Status

Suzanne Wells Testimony – DCPS Chancellor Hearing – December 8, 2016

DC City Council Committee on Education Public Hearing

Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools Antwan Wilson

Confirmation Resolution of 2016

December 8, 2016

Suzanne Wells

Eliot-Hine Middle School Parent

Founder, Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO)

Thank you for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing on the confirmation of Antwan Wilson as the next Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). 

On August 11, 2016, the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities sent a letter to Mayor Bowser identifying qualities the public school education advocacy groups felt were appropriate for the next Chancellor.  These qualities included:

  • Experience as a professional educator and administrator;
  • Tenacity in advocating for current and former DCPS families;
  • Commitment to healthy and productive relationships with principals, teachers, communities, parents and students;
  • Management skills encompassing core school business functions; and
  • Demonstrated support for a well-rounded education for every student.

Since Mayor Bowser announced the selection of Mr. Wilson on November 22, 2016, I have had the chance to read newspaper articles about his tenure in Oakland, attend a meet and greet with him, and speak to a parent from Oakland.  What I have learned is that Mr. Wilson is in fact a career educator who has experience working in and leading a large public school system.  He has experience bringing about positive change in low-performing schools, and seems genuinely committed to meeting the educational needs of all students and ensuring they get a well-rounded education.

Areas where I believe the Education Committee should take a close look at Mr. Wilson are his 1) tenacity in becoming an advocate for DCPS and 2) commitment to healthy and productive relationships with principals and teachers.

In DC, where we have a strong and robust public charter school sector, and where choice is strongly promoted through efforts like My School DC, it is absolutely imperative that the next Chancellor be a tenacious advocate for our city-run public schools.  At your roundtable last week, Cathy Reilly testified that Mr. Wilson should be held accountable for increasing the enrollment of the students in DCPS and she suggested a modest and achievable growth rate of 3% a year.  I believe this is a very sound recommendation that absolutely should be included in Mr. Wilson’s contract.  If he is true to his word about lifting up low-performing schools, he should be successful in attracting families to their neighborhood schools.  If he is true to his word about meeting the educational needs of all students, he will keep families committed to DCPS.  Increasing enrollment in DCPS will be one of the surest benchmarks  Mayor Bowser and the Education Committee will have to evaluate whether Mr. Wilson is successfully performing his responsibilities.

Many have read the March 4, 2016, article about Mr. Wilson’s efforts to bring closer coordination between the Oakland charter schools and the district run public schools.  Some of the things Mr. Wilson tried to achieve in Oakland, e.g., a common enrollment system, are already in place in DC.  Mr. Wilson appears to want to level the playing field between charter schools and district-run schools by promoting the same criteria for academics, discipline and enrollment.  In doing this, we should hope Mr. Wilson will bring insights that will encourage comprehensive planning between the Public Charter School Board and DCPS before new schools are opened or schools are closed.  I hope he will be successful in working with the charter school community to address public charter school practices that work to the detriment of DCPS — such as starting middle school at 5th grade instead of 6th grade, counseling low-performing students to leave individual charter schools (to be accepted back to a DCPS school) before testing begins, and suspending low-performing or difficult students without working to address their individual needs.

In closing, I hope Mr. Wilson has learned from his experience in working with parents and communities in both in Denver and Oakland that while we may not always agree with each other, it is important to invest the time to listen to each other and sincerely seek to understand other’s perspectives.  Parents and communities can bring enormous support to Mr. Wilson if he works with them as partners, and not as adversaries, such that the changes he may want to bring about can be fine-tuned to address genuine concerns.

If confirmed, I wish Mr. Wilson the best of luck in his new endeavor, and I personally look forward to working with him as a parent of a DCPS student.

