Valerie Jablow Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Public Roundtable on the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I am Valerie Jablow. As a parent of teenage DCPS students who started with DCPS in preK, I would like to connect that experience to this moment as you consider the chancellor nominee:

Hardly any of my kids’ teachers are still left in their elementary and middle schools. Most left because they were treated poorly or refused to teach test prep. We have had at least 10 principals leave in that time. All my kids’ schools have annual budget shortfalls that result in programming uncertainty or cuts. When we parents plead for something for our schools, no matter how basic (i.e., windows that don’t leak), we are told it means another school will go without. I have never heard this zero sum game invoked when a new school is approved or expanded. And when I speak to DC leaders about schools of right as vital civic assets that ensure rights are upheld–not just another choice–I hear silence.

Despite the public’s consistent demand for equitable neighborhood schools of right[1], our schools of right have had wildly inequitable funding, offerings, and support that appears to track with socioeconomic capital[2]. As test scores also track with socioeconomics[3], some schools of right will soon likely face closure[4]. And our relative school ratings ensure we will always have low-rated schools[5], thus providing a steady market for privatizers.

Since I became a DCPS parent in 2005, many of our city’s public schools have been closed[6]. Some neighborhoods now lack any school of right[7]. As charter growth here has no ceiling[8], DCPS has continued to lose school share everywhere except in wealthy areas[9], while our supply of school seats has greatly outstripped our student population[10]. Yet, we have made little progress closing our achievement gap, improving attendance, or involving the public meaningfully in school decision making[11].

Because of all that, here are some questions I would like you to get answers on from this nominee:

  1. Will you commit to closing no DCPS schools and commit to privatizing none? If not, why not?
  2. Under what circumstances will you be willing to publicly go against the executive and what she or her staff recommend or want?
  3. What did you learn from the school sex abuse scandal in Indianapolis and what are you doing to ensure nothing like that happens in DCPS? Will you put into place rules that will require the first action to be reporting to law enforcement? If not, why not?
  4. How will you address disparities in offerings at DCPS schools of right, particularly at the middle and high school level, as an Alice Deal for All is more remote than ever?[12]

These questions are at the heart of the pain I and tens of thousands of other public school parents have experienced for the better part of two decades here. If you, as members of our only statutorily meaningful elected oversight body for public schools, are not willing to ask these questions of this nominee, please let us know why.

Thank you.

[1] This has been articulated loudly and clearly at nearly every hearing held by the council education committee in the last 5 years by my recollection. It was also codified within the boundaries commission report of 2014. See here: https://dme.dc.gov/book/student-assignment-and-school-boundaries-review-process

[2] This too has been articulated loudly and clearly at nearly every hearing held by the council education committee in the last 5 years. To see what it looks like in terms of at risk money, school libraries, teachers, and modernizations (to name just a few documented areas), see the following, respectively: https://chpspo.org/tag/at-risk-funding/ and https://educationdc.net/2018/04/05/inequitable-funding-in-dcps-yes-it-is-as-bad-as-you-feared/; https://educationdc.net/2017/01/31/dcps-school-libraries-the-continuing-saga-of-the-inequitable-and-underfunded/, https://educationdc.net/2018/07/15/how-to-have-effective-teachers-in-every-school-or-what-dc-doesnt-do-but-should/ and https://twitter.com/VJablow/status/1088814384103739399. Regarding inequitable programmatic offerings in DCPS high schools, our new deputy mayor for education had nothing to say when I noted how my high school of right offers 1 foreign language, while one across town offers FIVE. See here: https://twitter.com/VJablow/status/1070009677918994433 Unbelievably, the inequity even goes into snow removal: https://twitter.com/joeweedon/status/1085152922663559173

[3] See here for an analysis by researcher Betsy Wolf: https://twitter.com/betsyjwolf/status/1071440317218504704

[4] Melissa Kim at DCPS said as much during the December 4, 2018 meeting of SHAPPE, noting that the writing is on the wall regarding DCPS closures next school year. In addition, on p. 35 of our ESSA plan (see here, it notes that after a few years of low test scores a school is subject to takeover by another operator.

