Mark Simon Testimony – Public Oversight Roundtable on the Future of School Reform – March 19, 2018

This hearing asks exactly the right question. Deep reflection is in order about the past and future of DC education reform. That has not occurred for 11 years. Even when the PERAA report came out in 2015 it didn’t really happen. Those who now say we’ve just had bad actors or big bumps in the road need to open their eyes a bit wider. As an Education Next article last week pointed out, the DC “high school graduation fraud is a feature, not a flaw, of a system that incentivizes doing what looks good, not what is good,” for students. From 2007 to today, the focus has been on producing metrics on a narrow set of indicators, by any means. Arbitrary goals were set. Teachers and principals were rewarded or punished. And now we can see that strategy – aim high, crack the whip, no excuses – has not improved outcomes for low income students of color in DCPS or charter schools. The achievement gap has widened. School staff have become cynical. Why? I would submit that we should have been listening to teachers, to principals, to parents and students, especially when students vote with their feet. The warning signs were there all along.

· We have seen since 2007 a system that promised and enforced unreasonable numerical score gains without coherent underlying educational strategies for getting there, just pressure to produce the results.

· IMPACT has never had the confidence of teachers, and sure enough, it looks like the pressures principals were able to exert through powerful rewards and punishments got teachers to pass and graduate students who shouldn’t have been. IMPACT, a system of ranking and rating teachers rather than a way to nurture and support good teaching, needs a thorough external review. Many feel it is the source of other problems. Who’s listening to the teachers?

· Teacher and principal turnover is a clear indicator that something is amiss in the professional culture of our schools in both DCPS and charters. In Chicago, the nation’s fastest improving school district[1], principal retention is 85%. In DC it is around 75%. Teacher turnover in our highest poverty schools is around 33% each year. It’s even higher in charters. Who’s paying attention before teachers and principals vote with their feet?

· Instability is one of the most disturbing features of high poverty students’ lives, and we have managed in the era of DC education reform to make the public education experience for students to find a decent school more unstable than ever. And the Cross-Sector Taskforce not only failed to grapple with the problem but came up with a plan for greater instability and more mid-year transfers. Why did the DME seem to listen more to the business concerns of privately run charters than the pain of families who want a system of good neighborhood schools?

· Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, and Antwan Wilson never actually produced overall step-by-step education plans for how to improve the quality of teaching and learning, a strategy based on research for organizing schools for improvement[2], how to engage parents, or improve the learning culture in each school. What they produced were checklists for teachers, and brochures that announced initiatives or proclaimed numerical goals. Those are very different things.

· OSSE is in charge of data, but their school and system data is designed assiduously to be impenetrable. Data is almost never broken out by race and income. It doesn’t evaluate programs or track results except to be able to proclaim success. We need independent research, funded by the council, but not accountable to the same mayor who is motivated to be able to always declare success. Why is Mary Levy’s volunteer work still the main source of independent research that tracks what’s really going on in schools so that problems can be identified? At least put her on the payroll.The DC Council has funded ($506 Million) and relied on OSSE for information. And yet you keep getting blind-sided with data scandals uncovered by the press. Past scandals like the 2009 test cheating, uncovered by USA Today, were never investigated.

· Parents and teachers attended hearing after hearing in the fall of 2016 on new ESSA evaluation criteria, and clamored for schools to be evaluated more broadly, not just based on standardized test scores that mainly track students’ socio-economic background. But based on OSSE’s plan, next year my great neighborhood school (according to parents), Bancroft ES, will still get rated as just above failing because of low test scores. Next year, if OSSE has its way, my neighborhood will be embarrassed by a new star rating system giving Bancroft just one or two-stars. Who’s listening to parents?

· It is not time to “stay the course” as some have suggested. Quite the opposite. Its time for serious introspection and mid-course corrections. The new DME must be someone open to honest, bottom-up analysis and engagement of parents and teachers in developing operational plans for each school and systems overall, as must the new chancellor. Many good things are going on in the margins. There are some good early childhood programs. Many schools are well run. Curriculum coaches do good work with many teachers. Exciting initiatives are taking place to engage parents and teachers, but these are one-off efforts and cannot be said to be part of an overall reform strategy. They are filling huge gaps.

