On June 7, I had the opportunity to tour DC Bilingual (DCB) Public Charter School as a part of First Fridays, a series of monthly tours that spotlights top-performing D.C public charter schools. Not only was this my first time participating in a First Fridays tour, but also my first time stepping foot into a public charter school. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but by the end of the tour, I experienced a snapshot of a public charter school where a strong sense of community permeated throughout the hallways and classrooms.
Thanks for the ride, SBOE! As a DCPS parent and a doctoral student of education policy, these last five months as a Policy Fellow at the DC State Board of Education have been illuminating and fun. I have come to understand the structure of educational governance in the District and learned a lot about the people who operate within it. (One day, I’ll diagram it for you!) I was given to the time and task of listening to and watching City Council testimony on education issues and offices, and, of course, SBOE meetings. I had the opportunity to participate in First Friday tours of DC charter schools and peek into some high schools on an SBOE selfie tourto recruit high school students to serve as Student Representatives and members of the State Board Student Advisory Committee. The staff provided opportunities for me to explore DC student data, write memos, contribute blog posts, and ask a lot of questions!
At our April and May public meetings, SBOE members welcomed school leaders and experts from non-profits, local and national education policy organizations, and universities for a discussion on different ways to measure student and high school growth in public schools. Academic growth, the progress a student makes over a particular time period, is one of the indicators used by the District in its STAR Framework and in its school report card. Growth can be measured in a number of different ways. As there is currently no high school growth measure included in the STAR Framework, the State Board has been convening expert panels on the topic of growth measurement. The State Board heard discussions on median growth percentile (MGP) and growth to proficiency, as well as learned more about value-add measurement (VAM). Additional insights from District high school principals on how the growth of their students should be represented was also heard.
"Adding a high school growth metric would be the District’s way of acknowledging that the starting point matters as much as the finish line. This is critical for the students we serve.” pic.twitter.com/cnAezCTy1G
Last week, Cardozo High School Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy and his leadership team welcomed State Board members Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3 / President), Ashley MacLeay (At-Large), Emily Gasoi (Ward 1), and some of my SBOE staff colleagues for a school tour and lively education policy discussion at one of Ward 1’s education campuses. Cardozo Education Campus is essentially three schools in one, with a middle school, mainstream/traditional high school, and an International Academy for English language learners in one building. The historic “Castle on the Hill” campus serves students from grades 6–12 at this neighborhood DCPS school in the District’s northwest neighborhood of Columbia Heights.
During the first portion of the visit, we sat down with Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy to learn more about the unique programs offered at this combined middle/high school. In addition, State Board members engaged in a discussion with school leaders and teachers on different ways to measure academic growth during high school. Academic growth, the progress a student makes over a particular time period, is one of the indicators used by the District in its STAR Framework and in its school report card. This visit was timely as the State Board looks forward to a proposal from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) related to a high school growth measure next month.
No one should ever turn down an opportunity to tour a pre-K classroom in DC. Lucky for me, an opportunity was presented to me. As part of the First Fridaystour of DC charter schools, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School welcomed us to their new East End campus. Stokes PCS is known in the city as providing dual-language instruction for elementary school students. They offer Spanish-English and French-English elementary school classrooms. Linda Moore founded the school in 1998 and named it after her mother. After moving from its first location in Mt. Pleasant to 16th Street NW, the first campus eventually found its home in Brookland.
With the Brookland campus in such high demand—that it seemed that only siblings could enroll—it was time to expand after 20 years. With careful and deliberate planning, the Stokes team planned and opened its second campus in fall 2018, enrolling 135 pre-K and kindergarten students. Tucked in the eastern-most corner of the city in Ward 7, Stokes East End is the only bilingual elementary school east of the river. The school shares a building with Maya Angelou PCS, a high school. The two schools strategically share the gym, the cafeteria, and other resources such that the young scholars and older ones are kept separate, using shared spaces at different times of the day.
After four years, I am leaving my role as Chief Student Advocate for the District of Columbia.
