Linsey Silver Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing – November 27, 2018

Chancellor Alexander and officials of DC Public Schools thank you for allowing me to testify today.

My name is Linsey Silver and I am the Director of Teaching and Learning at the DC Language Immersion Project ( ) and 10 year parent at Tyler Elementary. DC Immersion is a non-profit that works toward a quality multilingual education for every child in the nation’s capital to become an empathetic citizen of the world, and for the District and its future workforce to compete successfully in the global marketplace. To meet this vision we engage families, support educators, research best practices and advocate for a systemic approach to equitably increasing opportunity and strengthening communities through multilingual education.

I once again want to thank DCPS for including the expansion of multilingual programs in its strategic goals. The need for equitable expansion of multilingual programs and increasing pipelines to source bilingual and diverse teachers is reinforced daily by research findings and civil action.
DCPS drive for equity is obviously at the forefront of this. By opening the first dual language program east of the river in a primarily African American neighborhood with few English language learners, DCPS positioned itself to become a national model on equity of access to these achievement and opportunity-boosting programs for all students. DC, together with New York and Florida, has one of the highest densities of English language learners and DCPS is positioned to lead by meeting the needs of this population with multilingual programs. To lead, DCPS must be bold and act promptly. DCPS is falling behind its peers with similar percentages of Latino and English learners. And the increase in the desirability of bilingual employees is putting children east of the river, and in particular Ward 8 where there are no dual language programs at an even greater disadvantage, faster. Demand for multilingual employees in the DC area doubled over the last 5 years, yet less than 7.5% of our students are on a path to becoming truly proficient in more than one language.

A well funded, comprehensive, long term and evidence-based detailed plan on expanding multilingual education should lead the way and be a sustained effort.

Many states and districts can provide us a framework from which to lead in the District.
The state of Delaware who has 16.2% Latino and 7.8% English language learners, has taken an approach that is both comprehensive and comprehensively funded. Since the announcement of its World Language Expansion Initiative in 2012, Delaware has allocated to its Department of Education close to $2 million each year to “evaluating and implementing additional foreign language offerings in public schools” which include the expansion of dual language programs and other initiatives to support language education. Delaware has 137,000 students.
In Utah, the Legislature created and funds statutes that provide each qualifying dual language school up to $18,000/year for up to six years. The total budget in Utah is $3,556,000 where the Utah runs more than 160 DL programs serving over 25,000 students.
In Portland the most recent studies on the cost of dual language show a cost of ~$100 per student that was linked to higher ELA performance. While not wholly or immediately transferable the findings were that “with modest investments at the central office level, concentrated on supporting high-quality dual langua ge instruction through professional development and curriculum support.” allocating funds for the systemic implementation of dual language can have a positive effect on the academic gains of all students and sub-groups.

In the long term, dual language programs in the district operate on or below the DCPS yearly operating budget average (see chart below referring to 2014 data). However, in the implementation phase, new dual language programs, like any other new type of programming, require additional funding, mainly for professional development including education on what dual language is, and materials in the partner language.
The support and expansion of multilingual programs must have a dedicated budget line with a minimum of a five-year horizon.
In August of 2016, DC Immersion met with DCPS Office of Planning on the strategic planning for the expansion of dual language programs that was announced earlier that year. DC Immersion was told no specific resources had been set aside for the development of that strategic plan. Now two years later, we have still yet to see such a plan.

Initiatives that are so effective in narrowing the achievement and opportunity gaps need to be given the financial stability to be deliberate and sustainable. To solidify DCPS’ commitment to its strategic priority, DCPS needs to build into its budget a clear line item related to multilingual education, not only for the planning phase but for the expansion of new programs and the support of the existing programs.

While this detailed plan is being developed, it is important not to miss the opportunity to leverage existing community support for the expansion of these programs where it exists, as, once missed, recreating community support is costly, time consuming and often not possible.
Also, while the details of the plan are continuing to be worked out, we believe it is in the interest of equity, diversity and inclusive learning to prioritize expanding the number of multilingual program seats by ensuring DCPS current strand programs become whole school. Please refer to our Strand v. Whole School Concept Note in Appendix II.

– Multilingual education is proven to increase achievement and narrow the opportunity gap. – Educating children in a context where two cultures are on the same level helps to systematically interrupt institutional bias.
– Expanding multilingual education options where access is currently profoundly inequitable will promote equity across DCPS.
– Our segregated school system worsens institutional bias. UCLA’s Civil Rights Project argues
that the expansion of dual language programs could be used as a tool to integrate DC schools “The positive integration of the growing immigrant communities with the black and white communities of the city should be an important part of education planning giving the demographic trends of the metro region. There should, for example, be a major focus on dual language immersion schools.” 5

– Improving teacher (and administrator!) pipelines for bilingual education translates in access to
currently inaccessible pools of talented teachers, better onboarding and support for teachers in dual language programs, and therefore improved retention rates.
– Overtime, improving teacher and administrator pipelines for bilingual education will result in a stronger and more diverse leadership. ENSURE EXCELLENT SCHOOLS
– Due to the demand for dual language programs, expanding the number of dual language seats is going to have a significant, immediate effect on enrollment.
– Expanding the number of dual language programs is also going to have a significant effect on re-enrollment, as students in dual language programs tend to have much lower mobility rates.
– According to longitudinal studies in North Carolina, dual language programs also have a statistically significant impact on attendance.

