Testimony of Danica Petroshius – Committee on Education Roundtable Graduation Rate Accountability – December 15, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today at the Roundtable on Graduation Rate Accountability. I am Danica Petroshius, a parent of a second grader and a fourth grader at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML) and a co-Vice President of CHPSPO.

As a future high school parent on the outside looking in on this topic, I’m so glad to learn so much from the student, parent and community testimony today. We have an opportunity to take this entire situation and all we are learning and finally tackle the high school challenges in our city. My message to the Council is: now is the time for strong, consistent, heavy-handed oversight and leadership. My message to the Mayor and her Administration is: shame on you. These practices and policies were known and you turned your back on our city’s high school teachers, parents and students and let them down, missing opportunities along the way for progress. The solutions moving forward should not just to focus on attendance and graduation rate policy. Accountability measures are for keeping an honest dialogue going – they are not substitutes for new resources and improvements in teaching and learning. We need more support and more attention to all of the factors that influence high school success.

From my vantage point, I see the following key problems:

  • Teachers testified as early as March 2017 about the issues at Ballou and city leaders didn’t listen – you only listened when media reported on it;
  • The Mayor and Chancellor made rising graduation rates more important than ensuring students are being supported, engaged and taught well, caring more about city leader reputation than our students’ futures; and
  • The Mayor’s response to have OSSE – one of the agencies that manages the data in question – oversee a limited investigation into Ballou is unequivocally the wrong response if you want full transparency and change.

The evidence of the city’s failures is clear. We hear city leaders herald high and quickly increasing graduation rates.

In a November 6, 2017 press release, Chancellor Wilson said, “DC Public Schools is thrilled to see six continuous years of progress with rising graduation rates, DCPS has made great strides in the last few years to prepare students for postsecondary success…”

We have heard them try to minimize the Ballou story by talking about increases in PARCC scores.

On November 29, 2017 in a letter, Chancellor Wilson said, “We have…made progress across the city on several measures including the PARCC assessment…”

In isolation, these data points sound promising and I don’t deny us the opportunity to celebrate successes. But when you unpack both data points together for high schools, you get a different, troubling story. While I believe that we need many more indicators than just graduation rates and test scores to tell the story of a school, I also believe that just these two data points should have been signals to our city leaders a long time ago to sit up, take notice and start to ask questions and act.

In DCPS, 13 of our 19 high schools have graduation rates above 60% in the 2016-17 school year. However, in that same school year, only 1 DCPS high school had more than 60% of students achieving at levels 4 and 5 (the college and career ready standard) on PARCC in math. And only two high schools had more than 60% of students achieving at levels 4 and 5 in English Language Arts. Of our 19 DCPS high schools, a whopping 10 high schools had zero or one percent of students at levels 4 and 5 in math; and 10 of our high schools had 10% or less college and career ready in ELA. If you take out selective high schools, almost all of the scores are in single digits. This is a significant crisis of equity and broken trust. I’ve attached the data. Anyone can get this data, it’s public available and easy to find. And it’s been available to all of us for a long time.

It doesn’t appear to be any better in our charter high schools. 12 of the 16 charter high schools have graduation rates above 60% yet the percent of students achieving a college and career ready standard on average is 22% in ELA and 13.5% in math.

I’m not saying this is the perfect test for judging whether a high school is successful for students. But it certainly makes me want to learn more and not to sit by and be complacent. The moral of the data is not that students are failing. The moral of the data is that:

  • when tests scores are terrible and graduation rates are high, it’s a loud signal that we need to take a look immediately because there is likely something wrong and we may be failing our students;
  • since this data is publicly available, none of us – not the Mayor, not the Council, not the Chancellor, not the State Superintendent – should have been surprised by the NPR story;
  • the same issues are present at other high schools in both the charter schools and DCPS, not just Ballou High School;
  • this is a system that has gotten complacent and focused only on headlines that make our elected officials look good; and
  • we need to do something now to forward an honest dialogue and not let up until significant change is made.

I ask that the Council do better than the Mayor did. Insist on a full, independent investigation that is not run by any agency that has decision-making power over the schools. Investigate charters and DCPS for practices and policies that affect our high school success. Provide full transparency. And dig in and provide ongoing, intensive oversight. Only when we truly know where we are can we come together to develop the solutions that will turn the corner.

I am not testifying to blame or tear down the system. I am a believer in the potential of DCPS and I work countless hours to help it succeed. But we all need to be able to have confidence in the system and its leaders. I stand with the students, teachers, principals and parents who want to get this right. Councilmembers, I hope you will join us. Thank you.

DC 2017 4-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates,
by School
 School Graduates Cohort Total 2016 ACGR
Overall 3436 4748 72.4%
Charter Cohorta 1047 1427 73.4%
BASIS DC PCS n<25 n<25 N/A
Capital City PCS – High School 59 65 90.8%
Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Capitol Hill 57 75 76%
Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Chavez Prep n<25 n<25 N/A
Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Parkside High School 61 70 87.1%
E.L. Haynes PCS – High School 85 99 85.9%
Friendship PCS – Collegiate Academy 177 212 83.5%
Friendship PCS – Technology Preparatory High School 42 44 95.5%
Goodwill Excel Center PCS n<25 n<25 N/A
IDEA PCS 35 60 58.3%
KIPP DC – College Preparatory Academy PCS 77 95 81.1%
Kingsman Academy PCS 19 47 40.4%
Maya Angelou PCS – High School 36 71 50.7%
National Collegiate Preparatory PCHS 48 82 58.5%
Paul PCS – International High School 82 118 69.5%
Perry Street Preparatory PCS n<25 n<25 N/A
Richard Wright PCS for Journalism and Media Arts 45 58 77.6%
SEED PCS of Washington DC n<25 n<25 N/A
Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS 60 75 80%
Washington Latin PCS – Upper School 79 87 90.8%
Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCHS 51 68 75%
DCPS Cohort 2385 3258 73.2%
Anacostia High School 96 163 58.9%
Ballou High School 160 251 63.7%
Ballou STAY High School 14 79 17.7%
Benjamin Banneker High School 96 96 100%
Cardozo Education Campus 119 199 59.8%
Columbia Heights Education Campus 247 282 87.6%
Coolidge High School 69 98 70.4%
Duke Ellington School of the Arts 114 123 92.7%
Dunbar High School 148 194 76.3%
Eastern High School 195 248 78.6%
H.D. Woodson High School 154 185 83.2%
Luke C. Moore High School 49 139 35.3%
McKinley Technology High School 119 124 96%
Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School 86 91 94.5%
Roosevelt High School 103 171 60.2%
Roosevelt STAY High School 10 52 19.2%
School Without Walls High School 147 150 98%
Washington Metropolitan High School 35 60 58.3%
Woodrow Wilson High School 385 427 90.2%
State Cohort 4 63 6.3%
a Graduation rates are not reported for the following schools due to the schools being closed: Booker T Washington, Options PCS,  Perry Street Preparatory PCS, and Hospitality PCS; however, the students attending these schools are included in the overall State and applicable PCS, DCPS or State Cohort graduation rates; the number of students who belong to the cohort for these individual schools was below the minimum n-size of 25 students.
b Graduation rates are not provided for individual non-public schools; however, the students attending these schools are included in the overall State and applicable PCS, DCPS or State Cohort graduation rates; the number of students attending non-public education providers was below th minimum n-sze of 25 students for all LEAs except DCPS where there were 39 graduates out of 126 students attending non-public educational providers.

DCPS High Schools

  ELA   Math
2015 2016   2017 Change (20162017) 2015 2016 2017 Change (2016-2017)
# Takers % L4 + L5 # Takers % L4 + L5   # Takers  % L4 + L5 # Takers % L4 + L5 # Takers % L4 + L5 # Takers    % L4 + L5
Anacostia HS 97 2% 149 3%   79 4% 1.1% 96 0% 152 0% 87 1% 1.1%  
Ballou HS 122 0% 245 3%   247 9% 6.0% 87 0% 251 0% 240 0% -0.4%  
Ballou STAY n<10 n<10 14 0%   16 0% 0.0% n<10 n<10 15 0% 22 0% 0.0%  
Benjamin Banneker HS 109 74% 125 98%   129 90% -8.5% 111 32% 130 62% 132 54% -7.8%  
Cardozo EC 142 5% 236 7%   242 10% 2.7% 186 2% 183 2% 246 4% 1.5%  
Columbia Heights EC 507 13% 541 19%   508 24% 5.5% 463 8% 696 5% 499 14% 8.5%  
Coolidge HS 71 8% 90 11%   73 15% 4.0% 53 0% 128 0% 72 1% 1.4%  
Dunbar HS 97 8% 231 5%   148 6% 1.3% 89 0% 237 1% 157 1% -0.2%  
Eastern HS 233 11% 251 18%   170 20% 2.5% 248 2% 261 1% 195 1% -0.1%  
Ellington 125 50% 124 39%   137 47% 8.0% 100 3% 125 9% 145 10% 0.9%  
Luke C. Moore 24 4% 52 0%   33 0% 0.0% 31 0% 46 0% 31 0% 0.0%  
McKinley Tech HS 135 30% 147 36%   185 41% 5.0% 157 6% 212 10% 169 19% 8.6%  
Phelps ACE HS 118 17% 75 13%   61 23% 9.6% 109 3% 91 1% 66 9% 8.0%  
Ron Brown College