[5] I discuss this toward the end of this blog post here: https://educationdc.net/2019/01/31/talking-transparency-now-with-a-petition/ The relativity of the star rating, along with the fact that the number of 5 star schools is capped, came up at an LSAT meeting at one of my children’s schools. Oddly, for a system based on so-called “market” principles, it would seem that the only incentive involved here is punishment.

[6] Again, thanks to researcher Betsy Wolf for tracking this, since no one in our city government appears to be doing so OR tracking the public money lost when, say, a charter school pours millions of dollars of public money in its privately owned facility, only to close and the facility is then unavailable for public use despite the massive expenditure of those funds. See here: https://twitter.com/betsyjwolf/status/1068622214357020672

[7] Some examples off the top of my head: Woodridge (Taft and Woodridge closures; both are charter schools); Mayfair (River Terrace was closed as a neighborhood school); Eastland Gardens (Kenilworth was closed and was offered to a charter outside the process mandated by DC code); Fort Lincoln (Marshall was closed—which ironically had been the receiving school for when Woodridge was closed). All of these neighborhoods are surrounded by high volume commuter roads, such that getting in and out is not easy for children younger than teens on foot. Moreover, each neighborhood has a fair amount of land and housing devoted to them, such that a critical mass of kids could be available—even if all do not elect to attend their neighborhood school. But when you destroy that network of publicly owned schools—arising out of the symbiotic relationship between the city, peoples’ living patterns, and the need to ensure rights in education in every quarter–then you are precluding rights. It’s not exactly a surprise that the in boundary schools for kids in those areas are not well-attended. Our city has thusly not only precluded the possibility of a school of right in every neighborhood, but also ensured a steady supply of kids to charters that moved in. We have never had a conversation about this as a city—it’s been done by fiat, without the public’s direct consent.

[8] The SRA calls for only 10 new charter schools a year—but there is no ceiling on the expansion of already existing charters. As a result, even a conservative forecast for sector growth, from the recent master facilities plan, calls for DCPS to become a minority school system. See here: https://twitter.com/wperkinsDC/status/1064716723180486656

Gotta ask: are you prepared for the ramifications for DC education rights? Because that 2027 scenario in that link means a whole lot of kids will be forced to give up rights they enjoy now in DCPS.

[9] This is mainly Ward 3, whose plans for school expansion are outlined in two recent documents: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1H-DR6yCFkXcynseHcWQTu6R0JGeNcHpM and https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WmiwqnRQ_xFgjxTWQfIHHP6qe4RNQ34e

In both documents, the idea of limiting out of bounds enrollment in Ward 3 schools was not desired due to issues of diversity (i.e., Ward 3 schools without OOB kids are not diverse). As laudable as diversity in Ward 3 schools is, as a policy matter effected by accepting kids out of bounds (OOB), it inevitably makes capacity an issue in that ward.

This is not without consequence: Building extra DCPS capacity in a ward with relatively few resident kids will inevitably mean that outside of Ward 3, the crunch of low enrollment at DCPS schools will accelerate, such that the “trend” in the footnote above (showing essentially the massive shrinking of DCPS) will look quaint.

Curiously, there was no mention of busing Ward 3 kids to other schools such that the diversity of *those* schools is increased.

In the end, the diversity of Ward 3 schools with selected OOBs slots at young ages comes with a price that in Ward 3 presents itself solely as overcrowding–while the price in other wards is continuing severe underenrollment of DCPS neighborhood schools. One can argue this is a chicken/egg thing (those schools were bad or not resourced enough, ergo everyone left who could get to Ward 3), but regardless, the pattern is clear and, from my perspective on the east side of rock creek park, very damaging.

Again, I must ask: are you prepared for the denial of rights that the massive shrinkage of DCPS everywhere but in Ward 3 represents?

It doesn’t have to be this way: the city could do the slow and steady work of provisioning those schools outside Ward 3 adequately such that parents would not feel that they have no choice. Right now, there is nothing in place to ensure that this happens. It’s not rocket science—it’s slow, steady hard work that takes years of effort and commitment.

What are you willing to do?

