Paul’s Top 5 Moments at SBOE

SBOE Staff 2019

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

So many firsts. My first government job. My first time working with politicians. My first time running multiple social media accounts and a blog. In October 2016, I stepped into a position that did not exist before. Excited, yet intimidated, I relished the opportunity to develop the role into what it is today. Much thanks goes to our Executive Director John-Paul Hayworth, our tremendous staff, and our passionate Board members for trusting me with this role and allowing me to make it my own. As I finish up my final week serving as public affairs specialist for the DC State Board of Education, here are a few moments I won’t soon forget.

1. #SBOESelfieTours

SBOE Selfie Tour 2017

As a staff member, I loved getting out into the community and visiting District public schools as often as possible. This helped keep my ears to the ground and helped to connect the education policies we were working on with the realities of children attending school. Whether it was Back-to-School events, school tours, education events, or student representative swearing-ins, I always felt honored I was able to capture these moments as they happened. In spring 2017, we embarked on the first #SBOESelfieTour, a public engagement campaign where staff and Board members visited a variety of schools over a one or two-day period to help promote specific policy issues or campaigns. During these quarterly tours, we dropped off flyers and materials about our open applications for student representative and Student Advisory Committee, applications to join our High School Graduation Requirements and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) task forces, and back-to-school information on the work of the State Board, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Office of the Student Advocate. The ultimate bonding experience for staff, these outings proved to be a great way for us to connect with the schools we served.

2. Going Live

#DCGradReqs Task Force Meeting 2017

Running a livestream for every public meeting, working session, and task force over the last three years was thrilling, challenging, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Every conversation, debate, vote, public testimony, and ceremonial resolution was captured live via our Periscope or FacebookLive feed. I wouldn’t call myself an expert videographer or photographer, but I managed to hone my craft as time went on. The toughest parts were when the WiFi or phone connection would drop or when I needed to inconspicuously capture substantive conversations at our task force meetings. Our dedicated group of viewers always keep me on my toes in the chat box, never really leaving me a moment to relax. But, I loved engaging with them in real time to help make their viewing experience valuable.

3. ESSA Community Engagement

ESSA Community Meeting 2017

In February 2017, the State Board partnered with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to co-host community meetings in all eight wards of the District. Members engaged with the public on the draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to find out what community members wanted DC to include in its final accountability plan. With a smaller staff back then, John-Paul and I traveled around to schools in the District with translation equipment, projectors, printed materials, and a projector screen to ensure these events went off smoothly. It was a sprint that month, with three meetings per week for four weeks straight in the evenings. But, it was worth it! It was a great way for me to learn the unique challenges and concerns of residents in every part of this city early on in my time at SBOE.

4. Spotlight on Teacher Retention

Teacher Retention Forum 2018

In May 2018, SBOE contracted with local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy to produce a report on teacher and principal retention in the District of Columbia. In October last year, we released the commissioned report along with three recommendations. The report found that teacher turnover at the DCPS system level is roughly 19 percent, and average annual teacher turnover at the school level in both traditional public schools and charter schools has consistently been about 25 percent. The report also found that turnover in DCPS neighborhood schools is highest in Wards 5 and 8, but that charter school turnover rates are largely the same regardless of location. The impact of this report has been wide-ranging, and the State Board has continued to analyze this issue in 2019. Through community forums, expert panels, and engagement with teachers and administrators throughout the District, we have deepened our knowledge on this issue. The SBOE is poised to continue the conversation in the new school year and I am grateful to have been a part of these efforts to shine a light on such an important issue.

5. Launching the SBOE Blog

When I started my role, I wanted to create a way for us to connect more with the community. I felt that SBOE needed a way for Board members and staff to share their views on specific education policy issues. I also wanted a space for us to publish information, feedback, and takeaways from key events. Thus, this blog was born in December 2016. With the breadth of communications and media relations functions I performed over the years, it was a challenge at times to carve out time each month to get content posted. But, with the help of our dedicated staff, we’ve managed to post a few blogs each month. It’s been a great outlet for us to get our voice across in a unique way.

