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Kaylynn Flemons Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

Good Afternoon Members of DC Council, thank you for allowing us to come and testify here today.

My name is Kaylynn Flemons and I am a 5th grade student in the wonderful school, J.O. Wilson Elementary. I have attended J.O. Wilson for the entirety of my academic career thus far, going as far back to preschool. You should listen to me because I am a active contributor to my school. Since preschool, I have worked hard to be a role model to fellow students. Last year, I was the treasurer of our student government, got 100% on the Anet test, scored advanced on PARCC, and in 3rd grade won 2nd place in the school’s science fair.

Thank you for giving us the things we needed in the past, including the glass front doors that helped with our safety, but now we need your help with a MAJOR issue. I am here today to share my personal story.
Earlier this year, on February 12th, I had major surgery on my knee. After my surgery, I was restricted to a wheelchair. My mom asked my school, “How is she going to continue with her classes” since most of my classes are on the 3rd floor. My only option was to to try to walk up the stairs. Because of this need, I had to meet with a physical therapist to learn how to use crutches correctly on the stairs. Once I got upstairs on the 3rd floor, I was able to use my wheelchair. I missed several weeks of classes, to include lunch and aftercare, that were on other floors because I was unable to go up and down stairs throughout the day.

This leads to my issue: J.O. Wilson is in desperate need of an elevator. To add to my story, at first going up stairs for me was a struggle, four sets of stairs may not sound like a lot, but from my point in view, and anyone else with similar limitations, let’s just say it’s harder than it looks. When I walk up the stairs, it feels like every time I go up a set, another set of stairs adds on like a infinite journey. It’s not only hard to walk up the stairs, it takes time from class so every time I go up stairs for the day I miss a little bit of class every day.

A new elevator would positively affect not just me, but injured kids, disabled kids, even injured or disabled family members like the time a disabled father came to see his child at a performance but could not go. Kids in my school neighborhood who are disabled cannot go to our neighborhood school.

Also, when some of my peers injure their leg, knee, ankle or foot, worried parents either don’t allow them to go to school or spend a lot of time advocating for them. With an elevator, all of these problems can be solved. If you do decide to help us, I would ask that you make it a top priority since we have actually been promised an elevator in past years.

The elevator is important because of safety. Besides education, safety is the number one thing parents want. Without an elevator, an injured or disabled kid will definitely be at risk of getting more injured. For example, one time while I was walking down the steps, a second grader zoomed down the steps almost knocking me over while I was on the crutches.

You may think “why should she care, she’s leaving this school year”, but I care about my school and I have faced that same problem twice during my time at J.O. Wilson– besides, I’ll have lots of friends and three brothers still at the school next year, and I don’t want anyone to have the same challenging and unsafe experience in the future.

Once again, thanks for listening and we hope the elevator that has been promised for the last few years will actually be installed this year. Please make it a top priority, our safety and education depends on it.

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Suzanne Wells Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Suzanne Wells. My daughter is in 7th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School, our family’s in-bound neighborhood DC public school. I am on the school’s LSAT.

Last night four Eliot-Hine students attended and reported on the America’s Promise Alliance gala that was at the Newseum. The America’s Promise Alliance seeks to keep five promises to the youth in this country that form the conditions they need to achieve success as adults. One of those promises is an effective education.

The parents and community members of the Eliot-Hine Middle School LSAT expressed our concern to DCPS that the SY18/19 budget allocation for Eliot-Hine is insufficient to meet the needs of the student body given the large percentage of students who are below grade level in reading and math. Last year, 88% of the students performed below grade level or partially met grade level expectations in math, and 73% performed below grade level or partially met grade level expectations in English language arts. That translates into almost 150 students being one or more grade levels behind in reading and almost 175 students not performing at grade level in math. These students came to Eliot-Hine not reading or performing math on grade level. It is not a problem Eliot-Hine created.

Despite focusing almost all of the school’s budget on classroom teaching in core subjects, the LSAT did not believe the current budget allowed for a staffing framework that will support students and empower them to make significant gains in their learning. We requested a relatively small additional outlay from DCPS that would 1) allow the school to partner with City Year, which would provide substantial additional classroom support at a low cost to help the school meet the needs of the large number of students performing significantly below grade level in both reading and math, and 2) fund a full-time librarian to both support student literacy as well as the implementation of Eliot-Hine’s International Baccalaureate program.