[10] The 21st Century School Fund in 2017 created one of the most grotesque documentations I have ever seen of this oversupply of school seats here: https://educationdc.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/excess.pdf Even if half of this is disputed, it’s still a large number. Growth of our student population under any forecast shown in our current master facilities plan can almost entirely be accommodated with existing seats.

[11] All of these have been documented exhaustively in council and state board of education hearings, the latter especially regarding how our ESSA plan—with a 70% test weight—doesn’t follow what the public relentlessly said it wanted. The test weight, however, was what DFER wanted—and phone banked its way to. And of course, we know the public had NO input into Bard and Banneker, all the while the plans themselves did not follow the PACE act nor were accounted for in terms of where that money will come from: https://educationdc.net/2018/12/31/failing-high-school-dc-style/

[12] At a recent SHAPPE meeting, on January 22, 2019, the chart below was handed out, which is a handy, if incomplete, look at just how inequitable offerings in our high schools are. Ron Brown, for instance, was founded to provide young African American men opportunities they would not get in other high schools. It has the fewest programs here. I would wager that if Banneker and School Without Walls had been included, the shame encoded on this chart would be much greater.

shappe

 

Suzanne Wells Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Public Roundtable on the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization, and the parent of an 8th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

I first want to thank Amanda Alexander who has served as interim Chancellor.  She stepped into the role at a difficult time, and she led DCPS for the past year with a calm and steady hand.

Last March, the Education Committee held a hearing on the Future of School Reform in the District of Columbia.  I testified at that hearing about a book called Improbable Scholars by David Kirp.  The book describes the efforts the education leaders in Union City, NJ took to improve the poor performance of its public school system.  They didn’t open a single charter school; they didn’t fire teachers, and they didn’t hire people known in the ed reform movement to lead their school system.  Instead, they realized there were no quick fixes to rebuilding their public education system and closing the achievement gap.  They began focusing on quality early childhood education, a strong focus on literacy and project-based learning throughout the school district, and nurturing and supporting their teachers.

Today the city has made large investments in modernizing the schools, textbooks arrive at the school on time, we have quality PK3 and PK4 programs, and DCPS has developed a curriculum for teachers to follow. But there are so many more critical changes that need to occur.  Last May, a group of education activists issued an open letter saying the next Chancellor needed to change the culture at DCPS. The culture of an organization is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes it.  Today, DCPS’ culture is characterized by:

  • One of the highest teacher and principal turnovers among comparable urban school districts across the nation that creates tremendous instability in our schools;
  • Differences across the schools in the course offerings and experiences the students receive;
  • Inequitable funding in relation to the student’s needs;
  • Too many top-down mandates including those from the Mayor;
  • Too much listening to the needs of individual schools and communities, and too little action to address those needs;
  • Inadequate support from city agencies that should be providing wrap-around services to overcome students’ non-academic challenges to learning;
  • Too much politically-motivated hype about DC being the fastest improving school district in the nation, and a lack of willingness to look honestly at data to understand where our schools need to be improved, and how best to improve them;
  • Rolling out short-lived initiatives that take resources away from the basics, and then get forgotten when the next leader takes the helm; and
  • Broken feeder systems that do not support a city-wide system of quality, by-right neighborhood schools.

To address these deep and widespread problems will take an exceptional leader. One who is experienced at turning around a school system that is not performing. Someone who is skilled at doing the day-to-day, often unglamorous, common-sense work that will be required to change the culture of DCPS.

The next Chancellor of DCPS will face many challenges:

  • Trying to achieve the Mayor’s campaign promise of an “Alice Deal for all” that is no closer to being achieved than when she made the promise over four years ago. Trust me, the middle school my daughter attends, and the middle schools in Wards 7 and 8 are no Alice Deal.  The next Chancellor must find ways to close the great disparities found in the offerings at middle schools across the city, stop the high turnover among their teachers and principals, and begin attracting families with middle school students back to DCPS.
  • Reversing the top-down decision that was made to move Banneker to the former Shaw Junior High School site instead of creating a new Shaw Middle School that was promised to the community for years. Will the next Chancellor be able to convince the Mayor there needs to be a willingness to change the decision as public input is gathered on a middle school for this part of the city?
  • The Sunday Washington Post contained an article about admission to the selective high schools being based on PARCC test scores. Will the next Chancellor find a fair way to address the needs of students who this year are being unfairly screened out of five selective high schools solely based on their PARCC test scores without looking at their overall student record?