  • SBOE SelfieTour 2017
  • EdFest 2017
  • SBOE SelfieTour 2018
  • DCPS Pride 2019
  • Langley Elementary Tour 2019
  • SBOE Staff August 2019
  • Staff Nats Game 2017
  • SBOE Excel Academy Visit 2018
  • SBOE Staff May 2019

Together, we’ve worked hard to communicate the message of the State Board through meetings, task force sessions, selfie tours, press releases, community newsletters, media responses, and countless community events. With a focus on transparency, we streamed every public meeting, working session, and task force meeting live on Periscope and FacebookLive. With the help of staff and our dedicated fellows, we’ve been able to expand our social media presence – adding an Instagram and LinkedIn account and maximizing our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages.

And now, I am fully ready to take on a new professional challenge! I am staying in DC, so I’ll be close. From time to time, I may pull up a SBOE meeting on Periscope to catch the latest on the work of the State Board. It will be a nice change to be on the other side, watching as an interested and supportive District resident. I can’t wait to see what’s next for SBOE.

SBOE Director Shares Best Practices to Engage State Policymakers

Leadership Exchange for Adolescent Health Promotion

By: John-Paul Hayworth, Executive Director

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to serve as a panelist at the first in-person convening of the Leadership Exchange for Adolescent Health Promotion (LEAHP) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our State Board of Education (SBOE) developed and approved some of the most comprehensive health education standards in the country in 2017, so it was a great opportunity to share our story with five state teams of government education and health officials, non-profit leaders, and practitioners and collaborate with them to address adolescent health in three priority areas: sexual health education, sexual health services, and safe and supportive environments. D.C. has one of the five teams in this first cohort of the LEAHP project (others are Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin).

The panel I was a part of focused on how to work with state and local policymakers to develop policy systems in which all students can thrive and have what they need to be safe, healthy and supported in school. Panelists shared best practices, common challenges and strategies to overcome them, and real-world success stories. I spoke about how to initiate, foster and maintain relationships with policymakers and their staff. We also discussed the “ick factor” that can limit or stymie vital conversations around topics that are uncomfortable for some people including sexual activity, mental health and LGBTQ issues. 

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Strawberries & Salad Greens Day

Strawberries & Salad Greens Day 2019

By: Ashley MacLeay, At-Large Representative, and Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Earlier this month, we had the chance to visit Aiton Elementary School in Ward 7 and Murch Elementary School in Ward 3 for their Strawberries & Salad Greens Day festivities. Since 2011, the Health & Wellness Division at OSSE has sponsored this city-wide event as a way to showcase locally grown produce in school meals.

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Aiton Elementary School partnered with DC Central Kitchen to teach students about different fruits and vegetables that could be grown in the District. Students were able to touch and taste local fruits and vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers grown from a truck garden. In addition, the students learned proper knife techniques and cut strawberries, kale, and carrots. They mixed the ingredients together with a strawberry vinaigrette dressing to create a fresh summer strawberry salad that everyone enjoyed.

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Thanks for the Ride!

Staff Selfie Tour April 2019

By: Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

Thanks for the ride, SBOE! As a DCPS parent and a doctoral student of education policy, these last five months as a Policy Fellow at the DC State Board of Education have been illuminating and fun. I have come to understand the structure of educational governance in the District and learned a lot about the people who operate within it. (One day, I’ll diagram it for you!) I was given to the time and task of listening to and watching City Council testimony on education issues and offices, and, of course, SBOE meetings. I had the opportunity to participate in First Friday tours of DC charter schools and peek into some high schools on an SBOE selfie tour to recruit high school students to serve as Student Representatives and members of the State Board Student Advisory Committee. The staff provided opportunities for me to explore DC student data, write memos, contribute blog posts, and ask a lot of questions!