City Year is designed to provide one-on-one or group tutoring before, during and after school to help students who are struggling with their academic work. If the school is provided with an additional $105K, it would be able to have ten City Year staff who would work under the direction of the classroom teachers to provide one-on-one or group tutoring to the students who are significantly below grade level in both ELA and math. Individual and small group work has shown to be successful at helping students who are below grade level achieve growth.

The current budget only allows for a 0.5 librarian. A library resource specialist is a critical component in advancing student literacy and supporting student improvement. These specialists also play a central role in supporting the International Baccalaureate curriculum in general and specifically in supporting our 8th grade students as they research and implement their year-long IB Community Service projects. Our school community has invested a lot of effort in building up the library resources, and a full-time librarian also ensures our collection, which includes resources for readers ranging from several grades below grade level to several grades above grade level, is fully accessible and can support our school’s literacy goals and growth targets for individual students. A full-time staff person is also more invested in the school community and has more time to support literacy initiatives outside of the classroom, such as facilitating book clubs or broader school-wide reading initiatives.

In addition, the Eliot-Hine budget does not allow the school to meet DCPS’ own International Baccalaureate staffing requirements that include providing the students with two world languages. Like this year, the school will only offer Spanish, and not a second language.

A student who is performing below grade level at the 6th grade has only a 25% chance of graduating from high school on time. As a city, we should be investing most heavily in those schools with the greatest needs. Let’s not wait till the Eliot-Hine students are about to graduate from high school and determine they are neither college nor career ready. As a city, let’s help them today by adequately supporting Eliot-Hine so these students can reach their full potential. Let’s keep our promise to them that they will get an effective education.

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Katy Thomas Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 18, 2018

Chairman Grosso, Councilman Allen, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I really appreciate this opportunity since I was out of town for spring break during the original DCPS Budget Oversight hearing in late March. I am not an education policy expert or an education budget analyst. This is our family’s second year participating in DCPS and the first school year I have really tried to pay attention to not only what is happening in our school building, but what is happening with our school system. I clearly picked the wrong year to start taking notice.

I serve as the Civic Liaison for the Miner Elementary PTO, where two of my children are enrolled (Kindergarten & PK3). Miner is our in-bounds neighborhood school, three blocks from our house and is in the home stretch of ending a really great year. We were thrilled to have Bruce Jackson named as permanent principal in February; our new administration team has infused the school with excitement and positive changes for students, teachers, staff, parents and the community.

In preparing for today’s hearing, I reviewed parent testimony from the last time Miner representatives testified before this committee, in February 2016. Three Miner parent leaders cited the years of failed efforts by waves of Miner parents working earnestly to end the cycle of failure for Miner students. Something that struck me from their testimony was the following:
We sit before you as the next wave. Will you help us break this cycle? If you don’t, then be prepared for the saddest Groundhog Day ever – where at next year’s hearing, a new wave of earnest parent leaders will come before you and tell you the same story, as others have done before us. And once again, hundreds of poor black and brown students will again spend another year failing to get the education they deserve. This is an embarrassing cycle that must be broken; we shouldn’t have to work so hard for an amazing public education for our children. That should be just what our kids get.
Sadly, all three of those parent leaders from 2016 have since left Miner for schools with more dynamic programs, presumably where they don’t have to work so hard to get their kids an amazing education. So, here I sit….part of the new wave of earnest parents seeking more for Miner kids.

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 for us could be resolved with a more common-sense based budget. The Miner FY2018-19 budget fails to provide enough resources for us to continue to afford a 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 math scores are 16 percent, ELA scores are 8 percent and we continue to face declining enrollment. The commitment by our new school leaders, combined with a more involved and engaged parent body signals a positive new direction, but our new earnest administration leaders and parent body cannot do this alone.

FACILITIES
Miner’s current building is relatively new, yet our outdoor campus is in desperate need of comprehensive renovations to provide safe, suitable and age-appropriate outdoor learning and play-based experiences for our students. One of the best and most recent examples of investing in outdoor learning facilities is just a few blocks away at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary. By partnering with school leadership, parent leaders and community members, all Capitol Hill families can be proud of the improvements at Ludlow-Taylor. Miner parents, school leaders and community members are ready and willing to make that success story happen at our school.