Status

Max Kieba Testimony – DCPS Chancellor Hearing – December 8, 2016

Testimony by Max Kieba, Maury parent

DC Council Committee on Education Hearing: PR21-1040 – Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools Antwan Wilson Confirmation Resolution of 2016

December 8, 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the proposed confirmation of Antwan Wilson as Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.  My name is Max Kieba: I’m a parent at Maury Elementary, serve as the School Improvement Team (SIT) Co-Coordinator for our upcoming renovation project and one of Maury’s representatives in the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO).

I wasn’t directly part of the selection process other than through CHPSPO we did provide some input on what we hope to see in the new chancellor.   While we’re collectively still getting to know each other better and look forward to learning more from him today, many aspects of his background and skill sets appear to address many of traits we asked for in a new chancellor and areas in which we can continue to improve… communication, helping to address the achievement gap, and equity for high quality education for all students.

We look forward to working with him with an open mind and hope he will do the same in working with us.   We also want to make sure he’s aware that while he is coming into a system that has improved in many ways, it also has room for improvement elsewhere.     Among some areas of improvement I’d like to highlight and which we’d like to better understand his approach and any thoughts he may have based on his introduction to the district and DCPS so far:

Improving Trust within the System

We are all part of the system, whether it’s DCPS front office, the schools, families or other agencies/stakeholders that may interact with one another.  DCPS is a key interface for so many processes, but there are unfortunately a lot of apparent trust issues at play that seems to go both ways… there is a lack of trust families have with DCPS, and apparent lack of trust DCPS has with its schools and families.  Many of these issues involve communication and effective community engagement, but at a high level the general perception is DCPS seems to believe it knows what’s best for the schools, makes decisions with little to no true engagement and the schools and families should just fall in line with decisions that are made.    It’s difficult for schools and families to trust DCPS if DCPS doesn’t trust its schools and families in the communication and engagement process.

Communication and Effective Community Engagement

We continue to have issues with open communication and truly effective and robust community engagement.   Most of my experience has been with the modernization/SIT process, but it seems to manifest itself in other processes as well.  While this can’t all be put on the chancellor position, there appears to continue to be a less than healthy culture at DCPS with respect to communication and engagement within and across certain offices (the silo effect), with other key agencies like DGS and externally with schools and their families.    Information is rarely shared in a timely fashion, or when information is pushed out it comes with little to no raw data with it or substantive rationale for the decisions.  In most cases, schools and families are then asked to provide quick feedback based on limited information because we don’t have time to discuss in detail.  When questions are asked in an attempt to have a constructive dialogue, the answer is usually they’ll get back to us (rarely do they in a timely fashion) or it involves another office we need to contact.  When we contact that office, no replies and the cycle repeats itself.    When we ask for public meetings to discuss further, little to no action is taken or schools have to take it upon ourselves to share information publicly or engage in discussions with others, again though with more questions than answers on what DCPS is thinking.  When someone from DCPS does attend a meeting, it’s usually not the people with decision making authority and the cycle continues.   We want to do what we can to be a team player, follow the process and have DCPS take the lead, but they sure make it tough. 

Continuing to support and invest in our middle schools

DCPS needs to continue to support, invest and help improve our middle schools.  DC enrollment is increasing and the families that are coming into the system are generally more affluent, have more education (and are more white) than the average DCPS student.  Those families are demanding high quality education for their children, yes, but they understand the importance of building a system that provides equality of opportunity (and quality learning outcomes) to all students.  That demand for increased quality can benefit everyone if DCPS can appropriately channel that demand/enthusiasm. The new chancellor should build on this momentum and work with families to keep them in the system (and keep them from moving to the suburbs).  Working with those families means being more transparent on decision-making and critically, moving very quickly to improve middle schools (so those families will stay). Mayor Bowser’s promise of “Deal for everyone” does not, we presume, mean that everyone has to enroll at Deal. The Chancellor should immediately act to make DCPS middle schools competitive with charters from an academic perspective.  Many of these “new” families were lured into DCPS by free early childhood education.  DCPS will keep them if they step up their game in middle school, but it needs to happen quickly.