· Teachers in both DCPS and charter schools have recently energized a new organization called EmpowerEd to elevate the voice of teachers in each school and system-wide. This is a direct response to 11 years of attempts to “teacher proof” and marginalize the good ideas, creativity and initiative of teachers. It is a response to the failed strategy that seems to view teachers as the problem, not the solution. It is being well received among teachers in both sectors.

· Principals continue to live in fear, with one-year contracts, high turnover, and in many cases unreasonable expectations to meet, on penalty of getting fired.

· Mayoral Control creates a single hierarchy and not enough opportunities for the public to have a say. The 2015 PERAA report said that theoretically it could work, but as implemented in DC it has not produced a coherent strategy for improvement and is not working. They’re right. We either need a new elected school board for the city, or the State Board needs real authority, or the DC Council needs its own research arm and ability to hold the mayor and agencies accountable. The past 11 years have witnessed the politicizing of reform, shutting out of parents and teachers, not better accountability.

I would suggest the following broad approaches to a re-thought Education Reform era.

1. Invite a conversation in each school about how best to implement a Community School approach. To work, Community Schooling must be owned by parents, teachers and the community at large. It has four components.

· Wraparound services

· Extended day and extended year offerings

· Parent and family engagement

· Teacher empowerment to stimulate innovation, teamwork and creativity

Education results cannot improve if we don’t begin with the real and pressing needs students face that are getting in the way of focusing on learning. We need to begin with an honest conversation in each school with the people who know best – teachers, principals, parents, and the students themselves.

2. Broaden the evaluation criteria for what makes a good school. Engage parents, teachers, and principals in developing the criteria. Do not double down on the same narrow test-based criteria that OSSE has chosen. And do not implement the five-star report card envisioned for next fall. Each school might be invited to engage in a stakeholder assessment of school strengths and weaknesses and to develop a plan for school improvement to be displayed on the school website. A school isn’t a set of numbers. It’s a community of people.

3. Undertake qualitative investigation of the evaluation systems of both teachers and principals. Develop a newly designed system aimed at nurturing good teaching and empowering the profession to innovate with the particular students in each school in ways that will work.

4. Continue to invest in curriculum development and teacher and principal training. For much of the Rhee and Henderson era the standardized test, over-emphasis on reading and math, and tricks to get students to score higher was the emphasis. It is only more recently that an investment has been made in the breadth of subjects like social studies. There is much still be to be done to provide teachers with the appropriate content and support in the full breadth of subject matter that shows respect for subject matter expertise. Learning a love of reading, how to do research, how to work in groups, and learning to love the subject matter being studied should be the goal, not the content to be covered on the PARCC test.

5. Acknowledge the mistakes of the past. Most of all, I think we have a credibility gap. If the agencies in charge of public education continue to say we’re doing great but just have a few bumps in the road – stay the course – you will lose the strong base in the public who believe in public education and want to make our schools work for all our students. DC has created a powerful spin machine that has to be reoriented to look for honest analysis and solutions. As a start, authorize and fund an independent research arm that can begin to look into some of the questions above.

6. Consider reorganizing systems and budgets. Funds are being spent inefficiently with duplicative bureaucracies so that they are not getting to the students who need them. Agencies, like OSSE, have become huge with little accountability to anyone. Parents, teachers, and community allies and advocates have been marginalized. While rearranging governance may not be a solution, we should consider reinstating a real Board of Education, or a State Board with authority, to institutionalize greater responsiveness to the public. The DC Council cannot continue to be the only recourse for school based and other concerns to which the system should have been more responsive. The Council, try as you may, is not staffed to play that role. It needs access to independent research and data analysis. It is time for a mid-course correction to Mayoral Control of everything. We need a better plan for improving the quality of education in the District of Columbia. The process of hiring a new DME and chancellor will certainly provide an opportunity to begin a fresh approach leading to better reform strategies as long as the mayor can be convinced to treat it as an opportunity to turn a corner rather than continue to demand fealty to discredited strategies and reform orthodoxy.

[1] Badger and Quealy, Dec.5, 2017 New York Times, “How Effective Is Your School District?” A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most. — Based on new research by Sean Reardon at Stanford University rating district efforts to narrow achievement gaps.

