From June 28 – 30, the Education Commission of the States held its 2017 National Forum on Education Policy in San Diego, California. I had the opportunity to attend and relished the chance to meet education leaders from around the country and learn more about other states’ innovative education policies.
Day one focused on school choice policies, and in the opening plenary session, DC got a shoutout from Fordham Institute president Michael J. Petrilli, who called the city “school choice nirvana” and said that the robust charter sector spurred DC Public Schools to improve. He also noted that charter schools need to provide a great education for students with disabilities and minimize suspensions if they want to serve students well. After the plenary, we moved into small group sessions on school choice, and I chose “Expanding School Choice through Open-Enrollment Policies.” One of the session leaders was a superintendent from a small district in New Mexico. Students in New Mexico are allowed to attend schools outside of their home district, but the size of their large rural counties makes that prohibitive. To maximize choice in a rural state, the superintendent’s strategy as a school leader is to increase options within the district by providing online learning, experiential learning, and other opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting. While DC’s innovative lottery seems to be leaps and bounds beyond what most states offer, the strategies other states used to diversify students’ educational experiences can potentially benefit District students.
The second day had a strong focus on equity, which was much more relevant to the work we do at the State Board. The morning opened with a panel of leaders discussing their states’ biggest achievement gaps and their strategies for addressing them. A panelist from the Alliance for Education asked about the potential impact on a state’s economy if all high school dropouts became high school graduates. I wondered how that logic might resonate in DC, a city with a highly educated workforce where only 69% of students graduate from high school. This marks an improvement over the past several years, but our graduates are not always college- and career-ready, and we need to get them there. I left the session feeling energized about the work our high school graduation requirements task force will do over the next year. I also attended sessions on how Minnesota used data to close attainment and equity gaps and on how Kansas aligned high school education with career opportunities. I took lessons away from both sessions that will certainly inform my policy work here in the city.
The conference ended with some conversations about school finance and a networking lunch that took place steps away from a beautiful beach. It is a testament to the attendees’ commitment to education policy that the indoor sessions were so well attended, considering that the Pacific Ocean was in view of the conference hotel! The State Teachers of the Year, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several US territories, were in attendance and did a wonderful job of representing the educator perspective at the conference, which kept conversations from getting too far into the weeds and away from the students we’re all working to support. Having the opportunity to spend time with them over lunch was a highlight of the week. I left feeling energized about the great work we’re doing for students in DC, and I also felt more motivated than ever to go above and beyond to support our high school graduation task force, as well as our upcoming ESSA task force, as they work to close achievement and attainment gaps across the city and provide all District students with a great education.
Thank you to all who helped us recruit an amazing crop of candidates to serve as the State Board’s new student representatives. Tallya Rhodes from H.D. Woodson High School (Ward 7) and Tatiana Robinson from Ballou High School (Ward 8) were selected as our State Board Student Representatives for 2017-2018.
Student Representatives serve for one school year from September to June. They participate in all SBOE activities and are treated as full members of the State Board. In addition, Student Representatives co-chair the Student Advisory Committee and are responsible for setting the agenda for the Committee. Applicants must be a District of Columbia resident and a sophomore, junior or senior in either a traditional public or public charter high school.
At June’s public meeting, State Board members approved the final version of this year’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC) report presented by SBOE Student Representative Alex Dorosin of Wilson High School. This report is the second annual report presented by the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). The proposals submitted by the SAC focused on graduation requirements, security, access to humanities and civic engagement courses, hall sweeps, food and nutrition, grading systems, and student socialization. Read the report here.
Stay tuned for the announcement of our full Student Advisory Committee (SAC) later this summer. The Committee will be composed of high school students from both DC public schools and public charter schools. To learn more about our Student Representatives, click here.
Today, we proudly announce the opening of the application period for our new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Advisory Task Force! In March of this year, the State Board voted to approve the new state accountability plan drafted by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Work on the plan is not completed, however. The plan approved by the SBOE included provisions for the inclusion of additional measures on items like high school academic growth, school climate, and well-rounded education once those measures were fully explored and piloted. Under the leadership of Ward 4 representative Dr. Lannette Woodruff, the ESSA Advisory Task Force will help advise the SBOE over the next two years. The SBOE is committed to continuing to involve broad community input in the decision making related to the Every Student Succeeds Act.