In May 2015, I opened the doors of the Office of the Student Advocate and became the first Chief Student Advocate for the District of Columbia. This experience has been life-changing for me. In our work, we support families in navigating the complexity of public education in the District and work to demystify our city systems in order to remove barriers and provide access for families. We partner with families and other education stakeholders to identify problems and work toward solutions. We work diligently to equip families with the information, resources, and tools they need to be their own best advocates. We collaborate with agencies, offices, and other partners to advocate and work toward the best possible outcomes for students. I am so proud of the great work we’ve accomplished during my tenure, and I am excited about the great work on the horizon.
As we all work for a more inclusive and equitable system, I ask that you continue to direct people to the great resources and support the Office of the Student Advocate has to offer. During this time of transition, I am confident that the work of the office will continue at a high level and deepen in its reach and scope. I have a phenomenal staff who live and breathe this work in the same way that I do. The vision of the office is not mine alone – it is ours – and I know, without a doubt, they will continue to do great things under the leadership of Dan Davis, who currently serves as my deputy. Dan’s career in this space spans over 12 years, and he has served as my deputy for almost three of those years. He is an amazing servant leader and will continue our work as the interim Chief Student Advocate.
I wholeheartedly believe students and families are the foundation of a quality public education system and the catalyst moving us forward to the prosperity everyone in our city deserves to experience. As Chief Student Advocate, I have been fortunate enough to witness families activate the power they inherently possess. We must recognize and value the voice, access, and power of families as it is what will continue to move our great city forward. My departure is bittersweet, but I am excited to continue my service to District families and communities as the first Executive Director of Thrive by Five DC. I look forward to our paths crossing again in my new capacity.
I am humbled to have served as the first Chief Student Advocate, and I thank you all for your partnership in this work.
Faith Gibson Hubbard Outgoing Chief Student Advocate for Office of the Student Advocate
Last Friday, two SBOE staff members and I went on a #SBOESelfieTour to promote and highlight the work of the State Board’s two student representatives and the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). Student voice is extremely important to SBOE and has been integral to our work since the State Board’s inception. Our student representatives participate in all SBOE activities and the SAC serves as the voice of District students in the State Board’s work.
During this #SBOESelfieTour, we visited five different high schools to pass out flyers and information on the application process for school year 2019–20 student representatives and SAC members (application here). All applicants must be a District resident and a rising sophomore, junior, or senior in either a traditional public (DCPS) or public charter high school.
Summary:As school leaders, principals play a key role in retaining good teachers, promoting a positive learning environment, and ultimately providing a consistently quality education for students. This report emphasizes the importance of principals and that principal turnover is costly, both financially and academically for schools. From select research, five primary reasons why principals leave are found, many of which are comparable to the reasons often cited by teachers. The five reasons stated are:
I had the opportunity to visit Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA) as part of First Fridays—a series of monthly learning tours that spotlight D.C. charter schools. The description “digital pioneer” aptly describes this school. The public charter middle school is the first-ever computer science focused middle school in the District. Deliberately grounded in Ward 7, Mashea Ashton, the school’s founder, and her staff are rounding the corner on the inaugural year of the school, alongside the 120 sixth-grade scholars, mostly local to the Hillcrest community, where the school resides.
With a 1-to-1 ratio of computers to students and with teachers and students using technology tools with ease, everyone in this school is a pioneer. Students at DPA have a 55-minute computer science class every day, but they use their computers all day long. This is striking when, nationally, only 31 percent of seventh and eighth graders use a computer at school every day. 
This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its effort to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The February 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from Chiefs for Change on the importance of implementing high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum and a second from the American Academy of Pediatrics on chronic absenteeism and student health.
As we did last month, SBOE will discuss the key findings of each report, as well as explain the implication of the reports on the State Board’s work and priorities.
Summary: With an increasingly diverse student population and a predominantly white educator workforce, the implementation of high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum and instructional materials “can play an important role in helping to systematically remove prejudices about race and class and in honoring students’ diverse backgrounds.” In urban districts, students of color now represent 80 percent of the student body—and people of color make up only about one-fifth of all teachers and principals. Chiefs for Change highlights the work of forward-thinking districts and states that are transitioning to rigorous instructional materials that honor the origins and experiences of their diverse students. The report makes three recommendations for states and districts seeking to incorporate cultural relevance into high-quality curriculum and instructional materials: