SBOE sees continued, but limited growth on PARCC test 

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By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

During a press conference held last evening at the newly-modernized Bancroft Elementary School, Mayor Muriel Bowser, with Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Interim Deputy Mayor Ahnna Smith, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, Interim DC Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Amanda Alexander, DC Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson, and Principal Arthur Mola from Bancroft Elementary School publicly announced results for the 2017-18 statewide Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. Overall, the percentage of District students who are on track for the next grade level and to leave high school prepared for college and career increased since last year. The full results can be found here.

The SBOE is encouraged by the increases in scores for almost all students, but remains concerned about the enormous gaps that remain between students of color and white students. The District’s scores for high school math and students with disabilities are also of particular concern. Statewide, the proportion of students meeting or exceeding expectations on the PARCC has increased gradually in each of the last two years, and the District is up 5.5 points in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and 4.8 points in math over 2014-15 levels.

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Transforming Public School Teaching in the Nation’s Capital

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

One of the most interesting conversations I attended this summer was the report release event for FutureEd’s A Policymaker’s Playbook: Transforming Public School Teaching in the Nation’s Capital. The event opened with remarks from Council Chair Mendelson, Council Education Chair Grosso, and Interim Deputy Mayor Smith. Thomas Toch then presented some of the findings from his report. He said that the Rhee era, under Chancellors Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson, was marked by a “transformation of the profession from low-status occupation with weak standards to performance-based professional providing recognitions, responsibility, collegiality, support, and significant compensation.” He noted that these improvements were actually what Michelle Rhee’s critics were looking for, and no other districts have accomplished them to the same extent. The results were achieved through initiatives that unions and Rhee’s other adversaries opposed, but also those they supported:

  • The IMPACT evaluation system
  • Performance pay and staffing (top salaries rose in the 10-year period from $87,000 to $132,000 for 10-month schools)
  • The LIFT career ladder, which provides leadership opportunities for classroom teachers
  • School-based professional development through the LEAP system

The result was a greater number of new hires with teaching experience (from 66% to 84%), retention of 94% of highly effective teachers and only 49% of minimally effective teachers (who only make up 5% of the teaching force). However, Toch acknowledged that there are still troubling facts and trends: only 15% of black students scored proficient on PARCC reading assessments, LEAP implementation is uneven, zoned high schools are a major challenge, and poverty is a formidable barrier. He concluded by saying that despite these issues, schools are much better than they were before the reform era.

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SBOE at School Without Walls

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

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Last month, Principal Richard Trogisch and his team welcomed SBOE members Ruth Wattenberg, Joe Weedon, and some of my SBOE staff colleagues to tour the beautiful School Without Walls campus. “Walls,” as the school is affectionately known, is the only DC Public Schools high school located in Ward 2 and is currently an application school. This public magnet high school first opened its doors in 1971, and since that time has become a shining star in DCPS.

During the first portion of the visit, we were treated to a 15-minute senior project presentation from a graduating senior. Every Walls student is required to pass a class devoted to one senior project/paper in conjunction with George Washington University. Each SBOE Board member and staff had the opportunity to provide feedback to the student, who did a terrific job. Every student walks out of Walls knowing how to write a research paper.

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SBOE Stops By Seaton Stingers

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

On April 19, State Board of Education members Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3), Joe Weedon (Ward 6), and staff members from SBOE and the Ombudsman’s office visited Seaton Elementary School, located a few blocks northeast of Logan Circle in Shaw. An enthusiastic and multicultural school, the Stingers are a very diverse community of students! The after school coordinator, Ms. Kirkpatrick, was our tour guide and we were joined by prospective parents.

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Seaton has a very progressive approach to technology in the classroom, using a blended learning model starting in Kindergarten. There are also carts of laptops and iPads on each floor of the school, bringing the school very close to a 1:1 ratio for students and computers. There can be more done, however, to achieve that goal of 1:1.

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Foundations Give Back to DC Schools

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

LaSalle-Backus Education Campus was the recipient of a generous library transformation grant from the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Heart of America, and the Dale Jr. Foundation. The school, located in Ward 4, won the award because its students showed a consistent commitment to literacy through the Redskins Read Program. On Friday, April 20, Ward 4 Representative Dr. Lannette Woodruff and I went to the grand opening of the beautiful new library. The three foundations donated $100,000 to the project, and in addition to a complete redesign, the library also gained 350 books, 20 iPads, 20 laptops, 20 sets of headphones, new furniture, and a Smartboard.

When we arrived, we saw Redskins players painting an inspirational message on the wall outside of the library, and they were happy to interact with students, staff, and other attendees. Dr. Woodruff also had the opportunity to meet Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The school had prepared a short ceremony, complete with a ribbon cutting, and they had chosen a group of 2nd and 8th grade students to watch the ribbon cutting. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans spoke, as did the school’s principal, Justin Ralston, and its Assistant Principal who oversees literacy, Shelly Gray. Heart of America’s President and CEO, Jill Heath, spoke directly to students and asked them to commit to reading more and taking advantage of their new space.

The event was fun for everyone involved, and we were excited to see the beautiful new space for LaSalle-Backus’ students. We hope it inspires even more students to become lifelong readers!

Big Hairy Audacious Goals at Jefferson Academy

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

Earlier this month, SBOE representatives Ashley Carter and Ruth Wattenberg joined SBOE staff in a visit to Jefferson Academy (JA), a DCPS community middle school located in Ward 6. The environment at Jefferson Academy during the SBOE visit was warm and welcoming from the moment we entered the building. Everyone from security guards to front office staff to leadership to teachers to students were incredibly helpful and demonstrated a love for their school.

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The morning started with a conversation with Principal Greg Dohmann about the school’s history. Jefferson Middle School was rebranded as Jefferson Academy in 2011, giving rise to a new generation of Jefferson achievement. Jefferson’s feeder schools are primarily Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, Brent Elementary School, Tyler Elementary School, Van Ness Elementary School, and Thomson Elementary School although Jefferson received students from 29 different schools this year. Its destination school is Eastern High School. School enrollment reached 305 students in the 2016-2017 school year, with current numbers for this year at 316. The school expects this trend of enrollment growth to continue, especially considering their upcoming school modernization. 2/3 of the students who attend Jefferson are out of boundary, mainly coming from Wards 7 and 8. Jefferson has a vision called “Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)”: they are working to make 1) Jefferson the highest achieving middle school in D.C. for all students and for 2) all members of the JA community to love school.

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In Class, Not Cuffs: A Discussion about Rethinking School Discipline

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

The Center for American Progress hosted an intriguing panel on January 17th discussing the role of over-punishment in our schools and how it can lead to negative outcomes over time. This is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and is a disturbing, ongoing trend affecting many Districts, LEAs, and schools across the country. Unfortunately these well-researched occurrences disproportionately impact minority, low-income, and disabled students. Some research cited from the presentation:

  • Black students are suspended and expelled three times the rate of white students
  • Disabled students are suspended and expelled two times the rate of non-disabled students
  • Higher funding for mental health professionals in districts and schools can lead to better student outcomes
  • Suspension is correlated with almost all negative achievement outcomes (prison, low grades, low socio-economic status later in life)
  • Moving to a new location, a trauma a child has experienced, or a major life event impacts the chances of a child being suspended

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