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Castle on the Hill- Our Visit to Cardozo Education Campus

Cardozo Visit May 2019

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

Last week, Cardozo High School Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy and his leadership team welcomed State Board members Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3 / President), Ashley MacLeay (At-Large), Emily Gasoi (Ward 1), and some of my SBOE staff colleagues for a school tour and lively education policy discussion at one of Ward 1’s education campuses. Cardozo Education Campus is essentially three schools in one, with a middle school, mainstream/traditional high school, and an International Academy for English language learners in one building. The historic “Castle on the Hill” campus serves students from grades 6–12 at this neighborhood DCPS school in the District’s northwest neighborhood of Columbia Heights.

During the first portion of the visit, we sat down with Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy to learn more about the unique programs offered at this combined middle/high school. In addition, State Board members engaged in a discussion with school leaders and teachers on different ways to measure academic growth during high school. Academic growth, the progress a student makes over a particular time period, is one of the indicators used by the District in its STAR Framework and in its school report card. This visit was timely as the State Board looks forward to a proposal from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) related to a high school growth measure next month.

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SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundup: January 2019

By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Ensuring research and policy concepts are accessible to all stakeholders in our communities is important. Think tanks and policy-based organizations release reports and their findings on a regular basis, but some times the information contained within these reports can be difficult to navigate and understand to a more novice reader or layperson.

Each month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) will feature and summarize a collection of reports highlighting trends and issues in education policy. SBOE will discuss the key findings, as well as explain the implication of the reports to the State Board’s work and priorities. This month we feature two reports: one from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on the importance of teacher diversity and a second from the National School Climate Center (NSCC) on creating school communities.  

“A Vision and Guidance for a Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Workforce” – Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), January 10, 2019

Summary: Students benefit when their teachers come from varying backgrounds—racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic. Today, nearly 50 percent of American public school students identify as people of color, compared to only 20 percent of their teachers. CCSSO highlights research that demonstrates “students exposure to people who are different from themselves, and the ideas and challenges that such exposure brings, leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.” The CCSSO report discusses the need for “deliberate attention to build current as well as future teachers’ capacity to enact pedagogies and practices that recognize and embrace students’ cultures as assets in the classroom.” CCSSO suggests that all teachers be “learner-ready”—meaning teachers have developed the deep knowledge of their content and how to teach it, understand differing needs amongst students, and demonstrate leadership and shared responsibility. The CCSSO report casts a vision for what education systems look like when there is a diverse and learner-ready workforce, and outlines a series of preservice and in-service policy recommendations for achieving their vision.

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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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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.

State Board in the Community: June 2018

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

In June, SBOE members criss-crossed the District visiting DC public schools and public charter schools, attending high school graduation events, and participating in important community gatherings.

Karen (Ward 7 / President), Ashley (At-Large), and Joe (Ward 6) attended Mayor Bowser’s press conference announcing the new search committee for DC Public Schools Chancellor


Karen (Ward 7 / President)
was the keynote speaker at Total Sunshine’s annual school grade awards ceremony honoring D.C.’s public and charter high school valedictorians and salutatorians

Jack (Ward 2 / Vice President) honored award recipients at the Critics and Awards Program for High School Students Awards (Cappies) ceremony

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Tour of Eagle Academy PCS

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

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At the Board’s January Public Meeting, we heard testimony on the ESSA school report cards that the SBOE is working with the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) to produce. Two school leaders testified that the format of the report cards disadvantages schools that only serve early childhood students, because it only includes growth from 3rd grade onward. Pre-K through 3rd grade schools make tremendous gains with their students during those years, which won’t be evident to families who look at school report cards in their current form.

With this information, the Board aims to partner with OSSE to think about nuanced ways to present early childhood schools’ student outcomes. Board member Dr. Lannette Woodruff (Ward 4) wanted to understand what an early childhood campus really looks like, so I joined her for a tour of Eagle Academy PCS. Eagle’s CEO, Dr. Joe Smith, was one of the school leaders who testified at our meeting. We visited the Congress Heights location, since it’s the larger of the two.

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