[2] Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu and Easton, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, Organizing Schools for Improvement


CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, March 20, at Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization Members,

CHPSPO will hold its monthly meeting on March 20, 2018, at the Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan building (215 G St., NE). At this month’s meeting:

– Dan Davis with the Office of the Student Advocate will share information about an April 9 special education workshop (flyer attached);

– Erin Roth and Samantha Batel with the Center for American Progress will discuss an article they’ve written on PTA funding inequities; and

– Council Chair Phil Mendelson will join us for an informal discussion on education issues.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

Analysis: PTA Purchasing Power Leaves Low-Income Schools Even Further Behind

From state budget cuts to federal tax reform, school funding faces real constraints from all sides. But school b…

Ward 6 Special Education Workshop Flyer (Temp).pdf

032018 CHPSPO Agenda.docx


Kenyon Weaver Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

Good Morning. I’m Kenyon Weaver, a parent at Maury Elementary and member of the Maury PTA, as well as the Maury SIT, or School Improvement Team.

Last week, I provided testimony on how, while Maury is blessed with a strong community and high trust within our school, including our excellent Principal, administration and faculty, that DCPS Central Office was failing to meaningfully engage with the community with regard to the Maury modernization process. Today, I’m here to provide suggested solutions for the way forward.

A lot has certainly happened in the past 9 days to further erode trust. The DCPS Central Office leadership needs to restore that trust. These are District-wide proposals that will help to restore that trust:

· First: Transparency. Here we are with a crisis of transparency and fair process at the very top, but it is similarly a crisis in the lower interactions between the DCPS Central Office and the individual school communities. Transparency in the SIT process means:

o Identify community priorities and needs before design;

o Hold regular meetings;

o Provide the community with actual deadlines, real budget numbers – do not deflect or avoid or “run out the clock”;

o Be honest in those responses. The community does not expect every wish and desire will be fulfilled but we expect a candid conversation.

· Second: DCPS leadership, DGS leadership, and DDOT leadership should support Councilmember Allen’s Daytime School Parking Zone Amendment Act, providing teachers a mechanism for permits for on-street parking. Otherwise, the District will not be putting Kids First. At least, not all kids.

· Third: DCPS should adopt minimums for play space in its Educational Specifications. Under the DC Code, we could have a school with a mandatory 30 parking spaces, and zero outdoor play space. That’s because there’s no requirement that a school have play space. Again, without these, in my view the District cannot claim to be putting Kids First.

As I noted last time, because of DCPS Central Office’s intransigence, Maury Elementary’s new building simply will have not the facility it needs to support the expected 500+ students. Yes, it will have classrooms. Like every school. But, no, it will no longer have a usable garden or sufficient playground space. And it never will, because of the poor decisions being made now.

But we can still salvage something, with Transparency that restores trust, and with legislation and policies that puts all Kids First. Daytime School Parking Zone Amendment Act, and with outdoor playspace in Ed Specs. And we can make steps back to restoring trust. Parents are willing.


Dr. Jalan Washington Burton – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Jalan Washington Burton and I am a wife, mother, Ward 7 resident, physician consultant for one of the DC Medicaid programs, and a Pediatrician who practices in Ward 8 in Southeast DC. I have a background in pediatrics, public health, health disparities, and quality improvement. I am the Co-secretary of the Tyler PTA and a member of the newly formed Advocacy Subcommittee. I am here to speak briefly about issues that are very important to me – the health and education of DC children. As the mother to a Tyler first grader we lovingly refer to as Zo and a baby due today, you can tell these issues are very important to me.

First I would like to talk about HEALTH AND WELLNESS:

As our PTA President Patrick has shared, there are pressing health and safety issues related to facilities that must be prioritized. Our country, and especially urban areas such as Washington, DC, are experiencing a rise in childhood overweight and obesity. Study after study shows that children need less time sitting on their butts and need more time spent outside playing and having fun and they need easy access to fresh water. One of my son Zo’s favorite places to be is outside at the playground, but when I see caution tape on the playground bridge month after month, it is dangerous and unacceptable. I know work orders have been submitted but why isn’t a safe and fully working playground more of a priority? When will it truly be fixed? I see beautiful updated playgrounds at schools such as Van Ness and I wonder – when will Tyler’s upgrades be a priority? Tyler has a long outdated track, several areas with underutilized concrete space, and I again wonder when will Tyler and the children who attend our school be the priority?