Throughout the past few years, Miner’s outdoor campus has been the victim of a number of vandalism incidents, including arson during non-school hours. A top priority for our PTO is to work with all appropriate city agencies to install a complete upgrade of our outdoor security systems to address the continued irresponsible use and vandalism during non-school hours. We understand DCPS has initiated a process to identify the many outdoor security needs, yet the most robust plans cannot make an impact if left unfunded. Based upon conversations with our ANC leaders and community advocates involved in neighborhood playground renovations, we estimate this endeavor will require a minimum $1 million budget in order to update all outdoor security systems, play areas and learning spaces. We strongly advocate for a deliberate and cohesive approach to improving and securing the campus.

AT-RISK FUNDING
The Washington Post article by Perry Stein published April 14, 2018 put a new spotlight on how DCPS budgeting is not meeting its obligations for our schools and more importantly, at-risk children within our schools. This article comes on the heels testimony you have recently heard from many witnesses, including DCPS budget analyst volunteer extraordinaire Mary Levy, who pointed out to you in her March 28 testimony, DCPS continues to use at-risk funds to supplant core program funding in direct violation of the law. Additionally, the October 2017 report from the Office of the D.C. Auditor (ODCA) 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.”
The recommendation from the October 2017 ODCA report to the Council was to provide careful oversight on how at-risk funding is being utilized and whether those uses are consistent with your legislative intent. The Post article from last weekend quoted Chairman Grosso as recognizing the seriousness of the problem, but having no solutions to remedy this widely-acknowledged breach of intent. In a city brimming with smart, highly compensated, Type A personality professionals, I reject the sentiment that there are no avenues to hold the school system accountable. 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 echo the recent testimony of fellow Ward 6 parent leader, Heather Schoell, who pressed this committee 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.

TECHNOLOGY
Last fall, I was encouraged to read then-Chancellor Wilson’s commitment to address inadequate technology funding of DCPS schools in his response to the ODCA report. Specifically, the report made four recommendations to DCPS, including one focused on technology:
Recommendation #4:
DCPS should create and make public a multi-year technology needs plan to define and provide adequate technology to each school. The plan should include expected costs and and planned funding sources.
DCPS Response: DCPS agrees with recommendation #4. Prior to the issuance of this draft audit report, DCPS’ Office of Information Technology began work to develop a comprehensive Technology Roadmap. Our roadmap includes five key areas: devices, infrastructure services, shared technology platforms, technology proficiency and data reporting. These core focus areas will provide mass enhancements in all areas of concern as detailed in the report. To date, the initial draft of our Technology Roadmap has been shared internally within DCPS’ central administration to obtain feedback from internal stakeholders. Additional feedback will be sought from school-based leaders, teachers, students, parents and members of the community. Upon completion and approval of the Technology Roadmap, the associated funding requests will be presented during the FY19 budget process.

The response from ODCA recognized DCPS’ response to draft a Technology Roadmap, but pushed back with the need for a multi-year technology plan to that defines and funds the school system’s technology needs while also providing ongoing maintenance and upgrades of existing equipment. Chancellor Wilson’s response to the ODCA report was the first and last I’ve heard or read about a DCPS Technology Roadmap or any funding requests for FY19.

I urge the Committee to inquire on the status of the Technology Roadmap, a timeline for engagement of school-based leaders, teachers, students, parents and members of the community and whether students and schools will have to wait yet another year before the overwhelming need for technology is addressed. At minimum, any 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 or individual school budgets provided enough resources to meet the requirements.

Prior to the start of SY2016-17, DCPS removed eighty (80) computers from Miner that were approximately a decade old. In return, central office provided thirty (30) laptops for teacher and staff use, but the devices were configured for students instead of staff, which made actual utilization by staff a headache. To mitigate the overwhelming need for additional computers, a staff member acquired a small number of used computers, yet significant needs remain. The 2017 ODCA report quotes a central office staffer noting, “Miner student technology is in desperate need of an upgrade.”

