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Mayor Bowser and City Leaders: Invest in Modern and Maintained Schools

Today, 455 individuals from all 8 wards and 3 citywide organizations (with represenation from school personnel, parents, and community members) sent a letter urging Mayor Bowser and city leaders to invest in modern and maintained schools.

“We need to invest additional resources now to fix all schools. Every child in this city deserves to attend a modern, safe and healthy building that can help them all graduate college and career ready. When we delay modernizing buildings, our maintenance and repair schedule falls further and further behind. No child or teacher should have to be in a school with pressing health and safety concerns.”

> Read the Fix All Schools sign-on letter sent to city leaders

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Andrea Tucker – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15, 2017

Testimony of Andrea Tucker
Parent and Ward 8 Resident

DC State Board of Education Public Board Meeting  on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) School Accountability Measures, March 15, 2017 

Good Evening Members of the State Board of Education and thank you for allowing me to testify   here today. My name is Andrea Tucker. I am a native of DC, ward 8 resident, and a parent of three at JO Wilson Elementary School, a Title I school in ward 6. I am also the PTA president, a member of the LSAT, and a proud graduate of JO Wilson Elementary School!

I want to first thank you for your 10 recommendations on how to improve the accountability plan. Your recommendations reflected many of my concerns and those of other parents I heard at a community meeting last month where OSSE presented on the plan and took questions.

Prior to the meeting, I thought that the plan would represent a new way of thinking in DC. I thought it would be an opportunity to look at our unique city and create an accountability plan that would work for our schools and for our children. That was not what I heard there. Instead, I heard about an accountability plan that rates schools almost entirely on reading and math scores.

Making sure students have access to arts, science, social studies and technology is important to having a well-rounded education. It is something we should encourage in every school across the city. So I was glad to see your recommendations on the need to evaluate our schools based on a well-rounded education and not focus so narrowly.

We know that not all schools are equal in their course offerings now and this plan should be one way to push the system toward equity, not create wider divisions in quality. If all schools are judged by not just reading and math but other subjects, wouldn’t that be one way to encourage all schools to offer them?

I hope that you will make these changes toward a well-rounded education view now and not wait and revisit the need for it later. My concern is that once the plan goes through the approval process, we may not have a chance to revisit it. I have not seen the final plan to know whether it has been and how much has been included there.

As a proud DCPS alumni and a current parent with children in DCPS, I have been a witness to what makes a great school. While test scores are one factor I use to judge a school, it is definitely not the only one. I also care a lot about the culture and climate of the school. It is important that kids are safe and that the environment in the school is conducive to learning. I was glad to see your recommendations address culture and climate in understanding the quality of a school. I am hopeful it is now a part of the plan and not one to put off for the future. I also care about holding teachers and staff accountable for children’s learning or lack there of. No child should go to middle or high school reading on a second grade level.

I do not believe that the State Board of Education should approve this plan without having OSSE make these changes first and allowing the public to have one more opportunity to review it. We have done our part by attending the meetings or reading the plan. OSSE has not done it’s part in sharing back changes in a timely manner so I have not had time to understand any of the changes.

I will close by saying that the community meeting I attended in Ward 6 was a large gathering of parents who were diverse in every way, but we were united in our questions, concerns, and goals. That was very reassuring to know that we are all pushing in a similar direction for our children and I hope city leaders are listening and will make the necessary changes.

Thank you for your time and for inviting public testimony on this issue tonight.

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Erin Thesing – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15, 2017

Testimony of Erin Thesing
Fifth Grade Teacher at Maury Elementary School & Ward 1 Community Member

State Board of Education Public Hearing on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) School Accountability Measures, March 15, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. I have taught in a range of elementary schools–a no-excuses turnaround charter school, a project-based learning charter school that was in Focus status, and now, a traditional public school. These experiences have proven to me that school accountability plans have a profound impact on teaching in all schools, and especially those that serve our most vulnerable students. And when high-stakes standardized tests are the primary metric, they permeate teaching and learning in harmful ways. The PARCC is an unreliable measure of our students and should not have the lion’s share of the weight in how we assess them and our schools. This is why I ask you to vote NO on OSSE’s state accountability plan.