Along with time outside, children need easy access to water. The outdated and often broken water fountains found here at Tyler are something that parents and teachers alike know need to be fixed. While I applaud the school administration for working quickly to report them and have them fixed, the repeated repairs show that it is time to just upgrade them. Upgraded models with spots for water bottles and easy cup filling will help teachers and parents offer water more easily to all children. When our son forgets his water bottle at home he often reports he didn’t drink anything all day because we do not allow him to drink juice and he cannot drink the dairy milk offered in the cafeteria.

Another facilities concern that has very real health implications is exposure to peeling paints and rodents. It is no secret that mice and rats plague many old DC buildings. When children are exposed to these conditions at home and then also at school it is a very dangerous mix. Asthma is one of the leading causes of preventable death in children. I see poorly controlled asthma every day in my practice. I can do pretty well with education and treatment when there are no housing or school issues but when there are I know there are virtually no good solutions and I go home frustrated and saddened. When we were notified of the rat issue at Tyler it was very concerning. I again applaud the administration for working to prioritize this issue and hope to see continued collaboration with DCPS.

Next, I would like to talk about the TRADITIONAL PROGRAM, previously known as the Creative Arts program.

When my son first joined the Tyler family last year my husband and I thought he was enrolling into a Creative Arts Curriculum as it is commonly referred to. We value the arts and see it as an integral part of developing creativity and critical thinking. We loved Zo’s first grade teacher Mrs. Ughiovhe because she daily included music, singing and dancing into our son’s education and he thrived. As I became more and more involved with the PTA I learned that the Creative Arts curriculum has not been funded for at least the last 2 years. My husband and I were saddened to learn that this had occurred and we were also concerned that its funding was not a priority with the city and that the opportunity to fundraise to continue the program had not been offered. We continue to get mixed messages from parents and the administration alike about the program – we are told that teachers no longer have formal creative arts training at Tyler but at other schools they do. We are also told that some parents want a school-wide dual language program, others want school-wide traditional education, and others want creative arts. My fellow parent Elsa discussed these issues in more detail, but as a second year parent here at Tyler it is exceedingly confusing and frustrating that a unified vision for the school does not exist. Either way a decision has to be made and as parents we need transparency. I need to know what programs are truly being offered so that I can make the best decisions for my child and advocate for other children. And I also need to know where my help fundraising is needed.

In closing, I thank you for the opportunity to share my perspectives as a parent and Pediatrician who lives and works in Southeast DC. Our children mean the world to us and the world depends on us providing them with the tools and resources they need. One of my favorite quotes by Frederick Douglas says “it is far easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I implore us all to prioritize these children and do a better job each day to provide them with the resources they need to be the strongest children they can be.


Elsa Falkenburger Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

My name is Elsa Falkenburger. I am the Communications co-chair for the Tyler Elementary PTA, chair of the newly formed Tyler Advocacy Subcommittee, and parent to one first grader, Lucie, and a rising preK-3 student, Theo.

As my fellow Tyler parents have testified, I would like to reiterate how critical it is to ensure a safe, healthy learning environment for our children. I hope that we can also focus our efforts on enriching the educational opportunities as well.

Tyler Elementary offers DCPS a unique opportunity to showcase what it is truly capable of. First, Tyler is in the heart of capitol hill, a large elementary school of 520 students with a very small boundary catchment area. This means that students outside of the immediate neighborhood have an opportunity to attend, unlike many of the other Ward 6 elementary schools. A true example of “school choice in action” in the midst of a school lottery system that is failing many families.

Second, Tyler is both racially and economically diverse – a title 1 school in the center of a rapidly gentrifying part of the city. Parents chose to send their children to Tyler because of this diversity in the student body and the programming offered.

Finally, Tyler offers three programs under 1 roof: a traditional program, a dual language Spanish program, and special education program.
Investing in Tyler means investing in a single school that offers a chance to create innovative solutions and approaches needed across our entire school system.

My testimony today focuses on the dual language program.

Our family is in-bounds for Tyler. In fact, we bought our house back in 2010 in great part because we would have access to Tyler and the dual language program it offers. We have had an excellent experience thus far, but have also uncovered a number of challenges that make the Tyler experience uneven for different families and weaker in the older grades that lead to significant reduction in enrollment.