As the Council considers the nomination of Dr. Ferebee, I’m reminded of a 2010 article in The Washington Post about the search for a new Montgomery County superintendent to replace Jerry Weast who was retiring.  Someone speculating on the replacement to run one of the top school systems in the country said “It will be a crowning accomplishment of someone’s career to be the superintendent there.  It’s probably not going to be a hotshot young reformer.”  DC has had its share of hotshot reformers.  Let’s not make the same mistake again.  I ask the Council to confirm Dr. Ferebee only after they have thoroughly vetted he is someone who has the experience needed to successfully run an urban public school system, and the skills needed to bring about a desperately needed culture change at DCPS.

 

Alexander Padro Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

TESTIMONY OF COMMISSIONER ALEXANDER M. PADRO

AT THE Public Roundtable on PR23-0067, the “CHANCELLOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS DR. LEWIS D. FEREBEE Confirmation Resolution of 2019,”

BEFORE THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE AND THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

FEBRUARY 6, 2019

Good evening, Chairmen Mendelson and Grosso, members of the Committee, and Council staff. I am Alexander M. Padro, a 19-year ANC Commissioner serving central Shaw. Seaton Elementary School and the site of the old Shaw Junior High School are located in my ANC Single Member District.

Over the past 10 years since Shaw Junior High School was closed in anticipation of the construction of a new middle school to consolidate Garnet Patterson and Shaw Junior High on the site of the old Shaw school, I have had the opportunity to see the DC Public Schools in action under several chancellors. Most recently, under Interim Chancellor Alexander, I have seen DCPS at its worst.

As I’m sure you know, in October of last year, Mayor Bowser announced that instead of renovating Banneker Academic High School’s current historic building on Euclid Street, for which the Council approved over $140 Million in the capital budget, DCPS wants to build a new building for Banneker on the site of the old Shaw Junior High School. This decision was made without a complete feasibility study of the renovation potential of the current building, and with no outreach or consultation with the Shaw community and adjacent Center City neighborhoods that would be served by the Shaw Middle School.

In the wake of this announcement, the families and communities whose children will be forever deprived of the ability to walk to an in boundary, by right middle school in proximity to their elementary schools have banded together to fight to reverse this decision, which was made with zero transparency and no consideration of the decade of promises made to us by three mayors, including Mayor Bowser.

The elementary schools in my community have come a long way in the nearly two decades that I have been in office. All the elementary school buildings have been renovated, enrollments have grown, and achievement has increased. Our five elementary schools have won multiple awards, including principal of the year. Parents even apply to send their children to our schools from out of boundary because of their diversity and programming.

But the lack of an in boundary, walk to middle school is forcing a growing number of parents to re-evaluate their commitment to living in our neighborhoods. When their children are in the third grade, parents are beginning to plan to put their kids in charter schools and even move out of the neighborhood and the District because of the uncertainty posed by the middle school years.

Cardozo Education Campus houses a very small middle school program, which is the de facto middle school of right for our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, because of the distance from the feeder schools and limited programming, Cardozo’s middle school grades are the option of last and only resort for those parents who cannot make other arrangements for their kids’ middle school needs. Some of the feeder schools have dual rights to other schools outside of the neighborhood. Other kids are scattered among the charter schools in the neighborhood. Approximately 3,000 students at our five feeder schools are whittled down to a few hundred because DCPS has failed to deliver on the promise to build a new middle school for them. And now, Mayor Bowser proposes to steal the site that has been reserved for the neighborhood’s middle school for an application-only high school that already has a home.

If confirmed, Mr. Ferebee faces a litmus test: how he handles the unnecessary conflict that DCPS has caused by treating the renovation of Banneker High School and construction of a new middle school in Shaw as a zero sum game, while a win-win option that would address both needs has been left on the table, ignored and unexplored.

