Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,
I hope everyone had a restful spring break. CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, April 25, at 6:30 pm at Miner Elementary (601 15th St. NE). We will be joined by Denise Fraction and Sherry Holland-Senter with the AARP Foundation Experience Corps who will be discussing their literacy tutoring program from grades K – 3, Ivy Ken who will be updating us on food service issues, and Catharine Bellinger who will share information with us about Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Hope to see you on Tuesday.
Today, 455 individuals from all 8 wards and 3 citywide organizations (with represenation from school personnel, parents, and community members) sent a letter urging Mayor Bowser and city leaders to invest in modern and maintained schools.
“We need to invest additional resources now to fix all schools. Every child in this city deserves to attend a modern, safe and healthy building that can help them all graduate college and career ready. When we delay modernizing buildings, our maintenance and repair schedule falls further and further behind. No child or teacher should have to be in a school with pressing health and safety concerns.”
The Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization will meet on Tuesday, March 21 at Stuart Hobson Middle School (410 D Street, NE) in Room 108. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen will join us for the meeting. We will also be joined by Joe Weedon, Ward 6 State Board of Education, who will be discussing the OSSE School Accountability/State Plan that is scheduled for a SBOE vote on March 22. We’ll also be discussing potential changes to the school mental health program, the April 11 Community Engagement Session with Chancellor Wilson and Bike-to-School Day.
Hope to see you at the meeting.
Testimony of Andrea Tucker
Parent and Ward 8 Resident
DC State Board of Education Public Board Meeting on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) School Accountability Measures, March 15, 2017
Good Evening Members of the State Board of Education and thank you for allowing me to testify here today. My name is Andrea Tucker. I am a native of DC, ward 8 resident, and a parent of three at JO Wilson Elementary School, a Title I school in ward 6. I am also the PTA president, a member of the LSAT, and a proud graduate of JO Wilson Elementary School!
I want to first thank you for your 10 recommendations on how to improve the accountability plan. Your recommendations reflected many of my concerns and those of other parents I heard at a community meeting last month where OSSE presented on the plan and took questions.
Prior to the meeting, I thought that the plan would represent a new way of thinking in DC. I thought it would be an opportunity to look at our unique city and create an accountability plan that would work for our schools and for our children. That was not what I heard there. Instead, I heard about an accountability plan that rates schools almost entirely on reading and math scores.
Making sure students have access to arts, science, social studies and technology is important to having a well-rounded education. It is something we should encourage in every school across the city. So I was glad to see your recommendations on the need to evaluate our schools based on a well-rounded education and not focus so narrowly.
We know that not all schools are equal in their course offerings now and this plan should be one way to push the system toward equity, not create wider divisions in quality. If all schools are judged by not just reading and math but other subjects, wouldn’t that be one way to encourage all schools to offer them?
I hope that you will make these changes toward a well-rounded education view now and not wait and revisit the need for it later. My concern is that once the plan goes through the approval process, we may not have a chance to revisit it. I have not seen the final plan to know whether it has been and how much has been included there.
As a proud DCPS alumni and a current parent with children in DCPS, I have been a witness to what makes a great school. While test scores are one factor I use to judge a school, it is definitely not the only one. I also care a lot about the culture and climate of the school. It is important that kids are safe and that the environment in the school is conducive to learning. I was glad to see your recommendations address culture and climate in understanding the quality of a school. I am hopeful it is now a part of the plan and not one to put off for the future. I also care about holding teachers and staff accountable for children’s learning or lack there of. No child should go to middle or high school reading on a second grade level.
I do not believe that the State Board of Education should approve this plan without having OSSE make these changes first and allowing the public to have one more opportunity to review it. We have done our part by attending the meetings or reading the plan. OSSE has not done it’s part in sharing back changes in a timely manner so I have not had time to understand any of the changes.