– Given the proven effect of dual language programs on developing students’ executive
function, expanding multilingual programs will have beneficial effects on decision making and behavior in general.
– The context of dual language programs directly stimulates empathy which is key to social emotional learning.
– Bilingualism directly expands access to college, as knowledge of a second language is increasingly a requirement in college admissions.
– Expanding multilingual programs is an obvious way to strengthen instruction for English learners. It is also the most effective. ENGAGE FAMILIES
– Having multilingual staff, as is necessary in multilingual programs, improves communication with a growing number of District families who do not speak English.
– What better way of involving families from the very beginning and showing them their input is being valued than to meet their demand for more multilingual programs. Make full use of Title I and Title III funding
New budget sources need to be identified to expand multilingual programs to neighborhoods where English learners are not prevalent, as the current Title III federal dollars will not be available for programs that do not serve English learners. We believe Title I funds can and should be used to expand multilingual programs in Title I communities.
● Significant investments will need to be made upfront and are justified in the context of long term programmatic changes particularly at the middle and high school level. See example from Oakland School District.6
● While existing dual language programs currently operate at or below the DCPS yearly operating budget average7, both new and current dual language programs require additional funding on an ongoing basis to provide for expenses such as professional development and materials in the partner language.
● funding on resources specific to school population, with an emphasis on one-way programs and targeted parental engagement
● Important decisions regarding DCPS’ organizational structure need to be made early on in the process to ensure budgets for the expansion of multilingual education are allocated to the entity that can most effectively support all aspects of DCPS’ strategic priority.
Increasing Dual Language programs is a cost efficient way of increasing achievement for all our District students. DC Immersion stands ready to assist DC Public Schools.

High stakes high returns decision by the Oakland School District to open a dedicated dual language middle school for 75 students during a $30 million budget shortfall. &cmpid=twitter-premium?cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-13859462 See our research here
A comprehensive strategic plan on the expansion of multilingual education in the District
DC Public School’s detailed plan on how to better support and expand multilingual education in the District needs to be comprehensive, long term and based on evidence from states and school districts who have already done this. It should be based on thorough, longitudinal analysis of existing DC-wide data to include data on demand across all types of programming, enrollment trends in existing dual language programs, analysis of skills gap as it relates to linguistic and cultural competence, and data on current partner language assessments. DC Immersion has begun parts of this analysis in partnership with research institutes and DC area universities.
A strategic plan for expanding dual language programs requires a great deal of prior knowledge, willing partners and human resources and needs to approach a number of issues including the following:
– analysis of existing dual language models and determination of most suited models for DC’s different demographics;
– set of articulated pathways to sourcing teachers, including collaboration with OSSE on licensing requirements and professional development, collaboration with Embassies and cultural institutes on teacher exchanges, understanding and leveraging currently underutilized linguistic skills of existing DCPS teachers;
– analysis of national best practices on middle and high school models and possible DC applications; – DC wide agreement on partner language assessment and State wide collection of data relating to partner language assessment; – leveraging know how and exploring forms of collaboration with charter sector;
– long term professional development plan for administrators, teachers and staff;
– access to federal and local funding streams for planning and implementation of dual language programs (school turnaround, voluntary and community-led desegregation efforts, social impact bonds, …); – DCPS organizational structure changes to support and oversee expansion;
– comprehensive outreach to families and communities including those which have traditionally been left out of the dual language conversation; – development of dual language standards in collaboration with SBOE;
– garnering political support on plan’s ramp-up speed and geography (Mayor, DC Council, ANCs);
– engaging all stakeholders (local universities, teacher union, DCPL, publishers, students, parents, civic associations, media, …) and working across local government agencies (CFO, DMPED, DOES, WIC, MOLA, …) and federal ones; and
– a detailed and adequate five-year budget, broken down by central administration, school support and local school, with projections for different implementation speeds and other variables. APPENDIX II
Strand v. Whole School Dual Language Programs Concept Note
DCPS’ four strand programs – Tyler, Cleveland, Marie Reed and Powell – are at a crossroad. Historically, other strand programs (SWS, Logan Montessori, etc.) have eventually moved on to whole school programs. DC Immersion believes making the existing dual language strand programs into whole school programs presents 6 critical advantages for DCPS: 1. Rapid increase in highly desirable dual language program seats 2. Increase in achievement
3. Significant improvement in unsustainable school culture issues 4. More efficient use of school based resources
5. Equity of access
6. Clearer and more robust feeders

Increase in desirable dual language program seats
Data from the 2017-18 My School DC lottery published by the DC Public Charter School Board shows a further increase in demand for dual language programs, and waitlists of over 1,000 for all bar one PCS dual language programs, way longer than all other types of program, bar one exception. Unfortunately, we do not have access to DCPS data, but we assume it is similar. Demand for dual language programs far outweighs spaces. Of the different ways for DCPS to capitalize on student enrollment and retention through desirability of dual language programs, turning strands into whole school programs is the most logical and efficient. This must be a priority also due to the problematic school culture issues that are currently attributed to dual language rather than to the inherent dynamics of strand programs. This misattribution of the causes of the dysfunction confuse the issue and taint the conversation around further expanding dual language programs. Increase in achievement

There is little doubt in the academic and research communities about the positive impact of dual language education on achievement. DC Immersion is partnering with University of Maryland on longitudinal research specific to achievement in DC dual language programs. In the meantime, DCPS can rely on its internal data on achievement in these programs to support the need to expand dual language programs to whole school. 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 biliteracy is an added incentive. Improvement in school culture

School culture within at least two of the four schools with a dual language strand is near breaking point with physical and verbal aggression and divisiveness. The strand model creates a competition for the emotional, financial, and space resources of a school. The inherent internal ranking of differing programs within the same building and under the same administration create both real and perceived division which adversely affects school culture. A whole school approach would allow shared vision and goals for the school, strengthening every aspect of the community. Additionally, we know anecdotally that a significant number of students in the English only strand were on the waitlist for the dual language program and less satisfied and less attached to the school as a result of being matched in the English only program. In at least one of the strand schools, a select number of students are permitted to move from the English only program into the dual language program between years at the early grades. This further exacerbates the “them and us” feeling.