Middle school decisions should all happen at the same time

The new chancellor should work together with the DC Public Charter School Board to find ways how we can make the decision processes for families more fair and equitable.  One key area is helping to encourage all charters to start their entry grade in grade 6, similar to DCPS middle schools, instead of grade 5.  To be clear, we feel public charters and DCPS do have a place together in the overall education system and there are many reasons families may choose a public charter over DCPS middle school.    However, we are losing far too many families in our school and DCPS in the 5th (and sometimes earlier grades) based often on the fear that if they don’t make a move then, they may have no shot.    In the process of making those early decisions, we also suffer with issues in testing results and the overall achievement gap especially when the better performing students are often the ones leaving the DCPS system earlier.   

Improve on equity

DCPS did not go far enough in solving the problem of using the education system to redistribute how students get assigned to schools. For more affluent/high demand schools, DCPS should introduce a percentage of low-income lottery spots.  With the boundary redrawing, we’ve essentially locked in the tight relationship between income and school quality/outcomes. Schools need to be sized to accommodate both their in-bounds population as well as sub group (10%-20% of total?) of income-based out of bounds lottery winners.   We need to honor the right to attend your neighborhood school, but also recognize the need that building a highly educated society requires a diversity of experiences and background all mixed together.  There aren’t very many US cities that have done a good job with this, but surely we can improve upon the existing model by giving more of an eye to equity.  This is a challenge at Maury with its already being overcapacity and challenges in right-sizing the renovation/addition given our tight footprint, but there are ways to do it right and we embrace diversity. 

School Nurse reduction/reallocation plan

We thank Council for helping to influence in a delay in the decision surrounding resource allocation of school nurses.  We continue to be concerned about the potential for a reduction.  We’ve had multiple 911 calls, broken wrists, asthma issues, etc. etc.  It would be great to make it a priority to prevent cutting our full time nurse.  Currently the issue may be on hold but there is a concern it may be sneaked through when no one is looking (again, the trust issue).  It’s fascinating to see the number of students that have health issues that will fall through the cracks if a nurse is not here.  The solution is usually to rely on “med givers” which are four paras that get pulled out of a classroom to attend the students.  The teachers in pre k 3 and 4 cannot be alone with their students and it has caused other unsafe scenarios when it happens in today’s world.    We need more hours not less.  Or if this truly may be the best approach for multiple reasons, we at least ask for more public dialogue. 

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – November 15 2016

Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan, 215 G Street, NE

November 15, 2016, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

1 . Film Screening – Most Likely to Succeed – Julie Scofield

  • Looks at alternative schools; focus on critical thinking, how to deal w/ failure, problem-solving
  • Films can only be accessed via screenings
  • $350 to host one screening  http://www.mltsfilm.org/
  • Upcoming Nov 16, 6PM- HU Architecture Bldg, Nov 19 @ Berry Montessori @ Silver Spring
  • Julie is attending the November 16 screening.  General agreement that CHPSPO would be interested in sponsoring a screening.

2. December 9 Wilson Building Visits – Ivan Frishberg

  • Periodic, but regular visits w/ delegation
  • Focus on priority issues; consistency among issues across visits
  • Requests out to: Mendelson, Grosso, Bonds, White, Silverman, Allen, Cheh
  • Issues:
    • Selection of Chancellor; think of Qs council should raise in confirmation process
    • Modernization
    • Cross-sector collaboration task force

3. Discussion with Liz Davis, President of the Washington Teachers’ Union

  • ESSA (WTU member feedback):
    • testing window expanded
    • amount of time devoted to testing vs teaching
    • school climate, teacher morale impacted, which impact teaching and learning

Discussion:

