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Danica Petroshius Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

TESTIMONY OF DANICA PETROSHIUS
DC State Board of Education Hearing
March 15, 2017
dpetroshius@yahoo.com

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m Danica Petroshius, parent of two at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

Based on the conversation at your meeting yesterday I viewed via Periscope, it appears that there is State Board support for the revised ESSA plan. It begs the question: Is this a fake hearing?

I have been astounded at the disregard for DCPS parent and educator engagement in the ESSA plan process even though we support 49,000 students every day. OSSE has touted that it held “50 meetings with 100 organizations” throughout 2016 before the draft plan went public. We are supposed to applaud that as great public engagement. Who were those private meetings with?

  • 50 charter schools or charter organizations
  • 34 national education groups
  • Only 10 local education organizations
  • 4 universities
  • 4 DC government agencies including DCPS

This is a very unbalanced outreach plan where 84% of the input came from charters and
national organizations that have no understanding of how DCPS schools operate and what the needs of our students are.

OSSE did hold one public meeting in each ward in June 2016. I can’t take that seriously. Anyone that truly wants to engage parents and teachers does not do so at end of school and summer when communication with schools and parents is difficult. Let’s face it. The DCPS parent and educator community did not help create the draft.

After these 2016 meetings, parents and educators did not see the draft plan until January 30th of this year. We had only one month to give input on a plan that will affect our children’s education for the next 10 years.

Now, again, we are being treated as expendable in this process. The revised draft came out only yesterday yet we have to testify on its merits within 24 hours.

Parents appreciated the full set of State Board recommendations to improve the ESSA plan.

Yesterday’s revised draft plan includes some improvements and it’s clear our advocacy helped move the needle forward. But it was not without a massive effort by us to overcome the reluctance of OSSE to listen.

OSSE is not elected and so has less stake in our voice. But the State Board is elected and has power to say “wait – we can think more, plan more, do better.” Please stop saying September is too late. 30 states are waiting until September to submit their plans and they will start collecting baseline data in 17-18 just like DC. We could wait and build a better plan with deep buy in. But OSSE says they won’t. I urge you, our elected body, to vote no on the plan. But based on yesterday’s swift, seemingly pre-baked support of the tweaked OSSE plan, it seems you have already decided to stand down.

So tonight I’m standing up for parents and educators who do the daily work to build excellent DCPS schools to say that we as a community can do better. We should not make stakeholders beg for real engagement. Parents and educators should not be “processed out” of the system by back-door deals.

I ask OSSE and the State Board to commit today to a better process going forward. As
Superintendent Kang has said over and over, this plan is “just the beginning.” In fact, the plan is full of policies that include “let’s look into it more”, “let’s phase it in” and “let’s test it out first.”

So I ask you to make public and articulate in the plan:

  1. your commitment to full transparency and ongoing engagement;
  2. a schedule that you will execute on engagement at each phase of implementation with the intention of seeking ways to continuously improve the plan;
  3.  a process for implementing the Task Forces recommended by the State Board; and
  4. a process for sharing results of the pilot fully and hosting engagement meetings to
    discuss how as a community we should use the results to improve the system.

We hope that OSSE and the State Board support our calls for more engagement, more
innovation and more transparency. Our students deserve it.

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