I will close by saying that the community meeting I attended in Ward 6 was a large gathering of parents who were diverse in every way, but we were united in our questions, concerns, and goals. That was very reassuring to know that we are all pushing in a similar direction for our children and I hope city leaders are listening and will make the necessary changes.
Thank you for your time and for inviting public testimony on this issue tonight.
Testimony of Erin Thesing
Fifth Grade Teacher at Maury Elementary School & Ward 1 Community Member
State Board of Education Public Hearing on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) School Accountability Measures, March 15, 2017
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. I have taught in a range of elementary schools–a no-excuses turnaround charter school, a project-based learning charter school that was in Focus status, and now, a traditional public school. These experiences have proven to me that school accountability plans have a profound impact on teaching in all schools, and especially those that serve our most vulnerable students. And when high-stakes standardized tests are the primary metric, they permeate teaching and learning in harmful ways. The PARCC is an unreliable measure of our students and should not have the lion’s share of the weight in how we assess them and our schools. This is why I ask you to vote NO on OSSE’s state accountability plan.
When PARCC scores are the primary metric of school success, less time is reserved for useful assessments and meaningful learning experiences. Instead, test prep occupies classroom and planning time. Where once we gathered to study student writing and math problem solving to craft teaching points, teachers now dedicate meetings perseverating over how we can move students a few percentage points on the PARCC and reviewing the most recent predictive standardized test data.
Our students feel it acutely. This year, during predictive assessments, computers shut down mid-test. Essays that were painstakingly typed finger by finger suddenly deleted. Last year, in my second grade class, trackpads on laptops proved difficult to use by the seven-year-old fingers that tried to drag and drop a ruler to measure an apple on the screen. And then our children cried. Some even banged their head against desks saying hurtful things about themselves.
All of this for a test that provides only a small snapshot of what our children can do. Teachers know that good teaching requires useful assessments that show us what our children can do and what we need to teach next.
When I taught second grade, I created an assessment in which I observed my second graders use actual rulers and meter sticks (not one they had to drag on a computer screen) to measure the distance of a rolled toy car and then discussed their mathematical process and thinking. This revealed their process, not just their answer. I could see when they left a gap between the ruler when iterating it, or looked at the wrong side and reported centimeters instead of inches. I knew exactly what to teach next.
This year, my fifth graders read research studies and newspaper and journal articles to research the benefits and consequences of serving chocolate milk in school cafeterias. They formed arguments, developed thesis statements, found evidence to support their reasons, and acknowledged and rebutted counterarguments. They then organized this information to present panel presentations to school administrators, the PTA, cafeteria staff, and the central office nutrition team, buttoning up their uniform shirts to the top of the collar and confidently making their case. The same students who cried during our standardized testing the week before beamed as they walked away from this assessment, patting each other on the back and saying, “I had no idea we could do that! We sounded so smart!” And they did. Using a rubric, I evaluated their work against the Common Core Standards and knew exactly what to do next to strengthen their argument writing.
Creating rigorous, useful assessments that ask students to synthesize skills is the first step in the planning process. When we backwards plan we ask, “How will we know if our students can do this?” and then, “What skills do we need to teach so they they can do it?” When a computer-based test is the final assessment, we are in turn asked to teach the skills for the test. School accountability measures need to make room for assessments that provide useful information for parents and teachers to know how to best support their children. A PARCC score alone does not do this.
Relying on PARCC as our primary measure of school success is the convenient choice. Creating useful and comprehensive assessments that truly measure a student’s growth and achievement is challenging work, but they are essential to good teaching and good schools. I urge you vote NO on the proposed plan because it places too much weight on standardized testing and it will leave little room for teachers to create useful assessments that will actually guide student learning.
Testimony of Caryn Ernst
State Board of Education
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
School Accountability Measures
March 15, 2017
Dear SBOE Members,
Thank you for developing ten outstanding recommendations for changes to the Every Students Succeeds Act draft accountability plan. Your ten recommended changes are an excellent reflection of the diverse and extensive feedback you gathered through community meetings, conversations and testimony.