I know that you heard from the Director of the DC Language Immersion Project last week, Vanessa Bertelli. I agree with her testimony and will not repeat the strong points she made and that Patrick just highlighted about the value and merit of a dual language education. For our children, the city, employers and other stakeholders to reap these benefits, we must invest in and strengthen DCPS’s dual language program infrastructure and the support and oversight it offers dual language schools. I have four primary suggestions:

1. Outreach to all Tyler families to ensure they understand the value of a dual language education, how this approach can benefit their child, and meeting the demand for this kind of program.

Research shows that a dual language education can help increase racial and socioeconomic diversity and integration in schools, help close the achievement gap, and significantly increases employment opportunities and earnings for students in the long- term, meeting employer demands for multi-lingual employees with high levels of cultural competency. And yet, the Tyler community often refers to the dual language program as the “resource families” and the traditional program as the “non-resource families”. This is highly problematic.

Ensuring all Tyler families have access to strong programming and the information
necessary to make the right decision for their child will ensure equity and a stronger sense of community among Tyler families, teachers and administration.

As we strive to ensure all families have access to full information about the program they
chose for their children, we must also ensure we can meet the demand for that programming. As a first step, we should have access to better data on how many families are applying to Tyler’s dual language program.

2. Assessments designed for dual language programs. Students come and leave Tyler Elementary with a wide range of language proficiency. But I can only say this anecdotally due to a lack of assessment tools and data. Teachers need better tools to assess language proficiency and ensure that the pathway to biliteracy is scaffolded from PK3 all the way through 5th grade. Given that parents who chose a dual language program are prioritizing that component of their child’s education but often do not speak that language themselves, it is critical that they are able to monitor their child’s progress with assessments that provide data consistently throughout the elementary school years. Currently, teachers are left to design their own methods of assessment that do not demonstrate progress over time.

  1. Guidance, training and supports for teachers. Currently ECE at Tyler is Spanish immersion (90% Spanish), Kinder is 50/50, and starting in 1st grade the students are taught certain subjects in Spanish and other in English, half the day in each language. This requires a solid methodology that is highly coordinated between teachers who are teaching the same students but in different languages. Our dual language first grade has 2 teachers. One teaches in English, the other in Spanish. Each classroom spends half the day with one teacher, and half with the other. This means that each teacher is responsible for nearly 50 students – 50 assessments, communication with 50 sets of parents, and the additional lift that is not required but necessary for teachers to coordinate to ensure that they are reinforcing what their student’s other teacher is covering. Compare this with the arts immersion teachers who have smaller classes, and the same students throughout the day. With the right training, guidance and support from DCPS, a team approach to teaching in the dual language program could be a real strength rather than a challenge.
  2. DCPS must offer Tyler families in the dual language program a better middle school option to continue their Spanish language education. Suggesting that children, many who live in Wards 7 and 8, commute to McFarland Middle School with no offer of transportation is not a viable option. This is yet another factor that leads families to leave Tyler early, as they seek out spots in charter or other schools that offer continuity of education through middle school and in some cases, high school.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.


Patrick Jackson Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

My name is Patrick Jackson. I am the current PTA President at Tyler Elementary. I’m a parent to a first grader at Tyler, and a parent of a hopefully incoming PK3 student as well. I am a lifetime resident of DC, and a 20 year resident of the Ward 6 neighborhood within Tyler’s boundary.

Our public schools, and our community schools are critically important to me as a resident of DC, not only because I currently have children enrolled, but also because I know they are a unifying common service in our community. I believe that strong public schools are essential in making us all better citizens of the city, and can be a force for community engagement, and greater integration across the city.

I am here today to testify on two issues that are facing the Tyler Elementary community, where we feel as though the performance of DCPS and DGS can be greatly improved.

The issues I would like to speak to today are facility repairs and greater support of the existing dual- language Spanish program at Tyler.

I am joined today by two other parents who are also dedicated to Tyler, who will be speaking in more detail about these two issues as well.

Tyler Elementary received the early stages of modernization roughly 10 years ago now, and since that time it seems as though the largest elementary school on Capitol Hill has been largely ignored. Resources have been since placed on other school in Ward 6, and Capital funding is budgeted for most of the other schools in our area, but not Tyler.

Meanwhile the building disrepairs and lack of adequate outdoor play areas are impacting the 500+ children who attend Tyler. The improvements that are urgently needed for Tyler are not insurmountable, in fact they seem rather small and manageable by comparison to updates being made to other schools- yet the benefit to children’s education in making the repairs would be huge.

