life goals.

My name is Dayja Burton and I am a senior at McKinley Technology High School. My school focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) and I participate in the information technology (I.T.) department with a concentration in networking/cybersecurity. This program provides me with a hands-on education and opportunities that will help me in college and later in my career. Outside of the classroom, I am a member of the flag football team and the editor-in-chief of the YMCA Youth and Government program. My involvement with various organizations correlates to something that is important to me.

Continue reading “A Voice for Change: Dayja Burton, Student Representative”

Fulfilling My Civic Duty: Alex O’Sullivan, Student Representative

By Alex O’Sullivan, SY2019–20 Student Representative

I applied to be a SY2019–20 student representative on the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) because I know the importance—now more than ever—of fulfilling my civic duty by actively engaging with my community, and serving with elected officials and driven high school students to provide voices for youth throughout the city is a great way to do so.

I am a sophomore at BASIS DC PCS where my favorite classes are English Language, US Government, and Calculus. Outside of school, I play baseball, and am an avid fan of other sports such as basketball and football. I enjoy politics, and I am a board member and delegation leader of YMCA’s ‘Youth and Government’ program, a mock youth form of city government. I also write poetry and serve as the co-founder and President of my school’s poetry club. I love math and I tutor third-grade students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in English and Math, and this school year I will be a member of the NSBE Jr. (National Society of Black Engineers), where I will participate in math-related competitions. Throughout the school year, I participate in youth speech competitions, and in 2019 I won the 2019 BIG (Blacks in Government) Youth Oratorical Chapter Competition on the injustices of the American judicial system.

Continue reading “Fulfilling My Civic Duty: Alex O’Sullivan, Student Representative”