Efficient use of school resources
A dual language strand model unnecessarily diverts valuable time and energy away from education and precludes the ability to create a more visible and tangible immersive environment benefiting all children. To emerge as truly bilingual and bi-literate, students need context, exposure and greater opportunity than the strand model allows. Examples are ● Signage and common spaces curated in 2 languages
● Out of time programming offerings in target language
● Assemblies and field trips offering target language exposure throughout the city (currently in the
strand model all field trips must be parallel between programs limiting immersion possibilities)

Equity of Access
Some strand programs are racially and socioeconomically segregated, and at least one school with a dual language program intentionally funnels students who receive special education services into its English only program. We know from initial findings on research by the University of Maryland Foreign Language Center, that dual language programs bring socio-economic and racial diversity to classes and schools. We also know that students that receive special education services can be effectively provided those services in the context of a dual language program. Expanding strands to whole school presents the opportunity to include the African American community traditionally left out of the conversation surrounding dual language and bilingualism. It also presents the opportunity to include students that receive special education services and more English Language Learners who rely on dual language programs to narrow the achievement gap. DCPS has a chance to be a national leader in education equity. 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. Additionally, strand programs expanding at the lower grades can bolster world language learning for students in upper grades by creating an environment with greater emphasis on the target language. These older students can be pioneers in re-envisioned feeder systems.
DC Immersion would like to assist DCPS in the transition from strands to whole school programs. Some of the initiatives we see as crucial in advance and throughout the transition are:
– Recruitment and training of dual language ambassadors (along the lines of the successful STEM ambassadors model) to better inform communities in the English only strands about the reasons for the transition both for prospective students and for current students and involve these communities in activities regarding dual language education.
– Professional Development of school leadership, teachers and staff on rationale for transition and tools and supports to ensure a successful transition.
– Community outreach to prospective parents and community at large to educate about dual language programs and alternatives in the unlikely event they prospective parents were not keen on a dual language program (DCPS must have better data on this but DC Immersion believes this eventuality is remote if proper community engagement and education is done around the transition).


Bilingual education benefits all students
In response to a recent article suggesting that the rising popularity of dual language programs could leave Latinos behind, we feel data, research and a broader perspective are needed. This complex topic cannot be reduced to Latinos versus rest of DC residents, nor can it make abstraction from the demographics and segregated geography of the District. The DC Language Immersion Project advocates for bilingual education for everybody , including but not limited to English language learners who are Latinos. We advocate for bilingual education to be systemically integrated into DC’s strategic education plan and this is why.
1. All kids benefit from learning in two languages, regardless of the language spoken at home
Sound longitudinal research shows that by 8th grade children in dual language programs outperform their peers in English reading by an entire school year, regardless of the language spoken at home . That is to say that bilingual education boosts English language learners’ proficiency in English reading just as much as English native speakers’ proficiency in English reading . On the basis of this research, it does not make equitable sense to prioritize one population over another on the basis of language spoken at home or ability to speak English.
2. Linguistic and cultural heritage matter and so do linguistic and cultural understanding
It is crucial that children who speak a language other than English be allowed to retain that language, particularly if their families do not speak English, as language is the basis of close family ties and strong sense of identity . But linguistic and cultural understanding are also the basis of mutual respect and social cohesion. In an increasingly diverse and multilingual District of Columbia, learning in a context in which two languages and cultures have equal footing not only empowers and keeps safe the students who speak languages other than English, but also affects the ability of our native English speakers to engage respectfully with other communities. All students will be more likely
to “see the absurdity in the rants of xenophobes and racists” . Moreover, the notion that the multicultural experience afforded by bilingual education should primarily be available to the kids who somehow already have it is inequitable.
3. Spanish is an important language in this region and country but the District should not be limited by it
While Spanish speakers are an important and growing demographic in the District, not all Latinos are English language learners and not all English language learners in the District are Spanish speakers. Among the region’s English language learners there are significant populations of speakers of Amharic, French, Tagalog, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and increasingly others. Moreover, the District has important and growing population of emerging bilinguals who might speak English well enough but might be at risk of losing a valuable home language. And then there are entire communities for whom a particular language is an integral part of their heritage, despite their limited ability to speak such language.
For complete article and references please see
4. If the District of Columbia wants to be a global hub, it needs all the bilingual education it can get
The benefits of bilingual education expand well beyond achievement on standardized testing. Bilingual education has positive effects on cognition, executive functioning (aka decision making and behavior) and promotes greater tolerance. Bilinguals command higher salaries and are increasingly in demand in DC’s workforce . In fact, the District of Columbia as a whole has a lot to gain from broadly expanding bilingual education. 5. Schools where half of the students speak the partner language are only one of many successful model
While Two Way Immersion , is desirable and somewhat easier to implement, it should not be held as the golden standard. The District is home to shining examples of successful One Way
Immersion programs, where most of the students are native English speakers, and there are entire states that are successfully pulling off State wide implementation of bilingual education through One Way Immersion. In a highly segregated District of Columbia, stating that One Way Immersion is not effective or desirable, is not only incorrect but ignores the geography and demographics of the District and amounts to say that there should be no bilingual education in approximately half of our city. 6. Last but not least, bilingual education is a gap closing strategy
Despite recent gains in PARCC scores, the achievement gap in the District is widening. Proven strategies that help narrow the achievement gap should be an integral part of the District’s education plan and should be available to students with the lowest proficiencies as a matter of priority.
We believe all students benefit from the multiple advantages of bilingual education and that “there is much to be gained from coming together with a unified voice in support of bilingual and immersion education.” Pitting one population against another on the basis of language spoken at home is not only a slippery slope in these tense racial times but is not backed by research. Instead, the District should be focusing on how to build a bilingual education system where all students have access to the benefits of dual language immersion programs, and where bilingual education is used as a tool to narrow the achievement gap and desegregate our schools.