The most critically needed improvements are the need for a new and enlarged playground, and updated water fountains.

When the playground was last renovated, Tyler had an attendance of around 200 children. Well, Tyler has grown- and due to its own success in the past decade our student population is now more than twice that.

Tyler currently has one badly broken play structure for K through 5th grade, surrounded by a massive area of underutilized, hot and barren concrete and asphalt. There is more than enough space on the Tyler playground for a play structure that would provide adequate space for the larger population, as well as more opportunity for children to actually get the needed exercise during free-time.

In addition to being inadequate in size, the equipment is badly broken, and at times dangerous. While other schools in the area are displaying gleaming new play structures- the 500+ children at Tyler have been playing on a play structure partially wrapped in police caution tape for the majority of the year.

Dangerous, ad-hoc, repairs have been made by adding bolts and rough wood in places, and the image of watching children stare at unusable play equipment wrapped in police tape has been a daily reminder to Tyler parents of how inadequate the facility is. As recently as this month there is less tape, but the repairs made are temporary. We expect police tape to wrap the main playground again before spring is really here.

The playground, and outdoor area at Tyler has historically been improved by PTA and parent funding. It has gotten us this far- but at this point the growing school needs full support from our city. Tyler is a Title 1 school with a large population of at-risk families, and our ability to fundraise to build our own school ground has limitations. The PTA currently works very hard to raise roughly $30K per year, which largely goes to support the FoodPrints program, mini-grants provided directly to classroom teachers for supplies and class improvements, and our thriving drama clubs, including a musical program, and a Spanish Film Club that creates and shows a movie each year at a local theater, paying for our own playground is currently out of reach.

On the next pages I’ve included some pictures showing:

  • The broken play structure
  • Torn soft surface- chunks of which are often lying around and coming home in kids clothing
  • Fences and concrete in disrepair next to playgrounds
  • Puddles filled with broken cement
  • Unused open cement spaces where more new play structures could be added

In addition to our terrible playground, Tyler is facing a drinking water-access issue.

Since the beginning of this year parents at Tyler have been working with DGS and DCPS to get working water fountains to replace the often broken and outdated units in the school.

For many months this school year the second floor had no working fountains, and often the 3rd floor, and cafeteria fountain would also be broken for weeks at a time.

Thanks to the advocacy, and support from our Ward 6 Council member’s team, and lots of pushing, the water fountains are mostly working today. But week-by-week they break. Our facility manager opens a work tickets at DGS, and we wait, this cycle repeats itself continuously.

Meanwhile we still have a school with a large population of students, who have one outdated, frequently broken fountain in their cafeteria, with a makeshift step so that shorter children can access it.

At Tyler we often have 2 working water fountains for 500 + kids spread across 3 floors. This often means that all our students do not have access to water. Which is a basic requirement of DC law for schools. We urgently ask the city to upgrade the fountains, and finally provide Tyler with an adequate solution. We cannot wait until the next stage of modernization for drinking water.

On the next page you will find pictures of the fountains on the 2nd floor and one on the 3rd floor.

Tyler urgently needs these upgrades for our highly enrolled building. We believe that our city government needs to provide these improvements in addition to the full-school renovations that are currently budgeted.

These are two needs where the performance of DCPS and DGS are impacting the health and wellness of Tyler students.

And these are two relatively small asks for improvements, where attention would have a massive return on investment. These are improvements that cannot wait until the next stage of modernization for Tyler.

The next topic I would like to raise is the challenge of the stranded programs at Tyler.

At Tyler we currently have two strands- a dual language program, and a traditional program, operating within our school. Today the strand approach creates several challenges for our community. I believe that the current way of operating multiple programs within one school is unnecessarily diverting valuable time and energy away from education and reduces our ability to create a more visible and immersive environment benefitting all children.

I also believe that the current approach to strands affects the ability of the dual language program to fully reach it’s potential, ranging from things as simple as preventing signage and common spaces curated in 2 languages, to issues as large as negative impacts to overall school culture with the perceived difficulties of a “school within a school.”

I strongly feel that now is the time to provide much more support- and dedication from DCPS- to bolster the dual language program at Tyler. I feel that this could be done both to benefit Tyler families, as well as grow the dual-language program to meet the rising demand for immersion programs that is increasing every year.