Will Mr. Ferebee stand by DCPS’ ill-informed, poorly considered decision to callously ignore a decade of promises made to Shaw and adjacent Center City neighborhoods regarding the need for a middle school for their children and DCPS’ decision to refuse to consider options that would allow enrollment to expand at Banneker without abandoning the school’s historic home? Or will he pause the process long enough to make sure that all parents and families have an opportunity to be engaged in a dialogue about whether there need to be winners and losers in this chess game that Mayor Bowser is playing with two school communities?

How the chancellor nominee handles this conflict and his role, as he perceives it, in overseeing DCPS and his own decision-making process is directly relevant to whether he can ever earn the confidence of the District’s parents and citizens.

There are thousands of people in Shaw and Center City neighborhoods that are furious with the way that DCPS has handled the proposal to build a new Banneker High School on the site of the old Shaw Junior High School, with the resulting loss of the site of the long promised new middle school for these communities. There are also thousands of members of the Banneker community, including alumni, who likewise have been left in the dark and unconsulted in the process.

Will Mr. Ferebee ignore the decade-long history of broken promises and ignorance by DCPS of the needs and desires of Center City parents for a middle school, as well as DCPS’ opaque processes and lack of engagement with affected communities? Will Mr. Ferebee pay lip service to a goal of increasing transparency and genuine community engagement reform or end the minimal, check-the-box outreach for which the school system has been notorious for decades?

While DCPS has begun a series of community engagement meetings about the Center City neighborhoods’ middle school needs, DCPS has reneged on a commitment to engage the Shaw community on the Banneker at Shaw project. No community meetings have yet been scheduled, despite an RFP process to build the new school that has a response date next week.

If Mr. Ferebee believes that he is merely a rubber stamp, that his job is only to implement Mayor Bowser’s decisions, without regard to public input, facts, and common sense, that he has no intention of ever developing fact-based recommendations and making decisions independently and objectively, then this Council should not confirm his appointment as chancellor. If he demonstrates an unwillingness to pause the Banneker relocation process and evaluate the need for a Shaw/Center City Middle School and require DCPS to undertake the vigorous public engagement and exploration of all viable options that should be required when such a momentous decision affecting future generations of our children is at stake, then such a hostile posture should disqualify him from confirmation in this position.

This concludes my testimony. I am available to answer any questions you may have for me here or after the hearing.

Scott Goldstein Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

EMpoweredNomination of Lewis Ferebee for DCPS Chancellor

Testimony of Scott Goldstein

Executive Director, EmpowerEd

Chairman Mendelson and Committee Chair Grosso,

My name is Scott Goldstein, former DC teacher and Executive Director of the teacher leadership organization EmpowerEd.  The fundamental question about this nomination should be whether the nominee has the experience and perhaps more importantly, the courage, to take on tough and politically perilous challenges in order to make the changes our students deserve.  Our city’s achievement and opportunity gaps have only grown in the past decade, so accepting the current approach or nibbling around the edges of change is simply unacceptable.   If we believe in equity, we cannot accept a system where those furthest from opportunity have to travel the farthest for it, instead of investing in every neighborhood school and listening to the educators who serve our students every day for a fundamentally different approach.

EmpowerEd is focused on elevating diverse teacher voices and retaining great teachers.  As part of our work, our teacher action groups have outlined several key areas where we need a different approach.   First, if we care deeply about our youth furthest from opportunity- we cannot be okay with persistent segregation in our public schools.  The chancellor in New York has engaged with students, parents and educators to have tough conversations and make tough decisions. Is this chancellor prepared to do that? We simply cannot bring about equity if our schools remain this segregated.

Second, if we care about building literacy, we must accept the overwhelming research that in fact it is increased exposure to deep content knowledge (and not doubling down on time in explicit reading and writing instruction) that builds literacy. We have to prioritize social studies, science, elective study and the arts.

Third, we must prioritize authentic investment and implementation of restorative approaches to discipline- showing that we prioritize time in, not out of the classroom and we value all of our students lives equally.

Fourth, if we believe in democratic schools, we should distribute leadership, engage the public as decision-makers, not a box to check, and be fully transparent about our successes and our setbacks. I was encouraged to hear Acting Chancellor Ferebee say just a couple days ago “transparency builds trust.”  That’s the approach we need.

And finally we must prioritize the retention of our educators, especially our teachers of color.

