SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundup: March 2019

By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

We’ve been shining a light on teacher and principal retention since October 2018—commissioning a report, hosting a public forum, inviting numerous expert witnesses to our public meetings, and convening a working group. As such, the #EdPolicy Research Roundup: March 2019 features two reports that touch on this important issue. One is a collaboration between the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) illuminating the issue of principal turnover. The second, published by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), is an overview of the education-related priorities of state governors (of which teacher quality is highlighted).

“Understanding and Addressing Principal Turnover: A Review of the Research”Learning Policy Institute, March 19, 2019

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:

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Building Community and Positive Relationships: How Some D.C. Public Charter Schools are Changing their Climate

By: Brian Robinson, Policy Fellow

Last week the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) hosted about two-dozen school leaders from across the city to talk about ways they have built a positive school climate. The National School Climate Center defines school climate as “the quality and character of school life.” When schools have a positive school climate, students are more likely to want to attend school, feel safe at school, develop positive relationships with peers and adults, and be engaged with teaching and learning.

Center City PCS – Brightwood Campus was applauded by PCSB for having one of the highest attendance and lowest chronic absenteeism rates in the charter sector. This was true across all subgroups (i.e., special education, at-risk, black, Hispanic students). Some strategies they credit for their success include:

  • Engaging all stakeholders in monitoring attendance. The school’s counselor and operations manager meet twice a week to review attendance data. Teachers flag absences, particularly from students who aren’t usually absent. Parents know the school takes attendance seriously and alert them for planned absences.
  • Using varying strategies for different families. Strategies include daily wake-up calls, home visits, and personalized solutions to encourage students to come to school.

Friendship Tech Prep PCS was credited for increasing academic outcomes, as well as its high attendance and low suspension rates. School administration realized their practice of suspending students was overused and ineffective, so they evaluated different models of addressing student behavior. Most importantly, they included students in these conversations asking them how they want to learn, why they are absent, and how to make school “lit”. Out of these conversations, they made some changes including:

  • Switching to project-based learning, allowing students to engage with their learning in a more practical way.
  • Created committees led by students. The uniform committee created uniforms that students would actually want to wear. The attendance committee made administration aware of issues with bus transportation.
  • Implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) where students receive rewards for early attendance or being “caught” doing good, as well as “dollars” to be redeemed for privileges such as “dress down Fridays”.

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SBOE Visit to DCI School

By: Abby Ragan, Policy Fellow

Earlier this week, Ward 3 representative Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 4 representative Lannette Woodruff and SBOE staff visited the new campus of DC International School. The group was welcomed by Principal Simon Rodberg and taken on tours of the building by pairs of student ambassadors. The SBOE team was able to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Principal Rodberg, Ms. Deirdre Bailey, the grades 9/10 Assistant Principal, Allison Sandusky, the Director of Student Culture and Lauren Games, the Communications Associate.

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DCI is a Tier 1 school serving grades 6-10 (with plans to expand to 6-12) with a one-to-one technology system based on three areas: International Baccalaureate, Student Agency, and Language Immersion. DCI plans to provide IB program offerings in both the Diploma and Careers tracks. DCI students are from all 8 wards, but a majority are from wards 1, 4, and 5- the same wards where DCI’s feeder schools are located. 51% of DCI students qualify for free or reduced lunch while 14% of the population receive special education services. These demographics present a diverse student body with varied opportunities and interests in clubs such as Baking, Debate, Sewing, Italian cooking, Star Wars, Homework Help, and Rock Band.

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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)

Millennial Views on Education

By: Maria Salciccioli, Policy Analyst

Last week, The Raben Group hosted Dr. Cathy Cohen from the GenForward Project at the University of Chicago at a panel event titled “Millennials and Education: New Research on America’s Most Diverse Generation.” Dr. Cohen presented rich survey data on millennials’ views on a host of education-related issues. (Millennials were defined as current 18- to 34-year-olds.)

Laura Jimenez, Director of Standards and Accountability at the Center for American Progress, and Dakarai Aarons, Vice President of Strategic Communications at the Data Quality Campaign, joined Dr. Cohen to offer expert analysis of the data, examining potential causes for the trends expressed in the survey data. By the panel’s own admission, Aarons was the only one of the speakers who is himself a member of the millennial generation; nonetheless, all three offered great insights into data, access to education, and challenges in our education system illuminated by survey responses.

Cohen presented data generated in response to a survey that was administered in June and July of 2017, disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Questions included: What is the role of a student’s economic class in determining educational quality? What is the role of race in determining educational quality? Are U.S. schools held accountable for the performance of students of color? What are the best ways to improve education?

Some of GenForward’s findings:

  • Most millennials gave their own education a high grade, but they gave lower grades to U.S. public schools. 26% of black students, 31% of Asian students, 32% of Latino students, and 20% of white students think U.S. schools deserve an A or B letter grade. The rest rate our schools C or lower.
  • Across every racial and ethnic background, in rank order, the top three ideas on how to improve K-12 education were the same: increase school funding, improving teacher training, and increase teacher pay.
  • While slight majorities of black and Asian students said students of color receive a worse education than their white counterparts, slight majorities of Latino and white students responded that race is not a major determinant of educational quality.
  • In contrast, over 70% of students of all races said they believed that low-income students receive a worse education than their white peers.
  • The survey data suggest a majority of millennials support charter schools and school voucher programs, particularly for low-income students, with the strongest support coming from black respondents. However, as the panelists pointed out, neither charters nor vouchers ranked among millennials’ top ideas for improving education, indicating approval for the concepts but not necessarily energy or deep buy-in to either.

According to Cohen, the commonly held assumption that millennials are uniformly more progressive and inclusive than generations before them is not supported by the available data. Those who value equity in education, she argued, must therefore do more to shape public opinion and not simply assume that trends will become more favorable with the passage of time. As an example, Cohen cited responses to a not-yet-published question on whether millennials believed in the existence of the school-to-prison pipeline, noting that white respondents were the least likely to agree that it is a real phenomenon.

Jimenez addressed millennials’ competing interests; millennials want more money in public schools, but they also support publicly funded vouchers, which pull money out of traditional public schools. They want greater levels of personalization, which require more data on individual students, but they also call for fewer tests. She talked about the strong case to be made for fewer, better assessments, which would move schools toward personalization without over-testing.

It would have been admittedly less compelling but useful to see the full set of questions during the presentation; one thing I was curious to see, for example, was the list of options respondents were given when asked to rank the best ways to improve education nationally. Full surveys are available at www.GenForwardSurvey.com, and I look forward to reading the full questions and seeing what they’ve asked millennials in the past.

A student from American University asked the panelists’ thoughts on a survey item on extreme speech. Asked if universities should curb extreme speech, black and Latino students supported the idea to a greater extent than their white or Asian peers. Aarons worried about the balance in asking schools to curb extreme speech – which may make minority students feel safer, particularly in our current political climate – and simultaneously ensuring extreme speech limitations are not defined in ways that ultimately disempower minority voices.

I’m interested to see survey respondents’ thoughts about more education issues (while the presentation did not present the full data set, a paper is available online), and I’m glad to hear that there are organizations thinking about next steps and how to have conversations that increase public support for equity. But I also think that those of us who are invested in educational equity have a lot of work to do in terms of changing the hearts and minds of our 18- to 34-year-old peers.