Can We Bridge the Research-to-Policy Divide?

By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow

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 Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.35.22 PM.pngresponsible 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 Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.34.40 PM.pngclaims 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.


Parents Empowered in Ward 7

By: Marcia Bailey, Policy Intern

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.Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 3.47.32 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 3.47.17 PMBuilding  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.

SBOE Approves New ESSA Task Force

Moves to Include Historically Marginalized Voices

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 reprechildren-progress-in-our-schools (, 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.

Seeing Out-of-School-Time Through Equity Lenses

By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow

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.Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 11.23.31 AM

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.  

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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.

Councilmember Grosso Hosts Education Committee Open House

Over 100 community leaders and residents attended Councilmember Grosso’s Education Committee Open House yesterday to kick off the new year! As chairperson of the Education Committee, Councilmember Grosso welcomed the public to his offices at the Wilson Building to discuss education priorities and challenges for the upcoming Council Period 22.

After constituents and agency staffers mixed and mingled during a reception, Councilmember Grosso delivered a short speech outlining his priorities for the year. As his team prioritizes education policy issues for the District, he will be focused on striking the right balance of services and opportunities for all students. The committee will continue to emphasize work on mental health and wraparound services and promote human and civil rights for all in the face of a changing presidential administration.

Councilmember Grosso made an impassioned plea for the expansion of arts and humanities education in our public schools, and issue he firmly will champion this year. The councilmember went on to praise the important work done by the DC Public Charter School Board in holding charter schools accountable, stressing the need to engage with both DCPS and charter school students and schools on a consistent basis.

Earlier this month, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education released a report on the state of suspensions and expulsions in the District. Councilmember Grosso encouraged the audience to attend an upcoming roundtable on February 2nd to review the findings of this report and provide recommendations on how DCPS and public charter schools can continue to reduce instances of school discipline in both sectors.

The audience was given a glimpse of what’s to come on Councilmember Grosso’s agenda, including efforts to create a charter school facility mandate and a reintroduction of a language access bill deemed essential. Already a busy first week for the Council, Councilmember Grosso proudly announced his introduction of the Public School Health Services Amendment Act of 2017. Staffing of nurses in public schools has been a hot topic over the last year, and this bill aims to increase the minimum number of hours that a nurse works at a public school to 40 hours. Councilmember Grosso graciously welcomed and recognized President Jack Jacobson, Vice President Karen Williams and Members Ruth Wattenberg and Markus Batchelor from our State Board during the event and participated in a lively and productive Q&A with the audience.

CrossTalk DC: DCPS Student Inspiration Exhibition and Dialogue

In collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Anacostia Community Museum, DCPS Office of Family and Public Engagement invited students, parents, staff and community to a facilitated discussion on Thursday evening exploring, “What does it mean to be the other?”


DCPS student photography and selected passages from the play District Merchants served as a kickstarter for lively discussion and conversation at the picturesque Anacostia Community Museum. District Merchants by Aaron Posner, an adaptation of Merchants of Venice, set in post-Civil War DC juxtaposes the experience of two DC merchants: a newly emancipated black man and an immigrant Jew. The play explores themes regarding gender, race, religion, and power.

In her final event serving as Chief, Family and Public Engagement, Ms. Josephine Bias Robinson, kicked things off with opening remarks. Ms. Robinson welcomed 4 students from local Wilson High School, School Without Walls, and Ballou High School to the front of the room. Each student talked about their photo and what inspired them to take these inspirational shots. dcps-crosstalk-itinerary

Ms. Shanita Burney, Deputy Chief, Family and Public Engagement went on to lead the facilitated discussion and interactive activities with the crowd surrounding culture, race and identity. Participants worked in groups and talked about reflections on excerpts from the play as well as reactions to the students’ photography.

CrossTalk is a community engagement initiative that connects members of the public, encouraging them to think about race and religion thoughtfully and deeply through the lens of literature and history. To learn more about the CrossTalk DC initiative, click here.