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”.
By: Amber Faith, Policy Fellow
On Friday June 16th, 9th and 10th grade students attending Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy participated in the school’s annual Palooza Fair to present the results of their Community Action Projects (CAP). As a part of the CAP assignment, Chavez students worked in groups to research a policy issue, identify a problem in their community and create a policy to solve the problem. While working on their projects, students contacted and worked with experts on their topic, created and distributed surveys to community members, and completed 30 hours of community service relating to their topics.
The Palooza Fair was the culmination of the students’ work on these projects. At the fair, students gave presentations on current problems relating to human trafficking, immigration, animal rights and the U.S. military. The students succinctly and clearly presented data and information to show evidence of a problem, identified current policies meant to address the problem, and recommended changes to policy and strategies for their community to address these issues.
The work completed by Chavez 9th and 10th grade students is a requirement by Chavez schools to prepare students for the work the thesis work they will complete as Seniors. Seniors at Chavez are required to complete much more in depth research into policy solutions for current issues and present their research at Chavez’s Annual Symposium. The work completed by Chavez students falls in line with the school’s mission, part of which is to empower students to use public policy to make positive changes in their communities. To learn more about the program at Chavez Schools, visit Chavez Schools.
By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow
On Thursday, June 15, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, sponsored by the Knowledge Alliance, held a lively panel discussion on the topic: Moderated by the President of the think tank, Michael J Petrilli, discussants included: Dale Chu, VP of Policy and Operations at America Succeeds; Dan Goldhaber, Director, CEDR University of Washington & Director, CALDER & Vice President, AIR; Liz Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Delaware; and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University.
The discussion opened with a brief synopsis by Mr. Petrilli discussing the recent movement of policy making power and implementation from the federal to state level, as called for by the Every Student Succeeds Act. He noted that state legislatures are now responsible for being catalysts of policy change driven by sound, empirical evidence. In order to exemplify what type of questions policymakers may be asking when driving such changes, Mr. Petrilli designed an interactive group exercise for panelists entitled, “The Wheel of Policy.” When spun, the wheel landed on the topic of teacher licensure. The group proceeded to brainstorm questions to spur conversation. What was the impact of having fifty different state licensure exams and what was the outcome of having an exam that differs significantly from surrounding states? Given the number of questions, it was clear to the panelists and event attendees that the breadth of teacher licensure is significant and can be broken down into a multitude of subtopics.
From here, the discussion moved to understanding the role politics plays in the dynamic interplay between research and policy. The consensus amongst Mr. Chu and Ms. Farley-Ripple was that as policy analysts, they were more inclined to seek out researchers who produced evidence that support their policy claims and beliefs. This in turn prompted Mr. Goldhaber and Ms. Gordon to rebuke and state that it was imperative that the public understands what type of research was informing said policy claims and where and from whom educational institutions and think tanks receive funding from as there is greater potential for underlying evidential biases.
The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Attendees talked about the impact of international politics on US policy implementation and whether there should be best practice guides for education policy. During closing remarks, Mr. Goldhaber made mention of and commended the efforts by DC Public Schools (DCPS) on being an exemplary model for other states to follow when creating policy that are clearly rooted in empirical evidence. Mr. Petrilli echoed this sentiment and followed up by stating that this practice was also led by charter school management systems. To learn more about the event and watch the replay, click here.