  • Q: WTU Contract – will there be requirements on class size in future contract? A: already have class size requirements, but it has been difficult to enforce it. Cap (maximum) for any class is 24 (varies depending on type of class). To address this with school (sometimes principals aren’t clear on caps), start by requesting meeting w/ principal, entire advisory team. Parents are the most effective advocates.
  • General Info on new contract:
  • Teacher eval – teachers unable to challenge ratings; cultivates climate of fear; teachers afraid to speak out about gaps in needs/resources like ELL, SpEd, nurse
  • John Davis will complete the process; hoping to be able to finish in 8 sessions
  • Q: Are grievances filed? A: Yes, they are filed and frequently won by WTU, but DCPS frequently appeals. Enforcement is difficult. (WTU follows National Labor Relations Board (NLRB))
  • Q: How to change the ‘adversarial culture’ between DCPS and WTU/Parents. How do we get to a different type of relationship? A: Focus on Mayor and Council and determine endorsements based on issues. Need to increase organizing. Helpful when advocates/parents/constituents/allies craft messages and rely on WTU to lead on engagement.
  • Q: What is the make up to the WTU staff? A: 9 staff members + attorney on retainer. Looking to hire an attorney. Capacity: organizers; partnerships w/ orgs like DC Fiscal Policy Institute

4. Use of Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products – Peabody, SWS&Goding, Payne and Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan representatives

  • Healthy Schools Act requires schools to report whether they use environmentally friendly cleaning products. Three schools self-reported (Peabody, SWS@Goding, Payne and CHM@L)
  • CHM@L has done thinking on environmental issues in and around the building. Cleaning products are low-hanging fruit.

Discussion:

DCPS Energy and Sustainability Liaison, Sally Parker discovered the following:

  • 14 vendors in DCPS list which provide cleaning supplies. Out of 94 pages of products listed, only 14 products met Office of Contracting and Procurement guidelines.
  • How purchased: business manager and custodial foreman should coordinate. Suggest DCPS work with vendors to restrict list to green cleaning supplies
  • Need to retrain custodians to trust that products being used actually do the job
  • Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines: http://ocp.dc.gov/page/sustainable-purchasing
  • Custodians have PD; next session in February
  • ACTION: Try to add to PD agenda, Roosevelt custodian to talk about sustainable cleaning products.
  • ACTION: CHM@L to work w/ foreman and purchasing manager to introduce products from the sustainable list and report back to CHPSPO.  Schools that self-reported they use environmentally-friendly cleaning products will also report back on their experiences at a future meeting.

Recycling/Composting

    • movement towards dispensers that don’t require dilution

5. Remarks by Principal Brown  (Eastern HS) –

  • Jefferson, SH, CHM@L, EH. DCPS will have a vertical articulation day where staff will be invited to Eastern to learn about Eastern’s programs (Nov 30)
  • 825 students enrolled. 9th graders on 4th floor in ‘bubble’. Enter/exit through separate door.
  • Open Houses @ EHS are all 6-7PM: December 15, 2016 and January 12, February 16, 2017

6. Remarks/Update by Joe Weedon, Ward 6 member, State Board of Education

  • EH looking for reps from its feeder schools for the SIT. Meetings will kick off in 2 months. will meet every 2 months once project comes online
  • Residency requirements to address variances in student addresses, legal guardians, joint custody arrangements, etc. After year 1, can opt to use tax records to prove residency.
  • SBOE Hearing – Evaluating School Quality Under Every Student Succeeds Act

Next CHPSPO Meeting: December 15, 2016

Upcoming Events

State Board of Education Hearing on Evaluating School Quality

November 16, 5:30 PM, 441 4th St NW (at Judiciary Square)

Film Screening: Most Likely to Succeed

November 16, 5:30 pm, Howard University, Mackey Building, 2366 6th St., NW

Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force

November 22, 6 pm, EducationCounsel, 101Constitution Ave, NW Suite 900

Open Houses  (See additional open houses here: http://dcps.dc.gov/openhouse )

November 2, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Eliot-Hine Middle School

November 3, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Stuart Hobson Middle School

November 16, 6 pm, Jefferson Academy

December 1, 9 am, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan

December 15, 6 pm, Eastern HS

December 13, 9 am, Eliot-Hine Middle School

December 13, 9 am, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan

January 12, 9 am, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan

January 12, 6 pm, Eastern HS

February 9, 6 pm, Stuart Hobson MS

February 16, 6 pm, Eastern HS

Wilson Building Visits

December 9

Status

A Better Way to Rate Schools?

