By: Brian Robinson, Policy Fellow
2018 was huge for education politics. Teacher evaluation systems were on the ballot. Democrats Andrew Cuomo (NY) and Jared Polis (CO) and Republican Bill Lee (TN) won gubernatorial races defending tough evaluation systems while Democrat Michelle Grisham (NM) won her gubernatorial race campaigning on eliminating her state’s system. School choice was on the ballot. Democrat gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsome (CA) won calling for a moratorium on charter schools and Republican Ron DeSantis (FL) won supporting public and private choice options. Some states’ voters approved tax initiatives to fund education while others rejected them. It wasn’t just issues on the ballot. 1,800 educators campaigned for governorships, state legislatures, and congress. Democrat Tony Evers, a school superintendent, defeated Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker while Connecticut elected 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes to Congress.
Now that the dust has settled on the 2018 midterms, where does education politics go from here? Education Week hosted stakeholders at George Washington University to discuss the future of education politics. Here are some takeaways:
- The Future is ESSA: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved plans for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These plans vary as states have significant flexibility in implementing the law. While it’s too early to analyze its impact on student achievement, the first national overhaul of education following the No Child Left Behind Act will be ripe with research opportunities.
- States forge ahead without Feds: Partly design, partly frustration. ESSA intentionally transfers power to states in deciding how to measure student progress and turnaround low-performing schools. President Trump made his intentions clear in a 2017 executive order instructing DeVos to modify or repeal regulations or guidance that infringes on state and local school control. States have also challenged the federal government on issues such as regulating student loan servicers.
- America is still Red for Ed: The movement that saw teacher strikes in traditionally red states like West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma and ushered educators into elected office isn’t fading. Former principal and North Carolina State House candidate Aimy Steele spoke of valuable lessons learned on how to organize, petition government, and use the legislative process to fight for students. Social Studies teacher and newly elected Oklahoma House Representative John Waldron said “you don’t get what you want for your kids by asking nicely.” Policymakers are on notice that they must move the needle on teacher pay and working conditions. Polis has already pledged to create affordable housing for Colorado’s teachers. West Virginia has done the same.
Education politics has the wind at its back. Hopefully this momentum can be sustained to tackle long pressing issues around equity, school violence, mental health, college preparation and affordability, and attracting and retaining high quality teachers for vulnerable student populations. Education Week’s Editor-in-Chief Scott Montgomery says, “our system of politics, our system of education are not meeting expectations.”America must maintain pressure on both systems in 2019 and beyond if we hope to see meaningful results.
By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst
In October 2018, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) was asked by two agencies to submit feedback and comments on a draft policy and a draft research report. The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) solicited public comment on its draft credit recovery policy that they hope to implement in January 2019, while the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor (ODCA) reached out to SBOE asking for comments on a draft report highlighting options for a personalized learning plan pilot program in the District; the report is scheduled to be released in the coming weeks. Both agencies reached out to SBOE for feedback due to SBOE’s previous work over the past year in both of these issue areas.
Below are definitions from the National Survey on High School Strategies Designed to Help At-Risk Students Graduate (HSS) that provide a high-level definition of the two policy areas on which SBOE recently provided feedback.
- Credit recovery – “The HSS defines credit recovery as a strategy that encourages at-risk students to retake a previously failed course required for high school graduation and earn credit if the student successfully completes the course requirements. Credit recovery courses may be available online or in alternative settings and can be scheduled at different times to suit the needs of the student.”
- Personalized learning plans – “The HSS defines a personalized learning plan as a formalized process that involves students setting learning goals based on personal, academic, and career interests with the close support of school personnel or other individuals that can include teachers, school counselors, and parents. Personalized learning plans are developed in a way that identifies the types of skills students need to pursue their academic and career interests and the steps required to build those skills, which may be attained through traditional educational pathways or through other innovative delivery mechanisms.”
By: Matt Repka, Policy Analyst
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) held its annual National Forum on Education Policy in late June 2018 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC. Hundreds of state legislators, state board members, principals, teachers, and other education stakeholders attended the three-day event, which featured presentations, workshops, and addresses from prominent elected officials, educators, and researchers, including former U.S. Secretary of Education John King.
ECS is a nonpartisan national organization that assists state government officials in developing education policies. Founded over 50 years ago, its objective is to bring state officials together to share best practices on how to improve the quality of education in their states, and to provide research and other resources to better inform policymakers.
By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist
Here’s your weekly rundown of education local/national news and events here in the District.
SBOE QUOTED IN THE NEWS
D.C. Officials Irked by Report of Unlicensed Teachers | Washington Informer
Statement on Mayor’s Veto of School Promotion and Graduation Fairness Emergency Act of 2018 | Markus Batchelor
How 2 Communities in DC, One White One Black, Work Together | Afro
Detroit schools will hire teachers without classroom experience, sparking debate | Chalkbeat
Detroit’s main district is proceeding with a plan to hire teachers who are certified but have received no training in the classroom — adding an element of controversy to efforts to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies by the end of summer.
Indiana State Board of Education approves graduation pathway policy | Fox59
The Indiana State Board of Education (Board) on Wednesday approved policy guidance for Graduation Pathways by a 10-0 vote. The policy guidance will be used by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and schools across the state to implement Graduation Pathways, which the Board approved in December 2017.