To ensure a balance of perspectives, the State Board will choose Task Force members who represent a broad constituency and will contribute meaningfully to education policy recommendations related to the 2017 DC ESSA Plan. Task Force members will include parents, community leaders, education agency leaders, students, teachers, school leaders, and nonprofit personnel who work in relevant fields. The selection committee will strive to ensure membership is proportionately representative to the backgrounds of the students here in the District. In keeping with the SBOE’s commitment to transparency, all applications for the Task Force will be open to public review.
To apply to serve on the Task Force, click here. The application period is now open, concluding at midnight on Monday, July 17, 2017. The SBOE will share clear selection criteria, and explain how members were selected. Task Force meetings will begin next month and continue on a monthly basis for the duration of the members’ two-year appointment. For the latest info regarding ESSA, please visit sboe.dc.gov/essa.
Today, we announced the new members of our High School Graduation Requirements Task Force! This initiative, announced earlier this month, marks an historic city-wide effort to review, analyze and, as necessary, make thoughtful, implementable recommendations to adjust DC’s high school graduation requirements for all DCPS and public charter school students. The Task Force, under the leadership of Ward 1 representative Laura Wilson Phelan and Ward 8 representative Markus Batchelor, will consist of 26 members who will provide unique insights relevant to high school graduation.
The application period closed at 12:00 noon on Friday, June 23, 2017. Each application was subsequently anonymized to ensure objectivity in selection. The SBOE Educational Excellence & Equity Committee reviewed each application and selected the following members to serve on the task force. To view a list of everyone who applied to the task force,click here.
The SBOE is excited to work with such diverse voices, including representatives from our education governing bodies, on such an important issue. Below are the selected members of the Task Force.
Laura Wilson Phelan (co-chair)
• Ward 1 Representative, SBOE
• Chair, SBOE Educational Excellence & Equity Committee
Markus Batchelor (co-chair) • Ward 8 Representative, SBOE • Chair, SBOE Public Engagement & Outreach Committee
Celine Fejeran • Deputy Director, Raise DC • Public Charter School Parent • Ward 5 Resident
Cara Fuller • Principal, DCPS Ballou Stay High School • 5 years experience as Principal • Ward 8 Resident
Carol Randolph • Chief Operating Officer, DC Students Construction Trades Foundation (Ward 7) • 16 years working to expand trade skills in District schools • Ward 4 Resident
Cathy Reilly • Executive Director, Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators (S.H.A.P.P.E.) • Ward 4 Education Alliance, C4DC • Ward 4 Resident
Cosby Hunt • Senior Officer of Teaching & Learning, Center for Inspired Teaching • Public Charter School Parent • Ward 5 Resident
David Tansey • Math Teacher, DCPS McKinley Tech High School (Ward 5) • Math for America, Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU) • Ward 5 Resident
Dwan Jordon • Senior Advisor for High School Research, Friendship PCS • Former Principal, Sousa MS (DCPS); Friendship Collegiate PCHS (Ward 7) • Ward 4 Resident
Jahari Shelton • Student, Sidwell Friends School • Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development • Ward 7 Resident
Jimell Sanders • Director of Engagement, DC Language Immersion Project • DCPS Parent • Ward 7 Resident
Julie Camerata • Executive Director, DC Special Education Cooperative • Public Charter Middle School Parent • Ward 1 Resident
Karla Reid-Witt • Family Dynamics Specialist, JumpStart • DCPS High School Parent • Ward 7 Resident
Kimberly Martin • Principal, DCPS Wilson High School • 15 years experience as High School Principal • DCPS Parent • Ward 3 Resident
Larry R. Greenhill, Sr. • Vice President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26 • 20 years experience with District apprenticeship programs • Ward 8 Resident
Latisha Chisholm • Special Education Coordinator, Anacostia High School • Former English, Science, and Special Education Teacher • Ward 8 Resident
Sandra Jowers-Barber, Ph.D. • Director, Division of Humanities, University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC) • Former History Professor • Ward 4 Resident
Sanjay K. Mitchell • Director of College & Alumni Programs, Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS • Former Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions • Ward 7 Resident
Senovia L. Hurtado • Bilingual School Counselor, School Without Walls • DCPS High School Parent • Ward 5 Resident
Shenita Ray • Director of Online Operations, Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies • 10 years experience in higher education • Ward 5 Resident
Tom Brown • Executive Director, Training Grounds, Inc. • DCPS / Public Charter School Parent • Ward 7 Resident
Erin Bibo • Deputy Chief, College & Career Programs, DC Public Schools (DCPS)
Jane Spence • Deputy Chief, Secondary Schools (MS/HS), DC Public Schools (DCPS)
Justin Tooley • Special Assistant for Legislation & Policy, Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)
Naomi DeVeaux • Deputy Director, DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB)
SBOE Student Representative • Member of 2017-2018 Student Advisory Committee, SBOE (TBA)
This task force will examine the following questions and recommend changes to the graduation requirements based on its findings:
What do we as a city want our high school diploma to mean?