A message from Ward 6 School Board member, Joe Weedon, about upcoming decisions on how DC rates schools — and how to make your voice heard on Nov. 16

Currently, schools are rated almost entirely on reading and math test scores–and almost entirely on the proportion of students who are “proficient,” regardless of how much academic progress students in the school did or didn’t make.

This approach has led to many complaints: too much focus on tests and test prep; not enough attention to other subjects;  pressure on schools to focus on teaching students who are close to the proficient cusp instead of kids who score substantially higher or lower; a disincentive for schools to enroll challenging students, whose test scores typically grow more slowly; and, not enough attention to the non-academic aspects of education, including providing a nurturing, safe, challenging, engaging environment.

Thanks to the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed last year, DC has the chance to greatly revise the basis on which we evaluate school quality. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) have been meeting with members of the community since the spring to hear ideas for fixing the current system.  OSSE produced a “straw man” draft, meant to elicit comment. The SBOE responded with its concerns about what was and wasn’t in the draft.

The discussion now moves to a larger, public stage: the next SBOE meeting, Nov 16 at 5:30. While any member of the public can testify on any issue they want, the three main subjects up for discussion that night are:

  • The Weight of Test Scores:  Our current system overwhelmingly emphasizes test results. We are hearing that this focus on testing has harmful effects on our schools. The OSSE discussion draft suggests a new total test weight of 80%; the SBOE response memo suggests it should be much lower. We need to hear from parents, students, educators, and organizations about how the current testing weight has affected their schools and what they think the new weight should be.
  • The Weight of Growth in Relation to Proficiency:  Rather than holding schools accountable almost entirely for whether their students reach specific proficiency levels, ESSA offers DC the opportunity to credit schools for the progress students achieve each year, meaning that if students enter the year well below proficiency but make above average strides, the school will be credited for that growth–not penalized because the student hasn’t yet reached proficient. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what they believe the appropriate balance is between rating schools based on the proportion of students who meet proficiency thresholds and the actual academic progress the students have made.
  • Open, Welcoming Spirit and Other Qualitative Indicators of Quality: In addition to test scores, the SBOE believes that part of a school’s rating should be based on such qualitative factors as whether all students, teachers and parents feel welcome in their schools and such factors as school discipline, attendance, bullying, parent engagement, teacher turnover, student reenrollment, etc. Data for ratings could be drawn from surveys of parents, teachers, and students and from existing data. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what factors we should be looking at when assessing our schools.


Please consider testifying before the Board on these or related questions. 

Wed. Nov 16, 5:30 PM
441 4th St NW (at Judiciary Square)

You must sign up by 5 pm, Tuesday Nov 15. Sign up by emailing sboe@dc.gov. Please circulate this information to all interested schools, parents, educators, organizations.

Or, if you can’t attend the hearing, send written statements to me at joe@joeweedonstateboardofed.com and we will make sure your input gets to OSSE. 

Thank you,
Joe Weedon
http://www.ward6education.com/

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – October 18 2016

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

Miner Elementary School, Large Group Instruction Room, 601 15th Street, NE

October 18, 2016, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

 

  1. Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force (Caryn Ernst)
  • DISCUSSION (Policy proposal for by-right, neighborhood schools):
    • In wards 7/8 (and 5) 30-50% of the population mobile throughout the school year (low income). Some schools like Cluster in Ward 6 that also experience churn. Higher percentage of churn in HS than in MS/ES.
      • Most mobility from out of state to in state and from charter to DCPS
      • Task force: What are strategies to reduce mobility
      • By right charter schools as proposed solution. Proposed by DME, not task force and is being supported by the DME
      • The Public Charter School Board did not support the proposal because it would reduce choice for families.
    • Other policy ideas:
      • Since schools impacted by this have a high degree of churn, what if there were a central way to have kids transition via central office and schools have to reserve a percentage of slots for those kids
      • Ed council reps: project churn at school level, set the high churn schools up w/ transition academies to get students transitioned into regular classrooms.
      • Currently, no data about why students are moving
    • ACTION: one of the ward education councils will author a letter supporting policies (not by right)
    • ACTION: Encourage DCPS to discuss policy options under consideration and consider impacts on DCPS
    • (http://dme.dc.gov/collaboration)