Suzanne Wells Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing on FY20 – November 27, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify this evening. My name is Suzanne Wells. I have a daughter in the 8th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School, and I’m the president of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO).

For the past year, Grace Hu, a member of CHPSPO, has organized a coalition of parents from across the city to advocate for DCPS to develop a comprehensive technology plan that outlines how technology fits into its educational goals, how the technology will be purchased and maintained, and to provide funding in the FY20 budget to implement the plan. Computers are crucial today in classroom instruction, preparing students for advanced education and careers. Our schools have too few computers, computers that aren’t working, and/or computers that are so closely guarded they are primarily used for standardized testing.

In the past, school budgets have not been sufficient enough to allow the schools to purchase and maintain the computers they need. The PTAs at some schools have been able to step in and help support the school’s technology needs. The schools most likely to have significant technology challenges are likely to have high at-risk student populations and limited PTA capacity for raising funds. Until these challenges are addressed, we will continue to see negative impacts on students, especially those who also lack access to technology at home.

We need DCPS to place sufficient priority on technology, and be an advocate for technology funding in the Mayor’s budget. Any technology funding should not be taken from existing school budgets, which are already stretched thin.

We have heard DCPS has a $20 – $30 million shortfall for the current school year. While we do not know how all of the shortfall is being made up, we have heard reducing the per student funding formula for purchasing library books is one way it is being made up. I strongly encourage DCPS not to cut funding for libraries, and to be transparent about why there is a shortfall for this current school year. Please work with your teachers and principals before making decisions about what cuts are planned to make up for the shortfall.

Finally, as DCPS is developing the FY20 budget, I encourage you to give priority to funding the following:

1. Support to schools that receive one or two stars under the new OSSE school report. It is quite possible enrollment will drop at these schools in FY20 at a time when they most need funding stability and even increased funding. These schools will have great needs, and are likely to benefit from a coordinated city-wide support effort.
2. Support to middle schools in order to strengthen feeder patterns. This support may include enhanced art, music and club opportunities, and in particular a middle school to serve families in the city’s center; and
3. Expansion of language immersion programs at the elementary and middle school level.

Thank you.


Betsy Wolf Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing for FY20 – November 27, 2018

My name is Betsy Wolf. I am a parent at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in DCPS. Amidon-Bowen serves a predominantly “at-risk” and African American student population and has been one of the lowest performing schools in the city for more than a decade.

I am also a research professor in education. A common finding in school finance is that schools serving poorer children get more resources when you factor in money spent on special education. But when you take out the money spent on special education and account for the fact that high-poverty schools often have higher rates of special education students, studies often find that jurisdictions actually spend less per pupil in schools serving disadvantaged children than in schools serving affluent children.

We see the same trend in DC when looking at budgeted expenditures (not actual, budgeted) for FY 2019. When you look at total expenditures, it looks like schools serving disadvantaged children get more resources. But when you take out special education, spending is no longer equitable. In fact, there are many schools serving predominantly affluent children that get more resources than Amidon-Bowen: Our city spends $3,000 more PER PUPIL on general INSTRUCTION at Cooke Elementary School in Ward 1 than at Amidon-Bowen. We spend $2,800 more PER PUPIL at Ross Elementary in Ward 2 than at Amidon-Bowen. We spend $1,150 more PER PUPIL at Stoddert Elementary in Ward 3 than at Amidon-Bowen. The list goes on.

This inequitable spending seems problematic given the stated focus on equity and narrowing the achievement gap. We can’t narrow the achievement gap if we’re giving less to students who need more. If we want to narrow the achievement gap, we have to be much more intentional about targeting instructional supports to at-risk kids.

Research shows that the biggest-bang-for-your-buck in improving student performance is small-group tutoring. Small-group tutoring can be implemented by trained paraprofessionals or reading specialists. Last year was the first school year that Amidon-Bowen employed both a reading specialist and a math intervention coach, and we were “gifted” one of these positions because we didn’t have enough money in our initial school budget allocation to afford it. And in part due to these staff members, last year Amidon-Bowen showed good gains in both reading and math. But we’re at risk of losing these key positions every year.

While our school needs a reading special and math coach, we also need to provide our students with a well-rounded education. We are fortunate to be able to supplement reading and math, but children in more affluent schools are also benefitting from enrichments such as science teachers, often paid for by the PTA. As many of you know, last year, we could no longer afford our STEM teacher, and our STEM teacher moved to a more affluent school in NW where the PTA pays his salary. This is not a picture of equity.

