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Kristina Vidal Written Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

I’m writing today to advocate for Eliot-Hine Middle School, an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Ward 6 that draws a significant number of students from Wards 7 & 8. As an IB school, our curriculum is based around 8 core content areas, and though it aligns with the Common Core standards, the way that content is taught is approached differently. Not surprisingly, an IB school’s staffing model looks a bit different than a typical school, too. DCPS has actually developed guidelines for staffing IB schools, but since Eliot-Hine’s accreditation as an IB school in 2015, we have yet to receive a budget allocation that matches those guidelines. Instead, every year is a struggle to lobby for the resources that our school needs.

For example, in the FY16 School Budget Development Guide developed by DCPS, Middle Years Programme (MYP) schools (grades 5-10) should have “a full-time IB Coordinator”, “classroom teachers for all grade levels; all content areas” and “2 World Language teachers (must service the whole school, the entire year)”and have a “Specialist – Library/Media. I have been an LSAT member for Eliot-Hine for the past two years, and we’ve never received an initial budget that covers those four guidelines. Instead, are forced to use money that would otherwise go to instituting programs like a Saturday Academy to cover deficiencies. if we include FY18/19, we’ve had a half-time Librarian for 3 out of 4 years, we only got grade-level teachers for ELA and Math content as of SY17/18 (and don’t have that for Science or Social Studies), and we’ve only had a single World Language teacher in the building for the last three years.

Why does this matter? At MYP schools, every 8th grader is required to complete a year-long IB Community project, which is based on a need that they see within their community that resonates with them. Research, both skills and access to appropriate resources, is a vital component of this project, and Eliot-Hine students and teachers have leaned on our Librarian to help students complete their projects. The Eliot-Hine community has aggressively pursued library resources in recent years to address known deficiencies in the size, age and quality of our media collection. In the past 3 years, we’ve successfully brought in over $15,000 in new books and audio books to support readers across a broad range of reading levels and interests. We have created a Spanish- language collection from scratch and have been deliberate in selecting books with diverse characters and global themes to support the global-mindedness of our IB curriculum. However, next year’s school budget will yet again only cover a half-time Librarian, which means that our students not be able to get full use out of our collection. We would love to have a fully-funded Librarian position for SY18/19.

For middle schools, the IB Middle Years Programme is an inclusive model, which means that every student benefits from a globally-minded, inquiry-based education with a significant service learning component. Every student should have access to a World Language in this model, and we’ve been able to find ways to make that work with just one language teacher in the school. However, the fidelity of implementation of the IB curriculum is being undermined by the failure of DCPS schools to get students to grade-level proficiency before they enter sixth grade. Eliot-Hine has approximately 150 students this year who require a reading intervention period to help them close the gap to get back on grade level. In SY17/18, many students missed out on an elective, such as Spanish, so that their schedule could accommodate their required intervention block within their class schedule.

At the same time, we have a small (but growing) cohort of students whose achievement is well above grade level, which means that within our classrooms there is often a wide range of ability and mastery of subject content. With only one instructor and no ‘tracking’ of high and low performing students, teachers have to split time to handle re-teaching, grade-level content and enrichment activities within a single class period. With classroom technology, some of the challenges of differentiated instruction could be met with technology, but with only 82 functional laptops for 208 students, we are only able to provide laptops to one content area at a time. And since schools seem to live or die by their PARCC scores, our ELA and Math classes have gotten priority for these resources, which means that Social Studies, Science and Spanish have had to go without. Again, while some schools have a PTO that can bring more laptops into the building, our PTO doesn’t have the means to do so, and even if we did, the lack of clear guidelines in terms of what OCTO will support for classroom technology in the future means we are at risk of buying Chromebooks or other devices that won’t be supported by central resources from SY18/19 onward. We cannot afford to buy devices that will become obsolete.

While we are providing interventions to the students that need them, they’re often in a large-group setting, which makes the one-on-one interaction that really helps students achieve growth much less likely. Our school budget does not provide for Aide positions outside the requirements for our Special Education population, and again, our PTO cannot afford to cover salaries for additional staff to help out in the classroom.

We feel our community would be particularly well-served by a program like City Year, but when we’re scrounging to find the money to fill the holes in our IB staffing model, there is barely enough left over for basics like copy paper and custodial supplies. But on a dollar-for-dollar basis, City Year represents a fantastic bargain for a school like Eliot-Hine, which sorely needs both classroom aides and additional adults in the building to support climate and culture goals as well as student clubs and activities. For the cost of one additional full-time DCPS teacher, we could bring 8-10 more adults into our building to serve our school in a host of ways. We urge you to help us bring this program to our school in SY18/19.

Literacy has already been identified as a primary focus for SY18/19. We feel that bringing both a full-time Librarian and City Year to our school are actions that align extremely well-aligned with this focus and will help to make a difference with our kids, many who have been chronically underserved by DCPS prior to their arrival in middle school.

Sincerely,
Kristina Vidal
Mother to DCPS 4th & 7th graders
PTO Treasurer and LSAT member for Eliot-Hine Middle School

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