2. November Wilson Building Visits – topics & attendees

  • Topics for discussion include:
    • Chancellor search
    • Cross-sector task force – opportunity to raise concerns about mobility proposals, and balance on task force
    • Modernization issues
  • Who to visit: Grosso, Allen, White, Cheh

 

3. Summer Modernization Hearing Follow upWhen

4. Monthly Best Practices Discussions

  • Topics suggested:
    • PTO
    • Fundraising
    • Aftercare
    • Environmental/sustainability

5. Walk-to-School Day Closeout

6. Changes to Nursing (Beth Bacon):

  • Information meeting notes:
    • Charged w/ improving outcomes
    • DOH mentioned needs assessment and some outreach to public but parents not clear what that entailed
    • Moving resources; working w/ community resources/primary care physicians
    • Only 40% of students have universal health forms completed
    • Algorithm which determines 20-40 hours/week support (though not enough nurses currently to cover the support)
      • Special health needs
      • Enrollment
      • Health suite use
      • Profile data
    • Could be reassessed monthly
    • Presentations, etc: http://doh.dc.gov/service/school-nurses
  • Ed Committee Roundtable on October 25.

Next CHPSPO Meeting: November 15, 2016

  • Liz Davis
  • Enrollment Office

Upcoming Events

DCPS State of the Schools

October 18, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Roosevelt High School

Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force

October 25, 6 pm, Location DC Taxi Cab Commission 2235 Shannon Pl SE #3001.

Open Houses

October 19, 6 pm, Jefferson Academy

November 2, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Eliot-Hine Middle School

November 3, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Stuart Hobson Middle School

November 16, 6 pm, Jefferson Academy

December 13, 9 am, Eliot-Hine Middle School

Fall Festivals

October 22, 10 am – 2 pm, Maury Fall Festival

October 22, 11 am – 3 pm, Tyler Harvest Festival

October 26, 4 – 6 pm, Miner Oktoberfest

October 28, 5:30 pm-  8 pm, Hilloween at Eastern Market

October 29, 6 – 9 pm, Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan Haunted Harvest Festival

 

Status

Update on Changes to School Health / Nurse Program

Follow up on this with good news.

Yesterday, Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large, Chair of Education Committee) introduced emergency legislation to require “any school receiving school nurse services above 20 hours per week to continue at the existing level of services for the remainder of the school year 2016-17.” That means school nurse allocations can’t be cut starting in January with the implementation of the new Department of Health (DOH) School Health Services plan.

Here’s a link to Councilmember Grosso announcing the emergency bill:

At this Tuesday’s Roundtable, there were many, many witnesses speaking out against reductions in school nurse allocations — and speaking up for the value of school nurses. Beth Bacon testified as an SWS parent — and as a CHPSPO/Ward 6 rep, and Sandra Moscoso will submit written testimony with the responses from seven Ward 6 schools on our quick survey. If you would like to add your responses, please answer the 3 questions by 10/31/16.

The hearing lasted 5+ hours – with Councilmember Grosso questioning DOH Director, Dr. Nesbitt, for few hours at the end. Lots of details in the new DOH plan — and Councilmembers Gross and Allen (Ward 6) were adamant about the lack of public engagement and clear explanations on these changes. Note that DOH is transitioning from a nursing contract (which goes through DC Council for review) to a grant program (which doesn’t) — which means that advocacy and monitoring on the part of parents and advocates is not done!

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in this!