If I may, here are some recommendations for improving equity moving forward:

1. Find a way to allocate more flexible at-risk funds to schools. Don’t force schools to use at-risk funds to cover personnel to meet IEP requirements.
2. Research differences in enrichments across schools, paid for out of school budgets and PTAs, and seek to understand if there are gaps in equity. If there are gaps between low- and high-poverty schools, work to address them.
3. Consider how staffing will change at a school from one year to the next. Starting from scratch each year in budgeting produces negative consequences, and in a recent survey, principals cited instability in staffing as a key stressor for them.
4. Acknowledge the limitations of the current system. There is deep public mistrust because truthfulness is lacking.
5. Engage local communities. I don’t mean “community engagement” check-the-box events such as this one. I mean real conversations with parents and teachers on the ground.

Research speaks to policy as intended versus policy in practice. You must better understand how your policies unfold at the school level. At the same time, we need to understand the constraints and choices that you face in making decisions. School improvement is hard, and we’re not going to crack this nut working in isolation from one another.

From DCPS data center: At-risk allocations for Amidon-Bowen were:

FY19: $30,250
FY18: $128,980
FY17: $486,540
FY16: $472,870


Katy Thomas Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing FY20 – November 27, 2018


I am the parent of two current Miner ES students and one future one. Our oldest is in first grade, our middle child is in PK4 and we have a rising PK3 child. My husband is serving his second term as a member of the LSAT and I currently serve as the PTO Vice President. Miner is our in-bounds neighborhood school and three blocks from our home. Having lived on Capitol Hill for nearly 20 years and witnessing the academic transformation of other public elementary schools on the Hill, our family is anxious for Miner to attain similar academic achievements. Living in a city with overwhelming education choice, it is clear solving Miner’s challenges will not happen quickly and in the interim, families do not hesitate to leave for better performing schools. In order for Miner to become a thriving neighborhood school, like many of our sister schools in Ward 6, I’m here tonight to ask DCPS to stand with us.

Like many other DCPS Title 1 schools, Miner has dealt with a wide variety of challenges throughout the past, some within the control of the school community, but the majority a result of a failed system. Many of the challenges could be resolved with a more common-sense based budget. The Miner FY2019 budget failed to provide enough resources to maintain our STEM teacher, adequate reading intervention support and SPED inclusion/resources. Sixty-six percent of our student body is classified as “at-risk”, sixteen percent of the student body has special needs with IEP’s, our 2018 math scores are 15 percent (-1.1% compared to 2017), ELA scores are 11 percent (+3.3% compared to 2017) and our enrollment is slowly increasing. The commitment by our new school leaders, combined with a more involved and engaged parent body signals a positive new direction, but our administration leaders and parent body cannot do this alone.

Technology is a critical resource which needs to be provided to schools equitably. Mandatory student testing is done online and myriad teaching tools rely on computers and working internet connections. In today’s world, students who are not digitally literate are being set up for failure. Many school districts across the country with similar demographics to DCPS have deployed comprehensive technology plans, strategies and dedicated funding streams to support implementation. There is no reason why the District cannot match or exceed what others have accomplished – it is not a matter of resources, but a matter of priorities and political will.

Miner’s PTO is part of a citywide coalition of parents seeking digital equity and technology reflective of the 21st century for all students and teachers. The core issue of concern is the DCPS placement of burden on individual schools for technology purchases and maintenance, despite the overwhelming evidence that individual schools lack the money and expertise to do this effectively. As a result, many schools – including
Miner, are struggling to have adequately functioning technology inside the building for students and teachers. The parent technology coalition identified three main factors affecting technology gaps at schools:

(1) time since a school’s modernization;
(2) level of PTA/PTO involvement; and
(3) flexibility in the school budget due to competing priorities.

These factors treat technology as if it were optional, but that is clearly not the case. Miner invests in blended learning programs beginning with Kindergarten students, spending precious resources to pay for web-based program licenses for Lexia, ST Math and others. Much of this investment could be viewed as a waste of money because there is virtually no funding available for classroom devices to access the online programs.
Miner 1st grade students have limited time scheduled and access to four low functioning (if operable at all) computers in their math classroom to practice web-based ST Math. The limited amount of time the teacher is able to devote to ST Math is consumed by computers freezing/crashing/not working at all or helping students log into the computer AND programming, many of whom have limited familiarity with a keyboard/mouse. One Kindergarten teacher has recently asked the PTO to fund classroom devices with QR readers because those students, like their 1st grade counterparts who have no access to technology at home and are allotted limited school time, spend the majority of designated time trying to log into their accounts.
Miner was one of eight DCPS elementary schools reviewed in the October 2017 Office of the DC Auditor’s (ODCA) budgeting report, Budgeting and Staffing at Eight DCPS Elementary Schools. The report quotes a central office staffer noting, “Miner student technology is in desperate need of an upgrade.” In response to the Auditor’s report, then-Chancellor Antwan Wilson stated DCPS agreed with the recommendation to “create and make public a multi-year technology needs plan to define and provide adequate technology to each school.” The Technology Roadmap and appropriate funding request was expected by many to be part of DCPS’ FY2019 budget, yet here we are more than one year later with no Technology Roadmap and another school year underway without adequate technology for students.