Preparatory High School

  n<10 n<10  
Roosevelt HS 65 0% 155 7%   117 9% 2.3% 74 0% 159 1% 128 4% 3.3%  
Roosevelt STAY n<10 n<10 15 0%   11 9% 9.1% n<10 n<10 14 0% 11 0% 0.0%  
School Without Walls HS 143 97% 157 84%   140 85% 0.9% 100 76% 313 52% 134 69% 16.6%  

Metropolitan HS

n<10 n<10 44 0%   33 0% 0.0% n<10 n<10 51 0% 31 0% 0.0%  
Wilson HS 317 50% 411 21%   449 54% 33.2% 279 8% 695 18% 437 22% 3.3%  
Woodson, H.D. HS 118 0% 192 4%   167 8% 4.7% 75 0% 215 1% 172 0% -0.9%  



CHPSPO Meets December 19 @ Stuart-Hobson

On Thursday, December 14, 2017 10:14 PM, Suzanne Wells <> wrote:

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

CHPSPO will have its last meeting of 2017 on Tuesday, December 19, at Stuart-Hobson (410 E Street, NE). We have been invited by the Capitol Hill Cluster School to attend a reading group discussion on the topic of race, class and equity in school communities. We will be discussing a chapter (attached) from the book Despite Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda E. Lewis and John B. Diamond. This is part of CHPSPO’s effort to learn how our schools are addressing issues dealing with diversity and closing the achievement gap. The discussion will be from 6 – 8 pm.

A special thank you to the Capitol Hill Cluster School for opening up their discussion to CHPSPO.

Suzanne Wells

Despite_the_Best_Intentions_How_Racial_Inequality_…_—-_(4._Its_Li ke_Two_High_Schools_ Race%2c_Tracking%2c_and_Performance_Expec…).pdf


CHPSP Meeting Notes– November 21, 2017

CHPSPO Meeting

Payne Elementary School

November 21, 2017

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Brent Diversity Working Group & Town Hall Meeting— Alicia Dorsey, Parent at Brent ES

Provided an overview of the diversity working group and recent town hall on the new efforts targeted at closing the achievement gap at Brent ES. The parent-driven working group started as a way to address concerns around the racial dynamics and inequities at the school. The group determined that an initial focus would be on closing the achievement gap by starting targeted supplemental tutoring for students most in need of academic support.

The program required resources to pay tutors and for other supports from the overall PTA budget. Brent raises about $300K per year so the program leads needed to convey the importance of this program to the whole school in order to get PTA buy-in. They named the program “Rising Tides” to convey that an investment in a smaller group of students would help the entire student body. The PTA did choose to provide support for the tutoring program by funding some outside staff; some internal staff are paid by DCPS through administrative premium. They relaxed the definition of the achievement gap so the net could be cast more broadly, but the program still turned out to serve 100 percent African-American students.

The program is all voluntary, but five teachers rotate through and one teacher provides the coordination. The program runs on T, W, Th with 16-20 students gaining additional instructional time in their days. The first hour is reviewing academic support work and the second hour is focused on structured play and whole child support. They provide homework support (plus snacks) focused primarily on math support. While it is early to see all of the results, the students participating are engaged and responding well.

Ongoing Challenges

Parental engagement in the tutoring program— Realize that parental involvement is critical to the success of the program and Brent is still struggling to engage parents. They want to work on some additional ideas for doing so this Spring.

Although the initial goal was to address concerns around poor racial dynamics, the program has done little o really bring the community out in support and underlying racial divisions persist. The Brent town hall meeting was not well attended by Brent families, an indication that support/enthusiasm is generally not high.

Ward 6 Master Facilities Planning— Nancy Huvendick, 21CSF

Received an update on the city’s Master Facilitations Planning (MFP) process and changes that may impact Ward 6. With the PACE (Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education facilities Amendment Act), the Council Ed Committee tasked the deputy mayor for education (DME) with developing a longterm MFP for all publicly funded schools in DC.

In the past, the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was often ad hoc and fluid, and schools that were in the plan did not always stay in the plan because it was very political. The Ed Committee’s plan for how to do the CIP using data and criteria has helped, and is an improvement to how the CIP was handled in the past.