National education experts recognize teacher turnover as the canary in the coalmine of an unsustainable culture and system.  The new Chancellor must show he understands and is ready to address teacher turnover and the culture that creates it. Washington, D.C. has among the highest teacher turnover rates in the country, far surpassing the teacher attrition rates in comparable urban settings.  25 % of teachers leave their school each year in both sectors, with 70 % leaving DCPS schools within five years. These rates are even worse in our highest-poverty, lowest-performing DCPS schools where 33 % of teachers leave each year on average, with many schools surpassing 40 %.

In particular, D.C. schools have seen a decrease in the number of teachers of color working in our schools in the past decade since reform efforts were implemented in 2007 and new evaluation policies were implemented in 2009. DC has experienced the largest drop in black teachers and largest increase of white teachers of any urban education system, and despite a growing Latinx population, only 7 % of DCPS teachers are Latinx.  Without a consistent and diverse workforce, student achievement and growth suffer and we cannot sustain progress.  When black students living in poverty have at least one black teacher in elementary school, they are between 30 to 40 % less likely to drop out, and are significantly more likely to go to college.  This is an issue of equity.  Growing up in a suburban school district I could expect teachers I knew in elementary school would still be there when I graduated.  For me, that meant relationships, college recommendations, access to outside opportunities and positive adult mentors in my life. Our young people here in DC deserve the same, and frankly, the students I taught for the past decade, need more than I did positive adult mentors in their life that stay and build trusting relationships.

Contrary to long-held talking points, the data shows we’re also losing the teachers that even our evaluation system labels effective, with more than 50 % of the teacher attrition in the last 5 years being among those labeled “effective” and “highly effective.”  In addition, teacher turnover across the board costs districts on average $20,000 per teacher.  That money is spent on recruitment, onboarding and re-training new teachers, instead of deepening our investments in students.  Put simply, if we want to invest directly in students, we have to reduce the financial drain (and loss of experience and expertise) of severe teacher turnover.

I implore the council to ask tough questions about how the chancellor nominee with work to truly integrate our schools- not by moving bodies alone, but by truly de-segregating and bringing equity to our communities.  And second, how will he change the culture of the system, value educators, retain them, and invest in the future of our kids. Teachers are ready to inform that work and we need a chancellor who will listen to the voices of our primary practitioners.  We look forward to DCPS’s next chancellor engaging with us in this work to elevate teacher voice and retain great teachers in DC.  Thank you.

 

Mark Simon Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

Testimony of Mark Simon

Wednesday, February 6th 2019

DC Council COW and Ed Committee Joint Public Roundtable Hearing on Lewis Ferebee

Chairman Mendelson, Committee chair Grosso, members of the Council, my name is Mark Simon. I’ve lived in DC for 46 years, sent my daughter through DCPS, served on 2 LSATs, and tried to be an active parent advocate for public education.  I’m part of the newly formed Ward 1 Education Council.  I’ve been a life-long educator, serve on the Board of Directors of EmpowerEd. and I’m an education policy associate with the Economic Policy Institute, a national think tank in Washington.

DC is a tough city to get to know the education landscape.  Antwan Wilson came in mouthing support for the education reforms in place but quickly came to realize there were huge problems with the culture in schools and system-wide.  He became a quiet advocate for changing the education culture, listening carefully to teachers, but he wasn’t around long enough to see it through.

Teachers hate the IMPACT evaluation system and blame it for teacher turnover.  Parents and teachers decry a lack of transparency in the charter sector.  We’re all frustrated by the lack of credibility of education data and the opaqueness of decision-making under mayoral control.

But most importantly, we have clearly not done right by our lowest performing students. The achievement gap has widened, not narrowed.

When the SBOE held hearings in 2017 on how the criteria for evaluating schools should be changed, parents and educators asked for school climate surveys to be part of the report card, but OSSE refused.  Parents and teachers wanted to be heard. And they should be. OSSE says now that they’re coming around. But why the resistance?

I’ve listened closely to Lewis Ferebee since he arrived and looked into his track record in Indianapolis. He seems to have a lot of confidence in strategies he tried there, enabling charter schools to take over neighborhood schools that were failing. But what he did, we’ve already done. It’s no panacea.