The 2017 auditor’s report highlighted Miner seeking and winning approval to shift $5,580 in its budget from “at-risk technology” to “equipment and machinery” in order to upgrade computer hardware and equipment. With DCPS-approved student laptops costing approximately $560 each, those at-risk technology funds would purchase less than ten computers, for a building of more than 350 students. For Miner to refresh student computer supply per DCPS guidelines (every four years and assuming a 3:1 student-device ratio), we need nearly $17,000 per year, far more than what can be accommodated within existing general and at-risk budget allocations. This calculation excludes teacher laptops and classroom technology such as Smartboards, projectors or document cameras.

I’ve attached a copy of the July 12, 2018 article published in the Washington City Paper, “Access to Technology in DC Public Schools is Deeply Unequal”, which provides examples of teachers and PTA’s fundraising for technology resources, the overwhelming inequity between schools who have the capacity to fundraise vs those who do not, and the systemic failure of the budget model (computers competing against paper/pencils/desks) to adequately fund technology. At last year’s DCPS budget field hearing, I challenged Chancellor Wilson and his staff to perform their jobs on the technology utilized by Miner students and staff; I posed the same challenge to Council Education Committee Chairman Grosso and members of that committee and the Council at large when I testified on the FY19 budget. I suspect living up to the DCPS at-risk technology policy statements and investing in technology would soon find its way to becoming a budget priority if my challenge were accepted.

I urge you to release the Technology Roadmap as former Chancellor Wilson stated was in process last fall, share a timeline for engagement with school-based leaders, teachers, students, parents and members of the community and indicate how long students and schools will have to wait before the overwhelming need for technology is addressed. At minimum, a DCPS Technology Roadmap should standardize how many devices are required per classroom/student in each grade; how many Smart Boards/projectors and other technology-based teaching implements are required and the frequency with which each should be refreshed. Those identified needs and requirements should be fulfilled by DCPS in FY2020 with new budget funding, not redirected from existing budget funds. The parent community I’ve witnessed come together in the past few months is dedicated to doing its part to advocate for more resources to address the technology gap, but DCPS needs to do its part to push for technology funding in the Mayor’s FY20 budget proposal. Parents cannot do it alone.

A Washington Post article published last spring put a fresh spotlight on how DCPS budgeting is not meeting its obligations for schools and more importantly, at-risk children within our schools. The article arrived on the heels of testimony before the DC Council’s Education Committee, and specifically DCPS budget analyst volunteer extraordinaire Mary Levy, who pointed out DCPS continues to use at-risk funds to supplant core program funding in direct violation of the law.

The 2017 ODCA report provided great detail regarding schools being forced to use at-risk resources to fund core staffing positions and other fundamental school needs. ODCA reported Miner is compliant with CSM standards, only because 1.5 related arts positions were funded through at-risk dollars. “Five of the eight schools in this study—Bancroft, Barnard, Miner, Nalle, and Moten—funded some of their related-arts positions using supplemental at-risk dollars. Without the positions funded by at-risk dollars, Barnard, Miner, and Moten would have fallen short of the related arts staffing levels prescribed in the CSM.” When I raised this issue before the Council’s Education Committee last spring, I was promptly informed that at-risk funding is “complicated”. While I don’t doubt it is complicated to ensure the law is followed, I would argue in a city brimming with smart, highly compensated education policy professionals, a solution can be found to address the widely-acknowledged breach of intent. We don’t have the luxury to hit the pause button to get through the scandal de jour; students still need educating, buildings still need maintenance and at-risk kids still need more resources.

The ODCA report also highlighted the wholly inadequate budget made available to schools with students facing extraordinary challenges outside the classroom. “At four schools—Noyes, Miner, Nalle, and Moten—interviewees stated that the challenge of serving needy students from struggling communities overwhelmed the social-emotional resources of the school. There is “never enough mental health support,” one teacher stated, because “students see so much outside of school that they bring to the classroom.” Another teacher explained that even the outstanding social-emotional staff at her school cannot meet the needs of children who have limited capacity to learn because they are trying to survive. Similarly, a parent who stated that his school needed more counselors noted that, “A lot of these kids are raising themselves.”

I will continue press the Mayor and City Council to explain why so much non-education support, such as social workers and psychologists consumes such a significant amount of the education budget. Schools cannot succeed in doing their prescribed job of teaching when they have to cut the number of teacher positions in order to provide social/emotional support. Schools receive resources from other agencies such as MPD for school security offices, Department of Health for school nurses and Department of Transportation for crossing guards, yet are required to use education funds to pay for social/emotional supports. The Department of Health and Child and Family Services are designed to provide the means to address social and emotional support and should be providing the necessary budget to meet these needs for our school children. I urge DPCS to join the community of parents and leaders calling on the Mayor and Council to address this budgeting shift.

Miner is a participating school in DCPS’ Restorative Justice (RJ) Initiative for both community building and as a response to student behavior. We witnessed an overwhelming reduction of suspensions during SY17-18 compared to the previous year. For the initial year of RJ implementation at Miner, a handful of trained adults were using reactive circles in order to respond to occurrences of misbehavior; teachers were encouraged to conduct community building (proactive) circles; and one of our fifth grade teachers will soon begin hosting an optional morning PD for teachers on restorative justice practices. Over the course of the next two school years, Miner will fully develop the RJ program so long as budget resources are made available.