When PARCC scores are the primary metric of school success, less time is reserved for useful assessments and meaningful learning experiences. Instead, test prep occupies classroom and planning time. Where once we gathered to study student writing and math problem solving to craft teaching points, teachers now dedicate meetings perseverating over how we can move students a few percentage points on the PARCC and reviewing the most recent predictive standardized test data.

Our students feel it acutely. This year, during predictive assessments, computers shut down mid-test. Essays that were painstakingly typed finger by finger suddenly deleted. Last year, in my second grade class, trackpads on laptops proved difficult to use by the seven-year-old fingers that tried to drag and drop a ruler to measure an apple on the screen. And then our children cried. Some even banged their head against desks saying hurtful things about themselves.

All of this for a test that provides only a small snapshot of what our children can do. Teachers know that good teaching requires useful assessments that show us what our children can do and what we need to teach next.

When I taught second grade, I created an assessment in which I observed my second graders use actual rulers and meter sticks (not one they had to drag on a computer screen) to measure the distance of a rolled toy car and then discussed their mathematical process and thinking. This revealed their process, not just their answer. I could see when they left a gap between the ruler when iterating it, or looked at the wrong side and reported centimeters instead of inches. I knew exactly what to teach next.

This year, my fifth graders read research studies and newspaper and journal articles to research the benefits and consequences of serving chocolate milk in school cafeterias. They formed arguments, developed thesis statements, found evidence to support their reasons, and acknowledged and rebutted counterarguments. They then organized this information to present panel presentations to school administrators, the PTA, cafeteria staff, and the central office nutrition team, buttoning up their uniform shirts to the top of the collar and confidently making their case. The same students who cried during our standardized testing the week before beamed as they walked away from this assessment, patting each other on the back and saying, “I had no idea we could do that! We sounded so smart!” And they did. Using a rubric, I evaluated their work against the Common Core Standards and knew exactly what to do next to strengthen their argument writing.

Creating rigorous, useful assessments that ask students to synthesize skills is the first step in the planning process. When we backwards plan we ask, “How will we know if our students can do this?” and then, “What skills do we need to teach so they they can do it?” When a computer-based test is the final assessment, we are in turn asked to teach the skills for the test. School accountability measures need to make room for assessments that provide useful information for parents and teachers to know how to best support their children. A PARCC score alone does not do this.

Relying on PARCC as our primary measure of school success is the convenient choice. Creating useful and comprehensive assessments that truly measure a student’s growth and achievement is challenging work, but they are essential to good teaching and good schools. I urge you vote NO on the proposed plan because it places too much weight on standardized testing and it will leave little room for teachers to create useful assessments that will actually guide student learning.

 

 

 

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Tell Mayor Bowser to Invest in Modern and Maintained Schools

fixallschoolsEvery child in Washington, DC, deserves to attend a modern, safe and healthy public school building.

>> Sign onto a letter to Mayor Bowser and other city leaders telling them it’s time to invest city resources to bring ALL DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS up to modern standards and put us on a track for reasonable and responsive maintenance in the future.

It’s almost time for the Mayor to announce her budget, and we need city leaders to know that it’s important to have a robust capital budget to #fixallschools. Not only should we fully fund the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) schools, but we should also make sure that the 12 schools that have never had modernization also get on the CIP. In addition, we need funds for much-needed stabilization efforts. By investing now in bringing our schools to modern standards, we can set the city up for a more efficient and effective repair and updating schedule that ensures all school buildings get the support they need.

PLEASE SIGN the letter BY SUNDAY, MARCH 19th to let our city leaders know we need to #fixallschools.

And please share with your school and neighborhood communities and listservs. We want everyone to have a voice in our campaign to #fixallschools!

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Calls needed to oppose Rep. Chaffetz’s DC voucher bill: CALL NOW – before 10am on Wednesday

Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a DC voucher bill Monday (March 6) which will be voted on by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday morning (3/8).