Current DCPS budget guidance on technology is for schools themselves use their budget to refresh one-fourth of technology, so that everything ends up getting refreshed every four years. However, budget allocations don’t provide anywhere near enough to refresh one-fourth of computers per year. To illustrate the bare minimum budget needs:
Twenty (20) general education classrooms times five (5) computers/class (average) x $500 per computer (cheapest student computer on menu from DCPS) = $50,000 x 1/4 = $12,500 per year from the school’s budget. This illustration does not include teacher computers, tablets, printers or projectors or any other technology, nor does it include special education classrooms, specials classrooms OR providing more than five computers per classroom.

For FY19, Miner’s proposed budget provided approximately $5,000 for “at-risk technology”. The budget guidance for at-risk technology states: To successfully compete in a global workforce, all students must be able to be comfortable with and capable of using basic technology. Technology in schools must also support instructional goals and support online assessments. In order to ensure all DCPS students have an equitable distribution of, and access to technology, DCPS is allocating additional funds for technology to schools with at least 25% students identified as at-risk for academic failure.
This is a really inspiring statement that comes nowhere near reality. At a November 2017 DCPS budget field hearing, I challenged Chancellor Wilson and his staff to perform their jobs on the technology utilized by Miner students and staff. Today, I pose the same challenge to members of this committee and the Council at large. I suspect living up to the at-risk technology statement detailed above and investing in technology would soon find its way to becoming a budget priority if my challenge was accepted.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE INITIATIVE
Miner is a participating school in DCPS’ Restorative Justice (RJ) Initiative for both community building and as a response to student behavior. We have seen an overwhelming reduction of suspensions this year compared to last. For this initial year of RJ implementation at Miner, a handful of trained adults are using reactive circles in order to respond to occurrences of misbehavior; teachers are 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 the committee to fully fund the RJ program and ensure the DCPS implementation plan will prioritize scaling within the same feeder pattern, rather than randomly increasing the number of schools participating each year.

Despite this being the first year I have taken the time to educate myself about our school system, I sincerely appreciate the years and years of hard work this committee and countless others have invested to make improvements for our students. 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 with the committee to ensure we are doing everything possible to set our children up for success.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today.

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DME’S Advisory Group on Community Use of Public Space – Public Meeting April 25

The Advisory Group on Community Use of Public Space will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 25th at 6:30pm at the Woodridge Library, 1801 Hamlin St NE, Washington, DC 20018.  The Advisory Group, called together by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and comprising residents of the District of Columbia who utilize public spaces, will discuss initial recommendations, community use of non-permitted spaces, and the deliverable schedule.

The role of the Advisory Group is to provide advice and recommendations to the DME regarding District policies and procedures related to community use of public spaces, including fields, gyms, classrooms, meeting rooms, and other District facilities.

Goals of the Advisory Group include ensuring equitable access to public space, streamlining the reservation of public spaces, increasing transparency around processes and fees, and encouraging greater use of public spaces overall.

Individuals and representatives of organizations who wish to comment at the public meeting are asked to notify Alex Cross in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education in advance by phone at (202) 727-9543 or by email at alexander.cross@dc.gov. Individuals should provide their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and organizational affiliation, if any, by the close of business on April 23, 2018, and should submit one (1) electronic copy of their testimony in advance for the permanent record.                        

Date:                     April 25, 2018

Time:                    6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

 Location:             Woodridge Library

                                1801 Hamlin St NE, Washington, DC 20018

 

Contact:               Alex Cross

Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education

(202) 727-9543

alexander.cross@dc.gov

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CHPSPO Meeting Notes– April 17, 2018

Miner Elementary School 601 15th St., NE

April 17, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

 