Unfortunately, Miner is not provided with adequate resources from DCPS to ensure RJ is comprehensively implemented schoolwide. Our administrative leaders have had to expend their limited time tracking down and applying for non-DCPS grant funds in hopes to achieve the full positive impacts of RJ. Additionally, the middle and high schools in our feeder pattern (Eliot Hine and Eastern) are not participating in the same manner as Miner in this highly-effective program due to the lack of funding. Successful implementation of RJ takes three to five years in order to fully develop the skill set among staff, teachers and students. It would be a significant step backwards for a student moving from an elementary school with RJ into a middle school or high school without RJ programs implemented. DCPS has a publicly stated goal of developing a three-year ongoing implementation and support plan to scale the program; I urge you to fully fund the RJ program and ensure the implementation plan will prioritize scaling within the same feeder pattern, rather than randomly increasing the number of schools participating each year.

Miner has so much potential to be the next success story, but we cannot do it alone. Clearly there is more work to be done, more investment to be made and more accountability and oversight to happen. I look forward to working you to ensure we are doing everything possible to set our children up for success. Miner will never “make the turn” if limited to the per pupil budget allocation or when extra at-risk resources are spent on fundamental needs or if our enrollment doesn’t hit the magic 400 target or when our funding doesn’t reflect inflation. I’m here tonight to ask DCPS to join forces with the current families who want more for Miner. We want to be a thriving neighborhood school that supports all students, but we can’t do it alone.


Cathy Reilly Testimony – DCPS Public Budget Hearing for FY20

DCPS Budget Hearing – November 27, 2018
Phelps High School- Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators Budget Testimony Cathy Reilly

It is my hope that one of the lenses DCPS will use as it crafts the budget for this year is that of how best to support the public infrastructure of DCPS schools. This would have to include an Education Plan written with your stakeholders, this is different than goals.

Middle Schools are our missing link and if we are not mindful our neighborhood high schools could follow. Mayor Bowser won in 2014 on a promise of Alice Deal for All. DCPS has opened up MacFarland MS and is poised to open a middle school at Coolidge. I support the elementary parents and neighborhood associations in the Shaw community in wanting their middle school in that central location. The elementary and neighborhood energy is the future of DCPS. Further, 3 of the 4 State Board of Education members elected came out strong as supportive of a strong DCPS neighborhood system. I hope that DCPS also has a plan for a middle school in southeast where we have only one feeder school to Woodson that also feeds into Eastern. This was the recommendation of the Student Assignment Committee after extensive outreach.

The funds are there for Banneker on time and within the generous budget allotted. We support their modernization on site as has been the recommendation. It is across from Howard University and they have access there to extensive recreation facilities. We can see from existing projects like School Without Walls, Roosevelt, Coolidge that a modernized building can be beautiful and functional.

The decisions so far this year have been to expand application enrollment through the Bard Early College Program, the Coolidge Early College Program and now a 300 student projected expansion at Banneker. We have not seen a full environmental impact study that would tell us how this might affect the existing high school structure DCPS and the city has already invested in. Announcing them both this fall has had a chilling effect on the remaining high schools working to improve and increase their own programs and enrollments. DCPS is separating students who aspire to be in a selective environment from students in their neighborhood schools, why? We could have looked at more programs like the one at Coolidge or other academies like the former Business and Finance Academy at Woodson.

This is what a further investment in our neighborhood infrastructure could look like:

The Ward 4 transition to middle schools should include the funding to expand the education campus pre-k 3 and pre-k 4 seats. It should also have a plan in place to ease the transition by ensuring that staff can follow their students and that remaining staff that stay to keep the education campus middle school programs operating, are retained with good future options. This will require a funding stream.

At the high school level, DCPS should use its advantage as a system. Each school should not have to operate essentially as an LEA. There should be support and economical purchasing options for technology and a technology plan that promotes this as well as flexibility at each site.
Most importantly DCPS should unveil a system of resources and supports that will meet students where they are at each high school. This should happen prior to the release of the report cards that will initiate the STAR rating system. It could include smaller classes, enhanced summer programs, rich extracurricular opportunities.

DCPS should be able to offer multiple language options across our schools instead of just two years of Spanish at many comprehensive high schools. We should have ways to share the fantastic career opportunities offered at a number of our schools as well as advanced math classes.

We would be delighted to work on this with you.


Jessica Sutter Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School and Banneker Academic School – November 15, 2018

Thank you Councilmember Grosso and Members of the Committee on Education for holding this Public Roundtable on plans for the Shaw Junior High School Campus. I appreciate the opportunity to testify this morning. My name is Jessica Sutter and I was recently elected to serve as the new Ward 6 Representative to the DC State Board of Education. I am here to offer my support for a middle school to be built on the land previously home to Shaw Junior High.

I have three main reasons for supporting this use of the property.

My first reason is honoring community trust. The recent DME Cross-Sector Task force report cited interest in “a cohesive, coordinated, citywide approach to education.” One suggestion for actionable, cross-sector solutions cited by the same report was the need to “share information.” I note both of these points because the current plan for the Shaw property from DC Public Schools and the Mayor’s office seems to have fallen short on both coordination and information sharing.

Community members in Shaw have been engaged in an effort to re-open a middle school on the Shaw property for a decade. Discussions about re-locating Banneker High School to the property appear to be less than a year old. These discussions began with only one community – the Banneker High School community – as part of the modernization planning process in October 2017. Even after a February 2018 meeting announced a “feasibility study” to consider the possibility of relocating Banneker HS to the Shaw site, the Shaw community was not engaged by DC Public Schools.

This change in plans for the Shaw site without engaging the Shaw community is a breach of community trust. Acting-DME Paul Kihn noted in his confirmation hearing last week that he is charged with rebuilding trust that has been lost between the community and education leaders. This recently announced plan is certainly a rough start to rebuilding trust with the Shaw community.