Time is short! Please call members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to oppose the bill BEFORE WEDNESDAY AT 10AM.

The bill is expected to be at least another reauthorization of the SOAR Act, or worse, a significant expansion of the DC voucher program in advance of a Trump/DeVos proposal to divert $20 billion from other federal programs to private, religious, and home schools.

> Read a letter from DC Councilmembers opposing the SOAR reauthorization in 2015

Talking points for your calls could include:

1) DC doesn’t want or need a voucher program. DC Public and Public Charter schools are rapidly improving and already offer DC parents a wide variety of educational options. In fact, we already have more “school choice” than nearly any other jurisdiction, with accompanying performance and accountability frameworks that provide transparency and protect students’ civil rights, unlike private schools.

2) 80% of students using vouchers in DC attend private religious schools, which operate outside federal civil rights protections and the non-discrimination provisions of the DC Human Rights Act.

3) Imposing a federal voucher program on DC residents outside of our local legislative and budget process is undemocratic and an attack on DC Home Rule.

4) Do your job — your constituents didn’t elect you to the school board in DC. Hands Off DC Schools!


Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Amash, Justin MI 3d DC 202-225-3831
Blum, Rod IA 1st DC 202-225-2911
Chaffetz, Jason UT 3d DC 202-225-7751
Comer, James KY 1st DC 202-225-3115
DeSantis, Ron FL 6th DC 202-225-2706
DesJarlais, Scott TN 4th DC 202-225-6831
Duncan, John J., Jr. TN 2d DC 202-225-5435
Farenthold, Blake TX 27th DC 202-225-7742
Foxx, Virginia NC 5th DC 202-225-2071
Gosar, Paul A. AZ 4th DC 202-225-2315
Gowdy, Trey SC 4th DC 202-225-6030
Grothman, Glenn WI 6th DC 202-225-2476
Hice, Jody B. GA 10th DC 202-225-4101
Hurd, Will TX 23d DC 202-225-4511
Issa, Darrell E. CA 49th DC 202-225-3906
Jordan, Jim OH 4th DC 202-225-2676
Massie, Thomas KY 4th DC 202-225-3465
Meadows, Mark NC 11th DC 202-225-6401
Mitchell, Paul MI 10th DC 202-225-2106
Palmer, Gary J. AL 6th DC 202-225-4921
Ross, Dennis A. FL 15th DC 202-225-1252
Russell, Steve OK 5th DC 202-225-2132
Sanford, Mark SC 1st DC 202-225-3176
Walker, Mark NC 6th DC 202-225-3065
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A Better Way to Rate Schools?

A message from Ward 6 School Board member, Joe Weedon, about upcoming decisions on how DC rates schools — and how to make your voice heard on Nov. 16

Currently, schools are rated almost entirely on reading and math test scores–and almost entirely on the proportion of students who are “proficient,” regardless of how much academic progress students in the school did or didn’t make.

This approach has led to many complaints: too much focus on tests and test prep; not enough attention to other subjects;  pressure on schools to focus on teaching students who are close to the proficient cusp instead of kids who score substantially higher or lower; a disincentive for schools to enroll challenging students, whose test scores typically grow more slowly; and, not enough attention to the non-academic aspects of education, including providing a nurturing, safe, challenging, engaging environment.

Thanks to the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed last year, DC has the chance to greatly revise the basis on which we evaluate school quality. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) have been meeting with members of the community since the spring to hear ideas for fixing the current system.  OSSE produced a “straw man” draft, meant to elicit comment. The SBOE responded with its concerns about what was and wasn’t in the draft.

