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:
In nearly fifty years of educating District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) students, I have learned that all students can achieve academic excellence if given the guidance and expertise of dedicated teachers and staff. I’ve learned that all students deserve equal access to 21st-century learning resources and that the ever-changing demographics of our city have nothing to do with student success. I’ve learned that adults must be able to adjust to our evolving world and our students’ different learning styles and needs. Above all, students can be helped by caring, dedicated educators to hurdle obstacles and meet their challenges.
During my tenure at Cardozo Education Campus, I had the privilege of teaching a very challenging Advanced Placement (AP) English literature course and showing students how to organize their lives for success. I learned the importance of giving my teenage students more time and encouragement to learn. My students rarely passed the AP exam, but they did much more writing than they would have done in a regular course—and they had a much better chance for success in college and the workplace.
Campaign Platform and Priorities
As a strong advocate for equity for all students, regardless of their background, I am excited about my work ahead with the State Board. I want to share my knowledge and experience to help make decisions that prepare our students to become productive members of society. Below are some areas I will prioritize as a member of the DC State Board of Education (SBOE).
• Teacher Turnover – We know that there is an issue with teacher turnover at DCPS and the District’s public charter schools. I am concerned by the high numbers of teachers leaving our school systems in the first years of their career. I believe there is too much focus on proficiency in the STAR Framework (found on dcschoolreportcard.org) and an inordinate amount of time spent by teachers on test preparation due to the IMPACT teacher evaluation system. • Equity and Diversity – As someone who taught in a school that had almost half of its students with an English-language learner (ELL) background and many students with special needs, I am a firm believer in making sure that all students have equitable access. Our students should have access to rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for lives after high school. All children should be able to better themselves given the opportunity and resources. Our curriculum should be evolving to reflect the monumental diversity changes that are occurring across our city. It is our duty to make sure that our system is willing and able to provide whatever is needed to ensure success in school. • Transparency – Our traditional public school and public charter school systems must be completely transparent about their finances and about what goes on in each school. In order to make the most informed decisions, the public must have access to a whole, unobstructed picture. • STAR Framework – The District’s accountability framework submitted per requirements outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes a summative rating (i.e., 1–5 star rating). I believe that the current construction of the STAR Framework needs some essential reconstruction with growth being more heavily weighted and school climate being included. • Early Childhood Education – During my campaign, I was struck by the number of young families enrolling their children in pre-K programs in Ward 4. My wife, Myra, was a Head Start teacher in an inclusion classroom for students with special needs; these students were a part of a tight-knit learning community. I want to make sure every young learner has this early boost to their education.
Since 1987, The We the People: Citizen & the Constitution Program has brought civic responsibility directly into the minds of students. By simulating a congressional hearing with students in the role of expert witnesses, the program enables students to explore constitutional concepts and apply them to their life and the world around them.
The DC State Board of Education was pleased to host this year’s middle and high school District-wide competitions at One Judiciary Square. The location enabled students to present the information they had researched and prepared in sight of the U.S. Capitol Building and other major federal landmarks.