Active Leadership Begins With Active Listening: Frazier O’Leary, Ward 4

By Frazier O’Leary, Ward 4 SBOE Representative

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.
  • TransparencyOur 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 EducationDuring 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.

I am honored to serve the students and families of Ward 4 and I see the years ahead as an opportunity for me to continue listening and learning from the talented educators, administrators, and school leaders in our city. I look forward to leading and working alongside my fellow board members as an advocate for every student at every level in our city.

Frazier O'Leary Swearing In

Putting families, students, and educators at the center of decision making: Emily Gasoi, Ward 1

By Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 SBOE Representative

I started as a classroom teacher in 1995 and I’ve been working in the field of education ever since. While every new chapter in my career has shaped my professional life, perhaps my most formative experience came when I had the opportunity to help start the democratically-governed Mission Hill School (MHS) in Boston.

My colleagues and I worked alongside visionary educator Deborah Meier, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Recipient. We crafted the school’s mission statement and developed integrated, project-based curriculum, formative assessments of student learning, peer-review processes for teacher evaluation, and structures that would build and support a culture of democratic participation among the entire school community. The underlying purpose of all that we did was to help students develop their own talents and interests in preparation for empowered civic engagement.

Running for SBOE

My seven years at MHS greatly influenced my understanding of what the role of public education in a democratic society should be and, by extension, the direction that education reform should take. Despite a whole lot of thinking and doing in this realm, however, nothing could have prepared me for the most recent stretch of my professional journey: running for office.

Continue reading

Putting Students First in #EdPolicy: Jessica Sutter, Ward 6

By Jessica Sutter, Ward 6 SBOE Representative

I love school. I’ve loved school since my first day of preschool when I walked in and never looked back to say goodbye to my mom. I’ve loved every school I’ve had the privilege to teach in. I’ve loved when school filled my heart with joy, like when my eighth graders got their letters of acceptance to high schools. I loved school even when it broke my heart after losing a student to gun violence in my first year of teaching.

I have worked in education for the past 20 years and have called Ward 6 my home for more than a decade. I’ve spent time teaching in classrooms in Chicago’s West Side, in East Los Angeles, and in our nation’s capital at the Blue Castle at Eighth and M Streets SE right here in Ward 6 where I taught eighth grade social studies and literature. In my work at DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and as a consultant I’ve been lucky enough to visit hundreds of schools and classrooms throughout the District.

Continue reading

On the Agenda: #DCSafeRoutes Expert Panel

Safe Passage Panel 3 - 2018

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

As the new school year progresses, education stakeholders across the District continue to devise ways to improve safety for students traveling to and from school. At last month’s public meeting, we heard from experts, education advocates, school counselors, and parents on some of the biggest challenges District students face in getting to and from school safely. Organizations are working diligently every day to promote safe passage and inform community members about what they can do to help this process.

Our first panel featured Chief Student Advocate Faith Gibson Hubbard and Dan Davis, Student Advocate. Ms. Gibson Hubbard and Mr. Davis defined safe passage as “a student’s journey to school, their movement within school, and how they navigate their way home from school.” The types of student safety issues that were reported include violence, bullying, criminalized conduct, and transportation. Community members who need assistance can access the Office of the Student Advocate’s Safe Passage Resource Toolkit online, which was designed to create and sustain the safe passage of our students and communities based on the “6 E’s” from National Safe Routes to School: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, evaluation, and equity.

Continue reading

On the Agenda: DME Update on DCPS Chancellor Search

DME Briefs SBOE on DCPS Chancellor Search

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

At this month’s working session held this past Wednesday, Interim Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) Ahnna Smith spoke to State Board members about the ongoing search for the new District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor. Mayor Bowser launched the search process earlier this summer, appointing the Our Schools Leadership Committee (OSLC) to advise her on the selection and hold community meetings to gather information from residents. Deputy Mayor Smith shared feedback from the recently conducted Chancellor search community forums and asked State Board members for their thoughts on the process and the qualities needed in a successful Chancellor candidate. The goal of the OSLC is to serve as an advisory body that ensures that the feedback the mayor receives from the community is collected in a balanced, thorough, and equitable way. You can watch the lively discussion on our YouTube page.

Two out of the three scheduled forums have already taken place, at Cardozo Education Campus and Savoy Elementary School. Ms. Smith said that approximately 300 diverse stakeholders of students, parents, educators, and community members registered to attend the two events, and there are over 100 RSVPs for next week’s third and final forum at Brookland Middle School on September 11. During these community forums, people are being asked directly about how they feel about the current direction of DCPS, both positive and negative. The goal is to receive direct and frank feedback in order to make the best choice possible.

Continue reading

Putting #StudentsFirst: Our Vote on Credit Recovery

Credit recovery is supposed to provide students that have already failed a course the opportunity to make up or recover the credit. The regulations submitted to the State Board by OSSE were an attempt to provide statewide guardrails on a chaotic mix of programs, varied interpretations of policies or the complete absence of policies. The State Board unanimously rejected the proposal because, in our view, they would not provide any change in the practice of credit recovery in the District of Columbia.

The State Board believes we need to begin a long overdue conversation about how state agencies are better able to support excellent classrooms. It is a conversation that our caregivers, teachers, and students have been asking for: how do we harness the power of government and public education to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.

Credit recovery is a last resort. Every time a teacher acts with a student that is struggling, we need to be there to provide support. Every time a student falls behind, we need to be there to catch them up. A student that is struggling in a class shouldn’t have to fail the course before the teacher and the school can help. That is a failure of the system, not the student.