The discussion now moves to a larger, public stage: the next SBOE meeting, Nov 16 at 5:30. While any member of the public can testify on any issue they want, the three main subjects up for discussion that night are:

  • The Weight of Test Scores:  Our current system overwhelmingly emphasizes test results. We are hearing that this focus on testing has harmful effects on our schools. The OSSE discussion draft suggests a new total test weight of 80%; the SBOE response memo suggests it should be much lower. We need to hear from parents, students, educators, and organizations about how the current testing weight has affected their schools and what they think the new weight should be.
  • The Weight of Growth in Relation to Proficiency:  Rather than holding schools accountable almost entirely for whether their students reach specific proficiency levels, ESSA offers DC the opportunity to credit schools for the progress students achieve each year, meaning that if students enter the year well below proficiency but make above average strides, the school will be credited for that growth–not penalized because the student hasn’t yet reached proficient. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what they believe the appropriate balance is between rating schools based on the proportion of students who meet proficiency thresholds and the actual academic progress the students have made.
  • Open, Welcoming Spirit and Other Qualitative Indicators of Quality: In addition to test scores, the SBOE believes that part of a school’s rating should be based on such qualitative factors as whether all students, teachers and parents feel welcome in their schools and such factors as school discipline, attendance, bullying, parent engagement, teacher turnover, student reenrollment, etc. Data for ratings could be drawn from surveys of parents, teachers, and students and from existing data. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what factors we should be looking at when assessing our schools.


Please consider testifying before the Board on these or related questions. 

Wed. Nov 16, 5:30 PM
441 4th St NW (at Judiciary Square)

You must sign up by 5 pm, Tuesday Nov 15. Sign up by emailing sboe@dc.gov. Please circulate this information to all interested schools, parents, educators, organizations.

Or, if you can’t attend the hearing, send written statements to me at joe@joeweedonstateboardofed.com and we will make sure your input gets to OSSE. 

Thank you,
Joe Weedon
http://www.ward6education.com/

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Changes to School Health Services Program, Concerns, and What You Can Do

The Department of Health is changing the method of delivering school health services and school nurse staffing allocations starting in January 2017.

For background, see the slide presentation made at two community forums in October to explain these changes or read more information on the school health services program here.

Overview of the changes

According to the DOH presentation, the goals of the changes is to improve health outcomes for our students and standardize level of care provided. Changes reflect an underlying belief that public health initiatives for schools don’t require a credentialed nurse in each school 40 hours per week, despite documented value of school nurses.

There will be a new algorithm to determine whether a school gets 20 or 40 hours per week of nurse coverage will be based on four elements: children with special health needs; enrollment; health suite use; profile data. These data will be reassessed monthly, so coverage could increase or decrease monthly at a school if one or more of the data points changes.

DOH plans to staff point people at schools to calculate the algorithm and identify student needs related to Individual Health Plans. The goal is to improve health outcomes for DCPS students (currently only 40% of DC public school students have complete universal health forms, which includes up-to-date immunizations).

When a nurse is not there, schools will be responsible for using its own staff to cover health needs, or calling 911.


Concerns raised about these changes

* Decreased coverage in light of national recommendations (CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend full-time school nurses)

* Possible need to rely more heavily on 911 when the nurses aren’t there

* Starting a new program in the middle of the school year

* Lack of transparency and community engagement in how decisions were made about the changes and what is driving the need for cost savings?


How you can help

1. Send feedback ASAP on school nursing (to help provide Ward 6 perspectives to the City Council). Send us an email at chpspo@gmail.com or share feedback this form:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lK3PNEDuVKElGhIrybcfNe4cyC5xq_XeAJNHY1o22-4/edit?usp=sharing

Please share:
* What is the value of school nurses to you personally or your school community?
* What is the impact on your school when school staff has to cover nursing duties when a school nurse is not on site?
* Name of your school

2. Sign a petition from the Washington Teachers’ Union and the DC Nurses Association. Every Child Deserves a Full-Time Nurse in His or Her School

3. Testify in front of the City Council or submit written testimony for the Education Committee’s Public Roundtable on School Health Services Program on Oct. 25:
http://dccouncil.us/events/education-public-roundtable5
Note: If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements should be submitted via email to jgiles@dccouncil.us or by mail to the Committee on Education, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 116 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on November 8, 2016.