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Suzanne Wells Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Suzanne Wells. My daughter is in 7th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School, our family’s in-bound neighborhood DC public school. I am on the school’s LSAT.

Last night four Eliot-Hine students attended and reported on the America’s Promise Alliance gala that was at the Newseum. The America’s Promise Alliance seeks to keep five promises to the youth in this country that form the conditions they need to achieve success as adults. One of those promises is an effective education.

The parents and community members of the Eliot-Hine Middle School LSAT expressed our concern to DCPS that the SY18/19 budget allocation for Eliot-Hine is insufficient to meet the needs of the student body given the large percentage of students who are below grade level in reading and math. Last year, 88% of the students performed below grade level or partially met grade level expectations in math, and 73% performed below grade level or partially met grade level expectations in English language arts. That translates into almost 150 students being one or more grade levels behind in reading and almost 175 students not performing at grade level in math. These students came to Eliot-Hine not reading or performing math on grade level. It is not a problem Eliot-Hine created.

Despite focusing almost all of the school’s budget on classroom teaching in core subjects, the LSAT did not believe the current budget allowed for a staffing framework that will support students and empower them to make significant gains in their learning. We requested a relatively small additional outlay from DCPS that would 1) allow the school to partner with City Year, which would provide substantial additional classroom support at a low cost to help the school meet the needs of the large number of students performing significantly below grade level in both reading and math, and 2) fund a full-time librarian to both support student literacy as well as the implementation of Eliot-Hine’s International Baccalaureate program.

City Year is designed to provide one-on-one or group tutoring before, during and after school to help students who are struggling with their academic work. If the school is provided with an additional $105K, it would be able to have ten City Year staff who would work under the direction of the classroom teachers to provide one-on-one or group tutoring to the students who are significantly below grade level in both ELA and math. Individual and small group work has shown to be successful at helping students who are below grade level achieve growth.

The current budget only allows for a 0.5 librarian. A library resource specialist is a critical component in advancing student literacy and supporting student improvement. These specialists also play a central role in supporting the International Baccalaureate curriculum in general and specifically in supporting our 8th grade students as they research and implement their year-long IB Community Service projects. Our school community has invested a lot of effort in building up the library resources, and a full-time librarian also ensures our collection, which includes resources for readers ranging from several grades below grade level to several grades above grade level, is fully accessible and can support our school’s literacy goals and growth targets for individual students. A full-time staff person is also more invested in the school community and has more time to support literacy initiatives outside of the classroom, such as facilitating book clubs or broader school-wide reading initiatives.

In addition, the Eliot-Hine budget does not allow the school to meet DCPS’ own International Baccalaureate staffing requirements that include providing the students with two world languages. Like this year, the school will only offer Spanish, and not a second language.

A student who is performing below grade level at the 6th grade has only a 25% chance of graduating from high school on time. As a city, we should be investing most heavily in those schools with the greatest needs. Let’s not wait till the Eliot-Hine students are about to graduate from high school and determine they are neither college nor career ready. As a city, let’s help them today by adequately supporting Eliot-Hine so these students can reach their full potential. Let’s keep our promise to them that they will get an effective education.

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