More importantly, your recommendations provide thoughtful guidance for OSSE on how to construct an accountability system that corrects the deep flaws of NCLB and meets the intentions of the ESSA requirements to broaden accountability by adding to test scores and graduation rates indicators of “school quality or student success.” As the U.S. Department of Education noted – “[this requirement] presents an opportunity for States to develop robust, multi-measure accountability systems that help districts and schools ensure each student has access to a well-rounded education [.]”
As your recommendations make clear, OSSE’s current proposal relies on measures developed under NCLB and continues the many flaws of NCLB that have resulted in our schools becoming increasingly segregated with a persistent achievement gap.
IF OSSE incorporates your recommendations, the District will have an opportunity to reverse those damaging trends. However, during the public meetings OSSE seemed disinclined to commit the time and effort required to adapt its approach to create a new robust, multi-measure accountability system that ensures each student has access to a well-rounded education.
I urge you to reject any proposal from OSSE that does not incorporate all ten of your thoughtful and strategic recommendations.
As you know well, OSSE does not need to submit this proposal in April and has the time to incorporate all of your changes before the September deadline. There is no downside to you rejecting an incomplete proposal in March, but significant downsides to you capitulating to OSSE’s narrow and simplistic measures of school quality.
I applaud your willingness to gather robust feedback from your constituents and your ability to translate that feedback into a comprehensive and strategic approach to measuring school accountability. But all of that effort will have been wasted if you accept a plan from OSSE that doesn’t reflect the results of the hard work and commitment that you and your constituents have shown to getting this right.
Your guidance to the OSSE plan has been one of the most important roles that you serve as an elected school board and your vote on OSSE’s plan will be the most important action you take, as the school accountability system impacts every aspect of the education of every child in the District.
As your constituents, we urge you to do the right thing by our schools and our children by voting NO to an OSSE accountability proposal that does not incorporate all ten of your excellent recommendations.
I offer my most sincere appreciation for your dedication and hard work.
DCPS parent, Ward 6 resident
Testimony of Sandra Moscoso
State Board of Education
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
March 15, 2017
Good evening SBOE members. Please consider this my ‘Just in Time’ testimony, given OSSE’s March 14 response to SBOE.
I am Sandra Moscoso, a parent of students enrolled in BASIS DC Charter School and Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan – two very different schools with two very different approaches to education.
While my children in these very different schools perform similarly on the PARCC, their schools fall into very different “categories” of overall student body performance. Our family values both schools and the opportunities each school have afforded our children, and I can confirm the value we place in the schools is much broader than PARCC results.
With this in mind, I worry about how an accountability structure which focuses too heavily on a narrow measure of PARCC results, could (and does) translate into inequity within my own family. One of my children attends a school with the flexibility to offer art, social studies, and prioritizes foreign language, while my other child’s school moves mountains to do the above, while subject to the mandatory magic bullet of the day, and heavily scrutinized, giving up instruction time to constant testing.
I am hopeful that the approach (while still limited) of giving more weight to indicators outside of PARCC performance when evaluating school success or accountability, will indirectly address some of today’s inequities in DC’s education system. We want all schools to have access to arts, enrichment, science, civic studies. We don’t want lower performing schools, who may be addressing very diverse student needs, to continue to struggle to provide robust learning environments in a frenzy to chase down test scores. Our schools should be able to meet the goal of growth without sacrificing equity. Your recommendations support a step in this direction.
We have this unique opportunity to broaden school accountability beyond the current testing paradigm. Excluding or diminishing academic and non-academic indicators like school climate, social studies, arts, etc., is a huge opportunity missed.
Thank you, SBOE for representing the voice of DC parents in this discussion. I also thank OSSE, who in their March 14 summary of public engagement feedback, acknowledges what we have heard parents say over and over again: we want less weight on standardized tests, growth matters, and school climate is important.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this testimony.