He says he believes in the reform strategies in place here, that teacher turnover isn’t a big problem. I’m not sure we need an apologist for what we’re doing, a stay the course leader. He seems like a nice guy, but with all due respect, what we need is someone who’s curious and willing to be honest about what isn’t working, someone who will join the Council in welcoming independent research and transparency. We need a leader willing to recognize we need a mid-course correction. The fear-based culture that’s driving teachers away needs to be replaced with a collaborative culture. Teachers and parents must be listened to.  I don’t hear that from Lewis Ferebee.

Amanda Alexander seemed more humbled, a listener.  Perhaps after 20 years in DCPS she she’d have insights into what’s not working.  The mayor provided only one resume to the Council, the public, and to the committee she empaneled to conduct the search.

Whether or not you vote down the nomination of Ferebee and suggest to the Mayor that continuing Amanda Alexander would be preferable, the instructions and oversight this DC Council provides need to be much more hands-on.  Require DCPS to fix the broken fear-based culture that pushes compliance, replacing it with a culture that builds trust and collaboration.  Bring in experts on building the teaching and learning school level culture and don’t assume that the reform strategies and top down mandates are working.

Over the past several years many others have spoken at length about this with you.  The era of test-driven gimmicks and using rosy data to mask problems needs to be over. We need a leader willing to be honest about what’s working and what isn’t.

I’ve attached a letter that over 100 individuals and over a dozen organizations sent to the Mayor and Members of the DC Council last June when the Mayor was beginning her chancellor search.  They never got a response, or the meeting asked for from the mayor or her search committee.  The very thoughtful letter details the nature of the climate change that’s needed. You might take a moment to re-read it in preparation for asking questions of the proposed Chancellor.

 

Rebecca Reina Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

Testimony of Rebecca Reina

to DC Council, Committee on Education, public hearing

on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee as Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools,

on 2/6/19 at 6:00 pm,

Cardozo Education Campus cafeteria (1200 Clifton St, NW)

 

Hello, I‘m Becky Reina, mother of 2 Cleveland Elementary School students, where I have served on the PTA and LSAT. I am also the Interim Chair of the newly relaunched Ward 1 Education Council; although I am here today in my capacity as a parent, not on behalf on the Education Council. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee to lead DC Public Schools.

I have not yet met Dr. Ferebee.  He seems to be an earnest, committed educator.  There are things about his work in Indianapolis that give me pause: I am very much against handing traditional public schools to charter operators and against dismantling a system of neighborhood, by-right schools at any age-level, including high school; I am also concerned about his oversight of the sexual abuse case that has come to light in Indianapolis, particularly because that school district’s response appeared not to be focused on what was best for the student, but instead on limiting liability.

I am gladdened by Dr. Ferebee’s immediate outreach to the DC community, including the Ward coffees he has already begun and the invitation to meet that I and my fellow Chairs of Ward-based education groups have received. This engagement is a vital first step. But, now Dr. Ferebee must not only listen to community concerns, but also change his thinking and actions based on what he hears. In the past 5 years, I have been to many beautiful stage-managed community engagement meetings and watched numerous Chancellors and Acting Chancellors listen with furrowed brows.  I have not seen those same Chancellors defend DCPS against the encroachment of charter schools and the gradual degradation of our by-right, neighborhood feeder system that can and should take children on a clear, well-supported school journey from PK3 to 12th grade in *every* part of this city. To start that defense, our DCPS schools need:

1) adequate At-Risk and ELL funding which supplements not supplants the funding of core school functions,

2) a dedicated technology budget for every school that supports not only laptops for testing but also continuing classroom use of a computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, and SMART boards and maintenance of all these devices — funding that is reliable and continuing, and not based on grants or PTA largess,

3) a clear, adequate feeder pattern in every neighborhood — including but not limited to the reopening of Shaw Middle School in the Cardozo feeder pattern at the site of the former Shaw Junior High School and robust community engagement prior to any changes that affect feeder patterns,

4) additional funding for translation services for schools that require it to communicate with their families,

5) a plan for and funding of transporting middle school students to school in parts of town where public transit is not currently adequate,