How should we measure whether a student has achieved the standards of a diploma?
What changes to DC’s graduation requirements, if any, should be made to ensure our diploma reflects achievement of these standards?
Task force meetings will meet two times per month, starting in July and concluding in Spring 2018. District residents will have many opportunities to stay involved and provide input throughout this process. The SBOE will convene parent focus groups and student focus groups to both generate ideas for the task force to consider and to brainstorm ideas during the course of discussions. The focus groups will be representative of the demographics of students in the city, where half of all DCPS and public charter students reside in Wards 7 and 8. For the latest updates on the work of the task force, please visit sboe.dc.gov/gradreqs.
At June’s public meeting, State Board members voted on the final version of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) report presented by SBOE Student Representative Alex Dorosin of Wilson High School. This report is the second annual report presented by the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC met four times over the course of the 2016-2017 school year and selected seven key topics that the SAC feels can be changed or improved in the DC education system.The proposals submitted by the SAC focused on graduation requirements, security, access to humanities and civic engagement courses, hall sweeps, food and nutrition, grading systems, and student socialization.
Student representatives have been pivotal to the success of the work of the SBOE. Our student representatives and SAC members offer a unique perspective on how policies actually impact the District’s students. The Student Advisory Committee serves as the voice of students in the State Board’s work. They are consulted on all issues of policy before the State Board. Student Representatives serve as co-chairs of the Student Advisory Committee. The Committee is composed of a minimum of 15 high school students, one from each of the 10 largest (by student population) high schools in the District and 5 additional members from other high schools. Read the report here.
On Friday June 16th, 9th and 10th grade students attending Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy participated in the school’s annual Palooza Fair to present the results of their Community Action Projects (CAP). As a part of the CAP assignment, Chavez students worked in groups to research a policy issue, identify a problem in their community and create a policy to solve the problem. While working on their projects, students contacted and worked with experts on their topic, created and distributed surveys to community members, and completed 30 hours of community service relating to their topics.
The Palooza Fair was the culmination of the students’ work on these projects. At the fair, students gave presentations on current problems relating to human trafficking, immigration, animal rights and the U.S. military. The students succinctly and clearly presented data and information to show evidence of a problem, identified current policies meant to address the problem, and recommended changes to policy and strategies for their community to address these issues.
The work completed by Chavez 9th and 10th grade students is a requirement by Chavez schools to prepare students for the work the thesis work they will complete as Seniors. Seniors at Chavez are required to complete much more in depth research into policy solutions for current issues and present their research at Chavez’s Annual Symposium. The work completed by Chavez students falls in line with the school’s mission, part of which is to empower students to use public policy to make positive changes in their communities. To learn more about the program at Chavez Schools, visit Chavez Schools.
On Thursday, June 15, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, sponsored by the Knowledge Alliance, held a lively panel discussion on the topic: Moderated by the President of the think tank, Michael J Petrilli, discussants included: Dale Chu, VP of Policy and Operations at America Succeeds; Dan Goldhaber, Director, CEDR University of Washington & Director, CALDER & Vice President, AIR; Liz Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Delaware; and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University.
The discussion opened with a brief synopsis by Mr. Petrilli discussing the recent movement of policy making power and implementation from the federal to state level, as called for by the Every Student Succeeds Act. He noted that state legislatures are now responsible for being catalysts of policy change driven by sound, empirical evidence. In order to exemplify what type of questions policymakers may be asking when driving such changes, Mr. Petrilli designed an interactive group exercise for panelists entitled, “The Wheel of Policy.” When spun, the wheel landed on the topic of teacher licensure. The group proceeded to brainstorm questions to spur conversation. What was the impact of having fifty different state licensure exams and what was the outcome of having an exam that differs significantly from surrounding states? Given the number of questions, it was clear to the panelists and event attendees that the breadth of teacher licensure is significant and can be broken down into a multitude of subtopics.
From here, the discussion moved to understanding the role politics plays in the dynamic interplay between research and policy. The consensus amongst Mr. Chu and Ms. Farley-Ripple was that as policy analysts, they were more inclined to seek out researchers who produced evidence that support their policy claims and beliefs. This in turn prompted Mr. Goldhaber and Ms. Gordon to rebuke and state that it was imperative that the public understands what type of research was informing said policy claims and where and from whom educational institutions and think tanks receive funding from as there is greater potential for underlying evidential biases.