My second reason for supporting a middle school on the Shaw property is the possibility of building a diverse-by-design school in the heart of our city. DC’s growth in population and changing demographics has led to gentrification, increasing racial segregation in housing patterns and in school enrollment. During my campaign, I listened to neighbors who wanted strong neighborhood schools and racially diverse schools. In so many of our neighborhoods in Ward 6 – and all across DC – figuring out how to meet both of those interests is difficult, a bit like finding the mythical unicorn. But a middle school on the Shaw property – fed by Cleveland, Garrison, Ross, Seaton & Thomson ES – might come pretty close to unicorn status. Each of the schools serves a racially diverse population. Four of the five meet the community-eligibility status for Title I funds. All five serve 19 percent or more students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). At a time when our District neighbors say they want diverse, community-based schools, we have the opportunity to offer them both, in a location that is less than 1 mile from each of the slated feeder schools. (For reference, the possibility of a new middle school in the current Banneker site would be 1 mile or more walking from 4 of the 5 schools. It would be .7 miles from Cleveland ES).

My final reason for supporting a middle school on the Shaw site is meaningful choice. As part of my campaign, I made no secret of my support for the robust choice system we have developed in the District. I am glad our families have so many options when deciding on schools. But I want all our families to have a realistic opportunity to access the kinds of school choices that may best suit their child. Students should not have to travel west of the Anacostia River to have a selective admissions high school option. Students in all eight wards should have access to language immersion programs. Students in the middle of our city should have access to a traditional middle school option, serving grades 6 through 8. Right now – they don’t.

As a former middle school teacher, I think middle school is a magical time. Adolescents are fascinating. They are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Adolescence is also an awkward and challenging time. Our tweens and teens are susceptible to bullying, and struggles with depression and substance abuse. The best middle schools are home to educators who embrace the wonder and challenge that comes with this developmental stage. While a traditional middle school may not be the right configuration for every child in Shaw, it should be a choice available to families. And right now, it isn’t. Neither DCPS nor any of the public charter schools in and around Shaw, Logan Circle, or Dupont Circle offer a traditional grades 6-8 middle school program. The nearest option is Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science, a public charter school located just over a mile away from the current property, just down the street from the historic Banneker High School.

Thank you for your time and your consideration.


Suzanne Wells Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School and Banneker Academic High School – November 15, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the recent announcement that Banneker High School would be relocated to the Shaw Middle School site, and discussions would begin about future plans for a new middle school for residents who live in the Center City communities.

Today you will hear differing opinions, some supporting the decision to move Banneker Academic High School to the Shaw Junior High School campus, and others wanting to see the Shaw campus renovated for a middle school. I believe though there is much common ground among those testifying including:

– A flawed public involvement and consultation process was used to reach the decision to move Banneker to the Shaw site;
– Wanting Banneker to be renovated on schedule, and to have a high quality middle school in the next few years for students who live in the center of our city; – Our tax dollars should be spent wisely on school modernizations.

Flawed Public Involvement Process

There was $55 million in the Capital Improvement Plan as late as 2015 to renovate the Shaw Middle School as a by-right middle school for families in Wards 1, 2, 5 and 6. Without discussions with the community, the funding for the Shaw Junior High School was removed, and shifted to another school. About a year ago, in the Fall of 2017, DCPS began a feasibility study looking at moving Banneker to the Shaw Junior High School site. At no point during this time were there thoughtful discussions with parents in the center city area about how the middle school needs would be met, if Shaw Middle School was not renovated as a middle school. It appears there were limited discussions with the Banneker community after the feasibility study was completed in August 2018.

Had there been a genuine and transparent public involvement process, it would have allowed for thoughtful discussion on important issues such as:

– What are the pros and cons for expanding Banneker? And, if it is to be expanded, what is the right number?
– Are additional seats at Banneker really needed when we have an estimated 3000 open seats at our comprehensive high schools across the city? – What more should be done to strengthen our comprehensive high schools in order to attract students instead of adding more seats at a selective school?
– How might creating a middle school at the Shaw site help create predictable feeder patterns from elementary school through high school for residents in the center city?

Renovating Banneker and Creating a Center City Middle School

Nobody wants to see the renovation at Banneker delayed. It will be one of the last high schools in the city to be renovated, and it deserves a stunning renovation.

There is a general consensus that a new middle school is needed for families living in the center of our city.

Our tax dollars should be spent wisely on school modernizations

A recent analysis by Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the 21st Century School Fund, found a renovated Banneker at its current site could comfortable serve 700 students.

Her analysis also showed the current budget of $143 million to renovate Banneker is inflated. Roosevelt High School which was renovated in 2015 has twice the square footage of Banneker, and was renovated for $143 million. Banneker also received an extensive renovation to its third floor in 2017 that included a fully modernized library. Assuming limited renovation would be needed to the library, this could result in further savings and/or allow capital dollars to be used in other parts of the building. If the existing Banneker was renovated at a more reasonable cost than what is currently in the Capital Improvement Plan, the remaining funding could be put toward renovating the Shaw site as a middle school.

In closing, I recommend the city “take one step back before taking two steps forward.” The one step back would involve briefly holding off on moving Banneker to the Shaw site, and setting up a public engagement process with key stakeholders including Banneker families, families who would be served by a new Center City Middle School, and representatives from the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals, and Educators. The goal of the engagement would be to find common ground and solutions that best meet the education needs of our city. It’s only after this engagement that the city can move confidently two steps forward with renovating Banneker and creating a new middle school for residents in the center city.