On the fundamentals, we agree with OSSE that credit recovery needs clear guidelines and rules, but not without a larger discussion about how the education system is serving individual students. Working together, as a community, we must ensure that the state agencies are supporting caregivers, teachers, and school leaders to provide students with the help they need to prosper by reducing barriers and ensuring equity of access and opportunity. We must hold our school leaders and agencies, not just teachers responsible for student outcomes, and empower our students and their caregivers to be decision-makers in education.

The State Board rejected the proposed regulations to put students, not the system, first.

New SBOE Leadership for 2018

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

At this month’s public meeting, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) elected Ms. Karen Williams of Ward 7 as President and Mr. Jack Jacobson of Ward 2 as Vice President. Both members served in these roles during 2017 and both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their roles.

Additionally, the SBOE formally adopted a structure for upcoming policy, governance, and engagement committees to help achieve the goals of increasing equity and academic excellence in District public schools. The Board looks forward to continuing its work on the ambitious goals laid out in the SBOE strategic plan.

Below are the 2018 SBOE Committee assignments:

Administration & Budget – This committee monitors and oversees the State Board’s budget, personnel and governance.

  • Chair: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2
  • Members: Mark Jones, Ward 5; Lannette Woodruff, Ward 4; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Student Advisory – The Student Advisory committee ensures the voice of students is heard in improving education in the District.

  • Co-Chairs: Tallya Rhodes & Tatiana Robinson
  • Members: Students, Karen Williams (ex officio)

Educational Excellence & Equity – Regulations & Laws – This committee will focus on conducting high-quality policy research and analysis to support the State Board’s role in approving District education regulations.

  • Chair: Laura Wilson Phelan, Ward 1
  • Members: Ashley Carter, At-Large; Markus Batchelor, Ward 8; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Educational Excellence & Equity – Educational Standards – This committee will focus on reviewing and analyzing District educational standards.

  • Co-Chairs: Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 3; Mark Jones, Ward 5
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Karen Williams (ex officio)

ESSA Task Force – ESSA implementation began during the 2017-18 school year. The task force will work diligently with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to continue gathering input from diverse stakeholders on the design and development of the new accountability system for the District.

  • Chair: Lannette Woodruff, Ward 4
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Joe Weedon, Ward 6; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Public Engagement & Outreach – This committee is tasked with ensuring that all voices are heard on key education policy issues. Priorities will include developing a community engagement strategy that includes diverse stakeholders and expanding the breadth of participation at SBOE community meetings, forums, and roundtables around the District.

  • Co-Chairs: Markus Batchelor, Ward 8; Ashley Carter, At-Large
  • Members: Jack Jacobson, Ward 2; Karen Williams (ex officio)

Make Your Voice Heard on the ESSA School Report Card

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

The DC State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold its monthly public meeting on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in the Old Council Chambers at 441 4th Street NW. The SBOE wants to hear the community’s thoughts on the proposed content of a new school report card that will provide the same information about every public and public charter school in the District. The school report card will contain two kinds of data: information that is required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and information that is important to the residents of the District. The public may sign up online to testify at this month’s SBOE Public meeting about the school report card. The deadline to sign up is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16, 2017. Residents who testify will have three minutes to provide their input and recommendations to the SBOE.

At Tuesday night’s SBOE ESSA Task Force meeting, representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) outlined updates to their content and format proposal for the new report card. Task force members reviewed the proposal and provided comments and recommendations. This proposal was based on feedback from State Board members, community members, and the members of the ESSA Task Force. Over the next few weeks, OSSE will work with the SBOE to finalize the content proposal with the intention that the State Board will vote on the proposal at its February public meeting.

#ESSATaskForce Hears #DCReportCard Parent Feedback

By Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist 

The SBOE Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Task Force met on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 to discuss the new version of DC’s school report card. Maya Martin, Executive Director of Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE), Josh Boots, Executive Director of EmpowerK12, and representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) provided task force members with an overview of recently held parent feedback sessions on the DC school report card.

PAVE held meetings with each of its Parent Leaders in Education (PLE) Boards in Wards 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Parents were asked to rank the top five things they looked for when they chose a school for their student. Parents then examined PCSB’s Performance Management Framework Reports, DC Public School’s Scorecards, and the LEARN DC profiles, and discussed the pros and cons of each. In addition, PAVE canvassed and collected surveys from 51 total parents. 85% of parents who attended sessions said “Student Performance by Subgroup” and “Teacher Quality” were the most important factors needed on a DC school report card. Re-enrollment, School Funding, and Attendance were also rated highly. Parents want one source where they can get data, and one that helps them interpret quality more easily.

Continue reading

Courageous Conversations Had at NASBE Conference in Atlanta

By: Jack Jacobson, Vice President and Ward 2 Representative

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the National Association of State Boards of Education Annual Conference, where State Board of Education Members from around the country gathered to discuss important education policy issues, build relationships with other policymakers from around the country, and learn about emerging education issues confronting students in Washington and around the country.

For me, the most impactful session I attended was a breakout session titled “Courageous Conversations”, led by presenter Courtlandt Butts. His presentation focused on a conversation compass with four points, representing four areas into which individuals fall when discussing controversial or difficult issues: Feeling, Believing, Acting, or Thinking. It helped me reexamine how I approach issues both with my colleagues and with the constituents I serve. Continue reading