By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow
On April 6, 2018 the Aspen Institute hosted the launch of the “Youth and Family Calls to Action,” which are ambitious goals and demands emanating from the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The National Commission’s goal is to explore how to make social, emotional, and academic development part of the fabric of every school by drawing from research and promising practices.
To usher in the launch of the Calls to Action, the Aspen Institute brought in students, parents, and teachers, who were all members of the National Commission, to discuss the thinking behind these goals and the relevance of them in today’s educational landscape. Tim Shriver (Co-Founder and Chair of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) set the tone of the morning by asking guests to imagine transforming the country by fighting the pervasive negativity and apathy through education. He said that through grassroots efforts, and conversations like these, change could come. His words were echoed by panelists who discussed the importance of realigning education to meet 21st Century needs.
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.
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.
By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow
In December 2017 and early January 2018, the Board members attended a variety of events around the DC community, interacting with students and parents alike. Many Board members took tours of schools during December and January, witnessing teachers and students in action firsthand.
• Ashley Carter (At-Large) visited Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
• Laura Wilson Phelan (Ward 1) highlighted the tremendous work of our #DCGradReqs Task Force as a panelist on a National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) webinar focused on equity in high school graduation requirements.
By: Matt Repka, Policy Analyst
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Antwan Wilson conducted a Facebook Live interview on Friday to talk about a new initiative in DCPS focused on young women of color. The interview, conducted from the DCPS Central Office in Northeast Washington, briefly discussed DCPS’ new “Reign: Empowering Young Women as Leaders” initiative, which promotes opportunities for young women of color in the school system. The initiative will continue through the 2017-18 school year.
Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed back DC Public Schools (DCPS) teachers for School Year 2017-2018 with a huge announcement. DCPS teachers are finally close to getting a new contract. At Bunker Hill Elementary School in Ward 5 with several education leaders at her side, Mayor Bowser unveiled a new teacher contract proposal that, if approved, will yield a 9% raise for DCPS teachers. Mayor Bowser was joined by City Administrator Rashad Young, Councilmember David Grosso, Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles, DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Washington Teachers Union President Liz Davis, and Bunker Hill Elementary School Principal Kara Kuchemba to announce the news.
Under the proposed contract, educators will receive:
- salary increases, including a 4 percent retroactive increase in Fiscal Year 2017, a 3 percent increase in Fiscal Year 2018, and a 2 percent increase in Fiscal Year 2019;
- additional benefits; and
- structured collaborative engagement between DCPS and the WTU on various issues, including extended-year schools.
Over the last school year, DC Public Schools employed more than 4,000 teachers who served approximately 50,000 students across 115 schools. Teachers have not received a base salary raise since 2012. DC Public School teachers enjoy the highest first-year teacher salary nationwide at $53,000 currently.
The nearly 4,500 members of the Washington Teachers Union are now tasked with voting on the proposal over the next two weeks. Eleven extended-year schools began school yesterday and the remaining schools will start the school year on Monday, August 21.
Mayor’s Press Release
Mayor Bowser’s Facebook Live Announcement – Recording
Councilmember Grosso applauds tentative new teacher contract
At June’s public meeting, State Board members voted on the final version of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) report presented by SBOE Student Representative Alex Dorosin of Wilson High School. This report is the second annual report presented by the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC met four times over the course of the 2016-2017 school year and selected seven key topics that the SAC feels can be changed or improved in the DC education system.The proposals submitted by the SAC focused on graduation requirements, security, access to humanities and civic engagement courses, hall sweeps, food and nutrition, grading systems, and student socialization.
Student representatives have been pivotal to the success of the work of the SBOE. Our student representatives and SAC members offer a unique perspective on how policies actually impact the District’s students. The Student Advisory Committee serves as the voice of students in the State Board’s work. They are consulted on all issues of policy before the State Board. Student Representatives serve as co-chairs of the Student Advisory Committee. The Committee is composed of a minimum of 15 high school students, one from each of the 10 largest (by student population) high schools in the District and 5 additional members from other high schools. Read the report here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.