6) increased seats in dual language programs,

7) adequate Out of School Time funding for both before and aftercare for every student that wants a seat,

8) a full roll out and adequate training on social/emotional learning curricula and trauma-informed teaching and discipline, including fully funding and implementing the Student Fair Access to School Act,

9) an overall DCPS budget that is adequate and fair to individual schools, both in terms of money and time. — As an aside I confirmed this morning that school leaders still don’t have their budgets although they are due back to Central Office at the end of next week, which is not enough time for adequate engagement with school communities nor to undertake the budget gap-closing measures school leaders are regularly forced to engage in outside the official budget process, such as applying for outside grants,

— and perhaps most importantly,

10) the bravery to end the hyperfocus on flawed test metrics that results in a culture of fear, lack of transparency, top-down unfunded mandates, high teacher turnover, and a narrowing of curriculum; meaning to have the bravery to embrace, nurture, and trumpet the amazing work our students, educators, and families are doing in our DCPS schools every day and to hold space for them as they honestly confront challenges, whether academic or not.

This laundry list of problems are things that our school Chancellor must advocate for if he is not given them by the Mayor. We need a DCPS Chancellor who will have those hard conversation on behalf of our children. And frankly, we need a City Council that uses the full breadth of its power to make sure we have that Chancellor. Please fully vet Dr. Ferebee before voting on his nomination to determine whether he will be the Chancellor that DCPS and its students need.

Thank you very much.

Sandra Moscoso Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

Sandra Moscoso Testimony

Committee on Education’s public roundtable on PR23-0067, the “Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019.”

February 6 at 6:00 P.M. at Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus

Good evening, Chairpersons and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, the parent of a 7th grader at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan and 10th grader at School Without Walls. I am also a long-time member of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization, which has served as the Ward 6 education council for 14 years.

During our time with DCPS and also DC Charter Schools my family has seen one superintendent and six acting-interim-chancellors at the helm. I share this as a reminder that my children are in the end, the beneficiaries or victims of your decisions, but also a reminder that most of us are here not as watch dogs, but rather, for the long haul. We come in peace, as community members seeking to collaborate with you and DCPS to strengthen our schools.

I have attached an excerpt from a letter released June 2018 by the Coalition for DC Public Schools & Communities to reiterate what CHPSPO supports in a Chancellor.

Today, I will focus on transparency, advocacy, and institutional commitments.

I have heard Acting Chancellor Ferebee cite transparency as the way to build trust. This is heartening, but it’s important we have a shared understanding of what transparency means. To me, this means transparent decision-making, creating opportunities for families and school educators to weigh in on decisions, and it means transparency around the data, facts, and evidence upon which decisions are made. Today, there is a very active conversation about transparency in charter schools. DCPS is ahead here and has the opportunity to continue to lead, by publishing decision-useful data in open formats. I will plug data.dc.gov as the perfect home for now.

On advocating for DC Public Schools, I say – join us! Las month was “School Choice Week” and this reminds me there is a huge lobby effort supporting DC charters. This does not exist for DCPS. Neighborhood schools are also schools of choice. It has been a source of frustration for families who spend blood, sweat and tears supporting our local schools to have efforts undermined by glossy marketing campaigns. For years, we have pushed for DCPS to leverage built-in strengths like geographic communities, feeder pattern communities, and multi-generational alumni networks. After years of leaving these feeder relationships up to schools, in Ward 6, we’re finally starting to see feeder-wide events and open houses supported by DCPS. I hope this type of support will continue and grow.

Finally, I want to talk about institutional commitments. Early in this testimony I shared the number of DCPS leaders my family and community have engaged with. As you can imagine we have all been through many many visioning sessions, where we have been asked what we want from our schools. I think by now, our city has a good sense of what the community wants and this is captured at a high level in the DCPS Strategic Plan for 2017-2022. I ask Council to hold DCPS’ Chancellor to this commitment and to please not start over.  Dr. Ferebee comes to DC having developed a network of innovation schools. I hope he will take the time to get to know our schools and recognize the local, on-the ground innovation that takes place every day. I hope he will not be tempted to push schools to run after externally mandated shiny things at the expense of honoring DCPS’ commitments.

Thank you for this opportunity.