Controversial Discipline Program Not to Blame for Parkland School Shooting, Commission Finds | EdWeek
A controversial school discipline program adopted by the Broward County, Fla., district to reduce student arrests cannot be blamed for the shooting by a former student there, a state commission said Tuesday.
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.
On Wednesday, September 3rd, the District of Columbia’s State School Board of Education At-Large Representative, Ashley Carter met with a delegation of 3 educators and school administration professionals from the Philippines. As a part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the delegates sought to explore a range of perspectives on public, private, and mixed educational models, through discussions with American curriculum specialists, educators, students, school administrators, and school board representatives like Mrs. Carter. Prior to meeting with the DC State Board of Education, the delegation had met with the Houston Public School Board and had plans to meet with the Chicago Public School Board of Education following their trip to DC.
The Philippines is currently undergoing a transformation in their K-10 curriculum, extending their secondary education to include grades 11 and 12; therefore, the delegates will be studying comparative models and ideas for secondary education to inform their work. Their discussion with Ashley Carter largely centered on the separate powers of the organizations which preside over DC public and charter schools. Ms. Carter played an integral role in explaining the role of the SBOE as it pertains to recommending policy, approving policy and representing the interests of each ward in public discourse. Questions from the delegation largely centered on teacher appointment processes and the hierarchal structure within the DC education system. The delegation posed questions on the key differentiators between the public and charter school systems. Overall, the meeting served as a forum to hear international perspectives on the structure of governance within the DC education system. Hopefully, the structure of DC education governance can be used as a model for the Philippines education system. The DC State Board of Education places a high value on diversity of thought and has a commitment to collaboration. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the IVLP in the future.
We’ve extended the application period for our new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Advisory Task Force! Interested community members may now submit their application until Monday, July 24 at 12:00 noon. To apply to serve on the Task Force, click here.
Under the leadership of Dr. Lannette Woodruff (Ward 4), the ESSA Advisory Task Force will help advise the SBOE over the next two years. To ensure a balance of perspectives, the State Board will choose Task Force members who represent a broad constituency and will contribute meaningfully to education policy recommendations related to the 2017 DC ESSA Plan. In keeping with the SBOE’s commitment to transparency, all applications for the Task Force will be open to public review.
The SBOE will share clear selection criteria, and explain how members were selected. Task Force meetings will begin next month and continue on a monthly basis for the duration of the members’ two-year appointment. For the latest info regarding ESSA, please visit sboe.dc.gov/essa.
By: Maria Salciccioli, Policy Analyst
From June 28 – 30, the Education Commission of the States held its 2017 National Forum on Education Policy in San Diego, California. I had the opportunity to attend and relished the chance to meet education leaders from around the country and learn more about other states’ innovative education policies.
Day one focused on school choice policies, and in the opening plenary session, DC got a shoutout from Fordham Institute president Michael J. Petrilli, who called the city “school choice nirvana” and said that the robust charter sector spurred DC Public Schools to improve. He also noted that charter schools need to provide a great education for students with disabilities and minimize suspensions if they want to serve students well. After the plenary, we moved into small group sessions on school choice, and I chose “Expanding School Choice through Open-Enrollment Policies.” One of the session leaders was a superintendent from a small district in New Mexico. Students in New Mexico are allowed to attend schools outside of their home district, but the size of their large rural counties makes that prohibitive. To maximize choice in a rural state, the superintendent’s strategy as a school leader is to increase options within the district by providing online learning, experiential learning, and other opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting. While DC’s innovative lottery seems to be leaps and bounds beyond what most states offer, the strategies other states used to diversify students’ educational experiences can potentially benefit District students.
The second day had a strong focus on equity, which was much more relevant to the work we do at the State Board. The morning opened with a panel of leaders discussing their states’ biggest achievement gaps and their strategies for addressing them. A panelist from the Alliance for Education asked about the potential impact on a state’s economy if all high school dropouts became high school graduates. I wondered how that logic might resonate in DC, a city with a highly educated workforce where only 69% of students graduate from high school. This marks an improvement over the past several years, but our graduates are not always college- and career-ready, and we need to get them there. I left the session feeling energized about the work our high school graduation requirements task force will do over the next year. I also attended sessions on how Minnesota used data to close attainment and equity gaps and on how Kansas aligned high school education with career opportunities. I took lessons away from both sessions that will certainly inform my policy work here in the city.
The conference ended with some conversations about school finance and a networking lunch that took place steps away from a beautiful beach. It is a testament to the attendees’ commitment to education policy that the indoor sessions were so well attended, considering that the Pacific Ocean was in view of the conference hotel! The State Teachers of the Year, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several US territories, were in attendance and did a wonderful job of representing the educator perspective at the conference, which kept conversations from getting too far into the weeds and away from the students we’re all working to support. Having the opportunity to spend time with them over lunch was a highlight of the week. I left feeling energized about the great work we’re doing for students in DC, and I also felt more motivated than ever to go above and beyond to support our high school graduation task force, as well as our upcoming ESSA task force, as they work to close achievement and attainment gaps across the city and provide all District students with a great education.