MFP Schedule

The MFP is behind schedule, but this is not unusual. The PACE Act originally called for it to finished in March 2018 with a budget, but it is now scheduled for completion in June 2018. The MFP scope is ambitious and requires substantial community input, which takes time. The city has not yet selected a contractor.

Cross-sector Planning

DME’s guidance memo to LEAs requests charter participation and promises nondisclosure of charter data since the charter sector is autonomous. This makes cross sector planning difficult and the Cross-Sector Task Force has had a hard time establishing a coordinated planning process.

Ward and feeder-based planning is a foundational piece of the MFP. Local knowledge is crucial, especially within the complex sector landscape. Ward 6’s 2010 initiative with middle school planning was an example for Wards 1, 5, and 7. Also pertinent to Ward 6 is that a new PCSB report identifies it as a “green zone” where prospective/expanding charter schools are encouraged to consider opening new charter schools.

Discussion about how the overpopulating in Ward 3 schools and lobbying for expansions impacts the planning process across the city. Concern that the context of “providing more accessibility to higher performing schools” is framing the process and not better utilization of buildings and pushing quality across the city.

Discussion about Miner historic building as one on the list of “vacant but on an active school site,” and interest in exploring ways to ensure the building is utilized to support the community rather than make it into an excess building. Also, raised the importance of maintaining green space even when schools undergo renovations.

Decision to draft a sign-on letter from CHPSPO to invite DCPS and DME to plan with us as they committed to doing. Plan to share the CHPSPO letter with other Ward-based educational councils to see if there is interest in a city-wide letter.

CHPSPO Strategic Planning Proposal — Danica Petroshius and Suzy Glucksman

Discussed a proposal to conduct a half-day retreat in an effort to create a strategic plan for CHPSPO. The purpose is to level set knowledge in the group given the influx of new members, leverage new energy and excitement, and collectively identify future goals and objectives over the next few years. Also, interest in thinking more about how to recognize 15 years of CHPSPO (in 2021) and how to market and celebrate it.

All agreed it would be a great opportunity to do so on a weekend afternoon with potential timing set in late January. If you are interested in helping to plan the retreat, contact Danica or Suzy.

Upcoming Events

Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force, Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017 EdCounsel (101 Constitution Ave, NW, Suite 900)

Chancellor Community Forum, Tuesday, Dec 12, 8:45am – 10:00am, Eastern HS

Next CHPSPO meeting is on Tuesday, December 19, 2017


CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, November 21 @ Payne

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, November 21 at Payne (1445 C Street, SE, in the library) at 6:30 pm. Alicia Dorsey with the Brent Diversity Working Group will join us to discuss the working group and the recent town hall meeting with Chancellor Wilson. Nancy Huvendick and Will Perkins from the 21st Century School Fund will be sharing information that will inform the Ward 6 Master Facilities Planning. We will also be seeking your input on plans to hold a CHPSPO strategic planning meeting (attached). I hope you will be able to join us.

Suzanne Wells

112117 CHPSPO Agenda.docx

Draft Strategy for CHPSPO 2018.docx


Backpack Full of Cash Screening

Backpack Full of Cash Screening

The Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC), and Teaching for Change are hosting a FREE screening of the film Backpack Full of Cash on Thursday, November 16, at 6 pm at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (3101 16th St., NW). This feature-length documentary explores the growing privatization of public schools, and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. You must RSVP to attend the screening.

Invitations, Free eCards and Party Planning Ideas from Evite


Focus Group on New School Report Card

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

CHPSPO will host a second focus group on November 1, 2017, at 6 pm at Jefferson Middle School Academy (801 7th Street, SW) on a new school report card that will be developed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The new school report card is being developed as part of the state plan OSSE submitted under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Your feedback is critical to helping OSSE build an effective tool, and this focus group will be an opportunity for you to share what you want to see in DC’s new school report card.

Please share with your school communities.

Suzanne Wells


School Report Card Focus Group & Equity in Education Community Townhall

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

There are two meetings on Monday, October 23, that may be of interest.

1. CHPSPO will host a focus group at 6 pm at Stuart Hobson (410 E Street, NE) on a new school report card that will be developed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The new school report card is being developed as part of the state plan OSSE submitted under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Your feedback is critical to helping OSSE build an effective tool, and this focus group will be an opportunity for you to share what you want to see in DC’s new school report card.

We are planning to hold a second focus group on the new school report card on Wednesday, November 1. The location of the second focus group is TBD.

2. The Brent Diversity Working Group is hosting an Equity in Education Community Townhall event at 6 pm at Brent (301 North Carolina Ave., SE). Chancellor Wilson and Ward 6 School Board Representative Joe Weedon are expected to attend the townhall.

Suzanne Wells