There is little doubt in the academic and research communities about the positive impact of dual language education on achievement. We believe that DCPS can rely on its internal data on achievement in these programs to support, and invest more in the dual language program at Tyler. Additionally, research shows that the benefits of dual language are independent of language spoken at home or socioeconomic status, making the case for expansion to primarily English speaking populations even stronger. The additional opportunity brought by bi-literacy is of course an added incentive.

Greater support of the dual-language program would provide many advantages:

1. Rapid increase in highly desirable dual language program seats (at this year’s new parent open houses at Tyler, over 95% of the parents attending were interested in the dual-language program)
2. Increase in achievement
3. Significant improvement in unsustainable school culture issues
4. More efficient use of school based resources
5. Equity of access. We know from research by the University of Maryland Foreign Language Center, that dual language programs bring socio-economic and racial diversity to classes and schools.
6. Clearer and more robust feeders. By doubling the number of students in dual language programs at schools that already have a dual language strand, DCPS can create clearer and more robust feeders

I truly feel that there is a huge opportunity for DCPS to invest in the Dual Language Spanish-Immersion option for DC families – by investing more in the program that already exists, and brings with it a very dedicated group of families, at Tyler Elementary

I would now like to let my fellow Tyler parents continue these topics, including specific ways in which DPCS could enhance the performance of the programs at Tyler.


Anne Fitzpatrick Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

Councilmembers, thank you for holding this hearing and for inviting the public to testify. As I think you know, I have two children at citywide DCPS elementary School Within School at Goding. You are probably expecting me to talk about how SWS needs our modernization, but I’m going to leave that to my fellow SWS parent Beth Bacon today.

I’d like to talk about the need to provide robust, well-funded and well-staffed programming for social-emotional learning, special education, and wraparound services at every school. There are a number of reasons I’m feeling deeply disappointed in our mayor and her education staff today. One of them is that I was so very hopeful that we were seeing such a focus on social-emotional learning in the last year—and that’s now been derailed.

But to get back to the kids. My concern about funding these services at every school is twofold. One, there are kids that need those services at every school, not just schools with large populations of at-risk students. And two, when kids who need those services have to go to a Title I school where the economies of scale make it possible to fund robust services, you are segregating those students. But under current funding models and policies, it is extremely difficult for a small school without a large population of at-risk students to fully fund and provide SEL, SPED, and wraparound services.

I want to share my own family’s story with you. My youngest son was first referred for evaluation two years ago when he was in PK3 and his perceptive preschool teacher noticed something was amiss. At that time, the process was to have him evaluated at the Early Stages assessment center, by people who did not know him and spent just an hour or two observing him and asking us questions. That process resulted in the recommendation that he did not need services. But by the end of PK4 last year, it was clear to us and his teachers that he was struggling, so we held him back to repeat PK4. This year, he was again referred for evaluation, but I’m told the process has since changed. He is being evaluated by teachers and staff at his school. They know him, he knows them, they have had multiple interactions and opportunities to observe him over an extended period. And they can see that he needs significant supports, although he doesn’t necessarily fit into an expected pattern. This change in the way evaluations are done, moving them into his home school, was huge for my child.

But I wouldn’t be here if that were the end of the story. At my school, we have a staff that is especially devoted to social-emotional learning. The school was founded by teachers and a social worker who believed in the importance of that. We have also developed a particular emphasis on special education. We have two classrooms of students who are severely disabled, and we have a high-functioning autism program. What we don’t have is a lot of funding or additional staff for special education and social-emotional learning. Our dedicated teachers and staff dig deep to keep providing the high quality, intensive services they are providing, but they really need our help. Honestly, I am worried that they are going to burn out.

We can’t expect that teachers and staff at schools like mine keep burning the candle at both ends. But we also can’t expect that students who need extra services congregate in Title I schools where there is extra funding available. This is a flawed funding model, and something has to be done about it.

I understood that the former chancellor wanted to do something about it. I’m as frustrated and disappointed about the interruption to that work as I am about the abuse of power and apparent cover-up by the mayor’s administration. But we can’t let that distract us from the urgent work of educating our children. We must pick up the ball and go on. We must improve the way we fund SEL, SPED, and wraparound services in every school.

Thank you.

Anne Fitzpatrick

Parent at School Within School at Goding