The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Attendees talked about the impact of international politics on US policy implementation and whether there should be best practice guides for education policy. During closing remarks, Mr. Goldhaber made mention of and commended the efforts by DC Public Schools (DCPS) on being an exemplary model for other states to follow when creating policy that are clearly rooted in empirical evidence. Mr. Petrilli echoed this sentiment and followed up by stating that this practice was also led by charter school management systems. To learn more about the event and watch the replay, click here.
On Saturday, May 6, several community members from Ward 7 participated in the most recent Parent Empowerment Kickoff Series held by DC State Board of Education President and Ward 7 representative, Karen Williams and DC Student Advocate, Faith Gibson Hubbard. As overseer of DC’s Ward 7, DC State Board member Karen Williams welcomed all residents at Cesar Chavez PCS Parkside to take part in a Parent Empowerment Summit.
The summit began with a breakdown of two phases. Phase one was a panel discussion on how parents can be involved in the public education system in Ward 7. Phase two focused on a hands-on working session in which parents learned from facilitators how they can effectively engage in the advocacy and decision-making processes of the education system.
Board member Karen Williams, guest speakers from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), DC Council office, and many more gave insight to the parents and residents of Ward 7 by providing them knowledge on how they can engage as a community into their schools’ education system. The point of the summit is for community members to come together, be empowered by one another in order to take a stand, and create a foundation for Ward 7’s education system.
Building strong advocacy as a unit will ensure that the community is pleased with Ward 7 as a whole. The Office of the Student Advocate partnered with Board member Karen Williams in order to show how strong they feel about the ward coming together to learn the importance of advocating for their community.
At our May Public Meeting, the SBOE approved the creation of a new ESSA Advisory Task Force! This new task force will help advise the State Board over the next year and will be chaired by our Ward 4 representative, Dr. Lanette Woodruff. The SBOE is committed to involving broad community input in the decision making related to the Every Student Succeeds Act, particularly voices that have been ignored and sidelined historically.
With this new task force, the State Board will conduct community roundtables and focus groups to gather input on the remaining ESSA accountability plan measures, pilot studies, and school report cards from essential District education stakeholders. This task force will consist of two parent representatives, two student representatives, two teacher representatives, two ward education group representatives, two District business representatives, two community education advocates, two national education experts, the District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor or designee, one District of Columbia Public Charter School Board designee, an OSSE designee, State Board President or designee, and two SBOE representatives. Read the full resolution HERE.
In the coming months, the SBOE will release to the public a plan of action that will provide a clear and transparent process of engagement on the elements we, as a city, want to see in our school report cards. The SBOE is committed to approving a report card that ensures that parents no longer have to search for essential information across multiple websites and that they provide full stories of each school. The SBOE will also work with the Mayor and Council to ensure that these report cards are accessible and translated into all of the languages required by the Language Access Act.
On Thursday, May 25, Mila Yochum of the DCPS Out-of-School-Time System Set-Up Team, led a lively discussion centering on the question, how can resources be distributed to support equity within the District? The goal of the afternoon was to help the OST Team determine an equity lens through which RFP applicants should be scored for 2017-2018 award year.
Prior to delving into the group exercise, Ms. Yochum emphasized that equality does not equate to equity, and that it is OST’s responsibility to ensure there is an equitable distribution of the available RFP 2017-2018 $2 million dollar grant, not an equitable access to it. Although there is a standardized rubric for the grant review process, bonus points awarded will be awarded to applicants who further the OST’s equity movement.
The group of stakeholders assimilated eight themes in which they believed the equity lens should be centered on: mental and emotional health, enrichment opportunities, transportation, poverty, under-resourced schools, special populations, geography, and organizational capacity. The group then delved into identifying key concerns and concepts associated with each theme. For example, the stakeholders’ agreed that youth programs targeted at professional development and opportunities for personal growth should be a core concept related to enrichment.
During the session’s debrief numerous participants commented on their desire for collaboration and the creation of an Out-of-School-Time community where ideas and resources can be shared. Moreover, numerous stakeholders voiced a concern over the definition of who an “at-risk” student really is.
This discussion was part of a series of six conversations held by the DCPS OST Set-up Team. Following the conclusion of the six sessions a vote will be held to determine the three most popular themes in which an equity lens will be developed for the RFP 2017-2018 grant. This process will only be applicable to this grant year.