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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%  
Washington

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%  

 

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