  1. Feedback Session on School Report Cards, Chloe Woodward-Magrane, OSSE
  • Engagement period on content is closed, focused on what the content will look like, vis a vis report card.
  • Please share with your communities – public can provide feedback on wireframes via: https://64d26337.optimalworkshop.com/questions/n3un6n60
  • Discussion:
    • Concerns about persistence of STAR rating across report card header, and the potentially negative impact on schools with low rating (ESSA assigns 70% of weight to standardized test performance – if STAR rating follows suit, the majority of schools will score poorly)
    • STAR approach is too much like ‘amazon’ ratings, which communicate ratings based on crowd feedback – report card design has no ‘citizen feedback’ opportunities
    • School profile:
      • Prioritize information like principal name/contact; deprioritize transportation options
      • Additional data points: School Facility Modernization status, student population by ward/neighborhood, more context around performance while taking into account special education population
  1. Should CHPSPO host a Ward 6 Councilmember candidate forum focused on education?
  • Short discussion; not much appetite, given it is the end of the school year and it’s budget season.
  1. Bike-to-School Day, Sandra Moscoso-Mills
  • Mayor Bowser, Councilmember Charles Allen, National Park Service, Interim Chancellor Alexander, National Transportation Safety Board’s Bella Dinh-Zarr, JO Wilson Cheerleaders, National Center for Safe Routes to School, DC Water, Kathy Pugh Running, Gabriella Boston, Metropolitan Police Department, DDoT, The Daily Rider, LimeBike, SBOE’s Joe Weedon, CityBikes, Zeke’s Coffee, Story of Our Schools and more!
  • Selfie stations, helmet checks, helmet giveaways, NPS ranger badges, CaBi’s BikeinBloom, Wendy the Water Drop, light snacks, and more!

Next CHPSPO Meeting: May 15, 2018

Upcoming Events

DC Council Performance Oversight and Budget Hearings

Thursday, April 19, DCPS Budget Hearing, government witnesses (Wilson Building)

Bike-to-School Day

Wednesday, May 9, 7:30 am – 8:30 am, Lincoln Park, 13th and East Capitol St., SE

Ward 6 City Council Candidate Forums

Monday, April 30, 7 – 9 pm, The Hill Center, 901 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

Tuesday, June 5, 7 – 9 pm, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St., SW

Capitol Hill Community Engagement IB Meeting

Wednesday April 25, 6 pm, Eastern High School

 

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CHPSPO Meets April 17 at Miner Elementary

CHPSPO will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 17, at 6:30 pm at Miner Elementary School, 601 15th St., NE. Representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) will be at the meeting to review the draft school report card, and to gather feedback from us. The report card OSSE is developing will share information about all public schools in DC. This report card is being developed as part of DC’s State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Please extend an invitation to your school communities about this feedback session, and encourage those who are interested to attend.

In addition, OSSE released an online survey for parents and families to provide feedback on the design of the report card. Please encourage your school communities to take the online survey. These report cards are going to be very important in the future as parents will likely use them to inform their impressions of our neighborhood schools. The online survey will be available through Friday, May 4.

On Monday, the National Park Service will hold an Emancipation Day event at Lincoln Park from 2 – 8 pm. From 2 – 5 pm there will be family-fun activities, and from 6:30 – 7:30 pm there will be a reenactment of the unveiling of the Lincoln statue along with a recreation of Frederick Douglass’ dedication speech. It’ll be a great way to observe Emancipation Day.

041718 CHPSPO Agenda.docx

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DME’s Attendance Summit – April 21

1 in 4 students in Washington DC is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10% or more of the school year. Chronic absenteeism is strongly linked to falling behind academically and dropping out of high school, and missing just two days a month can put students at risk of academic failure.

Join us Saturday, April 21 for the Every Day Counts! Attendance Summit, where participants will gain knowledge of research, local resources, and promising practices to help improve student attendance in Washington DC. Our event will kick off with a breakfast pep rally, featuring student performances and conversations with policymakers.

Register Here!

DME-Attendance Summit Post 1.3 (1)

 

The DME encourage you to extend invitations to others in your community and attend as a team, as teams will have an opportunity to reflect together on next steps. We’ve designed the attached toolkit, which will provide you with the communications tools to spread awareness and increase your community’s involvement at the upcoming summit.

Summit Teams might include:

  • Teachers and school staff
  • Students, parents and family members
  • Local business owners, faith leaders, and organizers
  • Health and safety professionals
  • Community-based organizations
  • Others who should be part of the conversation

The Summit will run from 9:30am to 3:00pm EST at Ron Brown High School, 4800 Meade Street NE. The event is hosted by The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, in partnership with Kinvolved, a national organization focused on engaging students, parents, and families in increasing student attendance.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Katrina Ballard for any additional information.

DME Attendance Summit Toolkit