Brent Elementary School, January 16, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Michelle Edwards, Executive Director of Learn It, Live It, Love It gave a great presentation. Her non-profit organization partners with DCPS Title I schools to bring structured, standards-aligned field trips experiences to students leveraging the museums and organizations in DC and the surrounding areas. She encourages schools and families to reach out to her if you are interested in learning more, contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about the organization at www.liveitlearnit.org.
Gene Pinkard, Chief, School Design and Continuous Improvement joined for a discussion about issues of interest to CHPSPO members. He started off with a brief introduction of his office. His office is new since June 2017 and is focused on the following:
- Enrollment and Enrollment Growth
- School Performance
- Innovation and School Design
Their core question to address is: what is going to make DCPS a world-class district?
The discussion moved to questions from attendees:
Question: The Public Charter School Board analysis on charter programs, need and growth, encourages charter school applicants to consider opening Montessori, language immersion, and schools in Ward 6 (calling it a “green zone”). Yet DCPS has those schools already in Ward 6 – why is DCPS not targeting or supporting that kind of growth? Is DCPS thinking about these kinds of things?
Answer: Chancellor Wilson has made it clear he is not a fan of wait lists; he wants to focus on the need for making the space bigger or replicate programs in other places. So, Gene’s office is thinking more about how we connect successful programs to schools or communities that want and need them. Some examples could be:
- Bruce Jackson Miner Principal and LSAT want to talk about some additional programming and working to decide what is best for the students today and the future.
- Looking at enrollment growth and facilities is a key aspect – and we need to have smart solutions to that – even potentially serving students with partners.
- Think about the equity we create with our students. Opportunities to open high-quality experiences for students including perhaps more citywide programs. Families in DC value diversity and citywide schools may offer that option.
Question: Can you talk about the data you use on citywide programs? In DC, being a citywide school does not mean you are a diverse school necessarily.
Answer: The data we used was national data.
Question: Will you communicate short and long-term plans to address growth across school communities? People want to know what is ahead so they know whether they want to also stay and invest in a school instead of leaving for a charter.
Answer: We do need to improve communications, but we are working hard on this area and improving planning. We want to bring more schools into the portfolio so that there are more choices in DCPS; we want to increase capacity to capture demand now and in future; and we want to improve how we communicate about all of it. Need to do more to communicate about all of this
Question: Can you talk more about the role of DCPS in increasing enrollment as this is the first-year enrollment has gone down? And, we encourage more meetings like this one in order to address the gaps between parents and DCPS and to use more of a common language. CHPSPO is about investing in our school particularly neighborhood schools and less about choice; and we know that quality is not just test scores.
Answer. I want to make clear is that test scores are important but don’t define quality. Quality is outlined in the Excellent Schools Framework we are developing. It’s achievement, talent and leadership, culture and climate, equity and engagement.
OSSE has PARCC and test scores tackled in the conversation. We want to also look at formative data and whether a school feels right for my kids and my community. We want to capture what families feel when they are valued and feel safe and welcomed.
Choice and neighborhood schools are not a contradiction. Primary investment has to be in our neighborhood schools. The city is only going to function if its neighborhoods have strong quality schools. So, we are looking at strengthening feeder patterns, culture/climate and other aspects of quality.
Question: Will DCPS support a Challenger Center at Elliot Hine?
Answer: We have mixed thoughts on whether it works, and whether it’s what the community wants. But I want to talk more about it with you offline.
Question: We need to focus on retaining teachers and leadership. But some school leaders are not collaborative and problems with school leadership can fester for a long time. Teachers don’t have a way to give robust feedback on principal performance. There isn’t a safe way for teachers to bring feedback that is taken seriously. Principal evaluation is set up with an incentive to manipulate the system and to encourage fraudulent reporting of data. What is the plan for supporting transparent data, better systems for teachers to report concerns, and for teachers to be an integral part of principal evaluations.
Answer: Yes, everybody in the school community should have a voice in its success. I agree on the general concerns. But we do have some mechanisms – the INSIGHT survey is anonymized and goes to quality of leadership and instructional culture, student/parent surveys. Every school has areas for improvement.
My office checks and collects that data. Principals are half evaluated on outcome data. And they choose other areas they want to be evaluated on – but they can’t control the data.
But, there is more that we can do around principal development. We have a periodic leadership academy – but don’t yet have ongoing, robust support that helps principals become more successful on all aspects of leadership.
On family engagement, we recommend that principal engagement with the LSAT is the norm. That needs to be the expectation and how they are responding.
Comment: Concerns were raised that LSAT is implemented differently in every school and is not enough to garner authentic, robust engagement of families. Need support for principals on family engagement and communications across the board.
Question: Gene asked to the group: what would you like to see as the DCPS response to high demand of a limited number of sites in a geographic region?
Answer from Suzanne: I appreciate the work DCPS has to do in this area is hard. Conversations and communications with our community are key. We have talked about a strategic plan for Ward 6 with Claudia Lujan. The current DCPS strategic plan doesn’t get into details. I’d like to see decisions made on where and when we are going to open x school and expand y program and add program to school x. To do this in a way that will work, we should have citywide and neighborhood conversations. For example, Historic Miner could be an early childhood center. We should generally have much more project-based learning – ask every school to do more. But we can’t just give our ideas, we need a broader conversation with a plan and a process.
Gene: Claudia, Michael and myself will embark on a portfolio retreat around the composition of the schools itself. We will look at options like a complimentary layer of citywide schools for the next 5-10 years with citywide conversations to ensure equity. It’s also likely that we need to be more present in communities around what we are doing.
Idea from Erin Roth: Schools need to really market themselves and be slick about it in order to compete with charters that have high marketing budgets it seems. DCPS could help schools with simple communication and marketing tools and templates that would get across the basic mission and messaging statements for each school in a packaged way for parents.
Idea from Sara Carr: I would argue for a little more ad hoc action. Charters will be here in five years with five new Montessori schools. We need quick action and keep our schools and not give up buildings to charters. The long-term planning is needed, but we need action now too.
Caryn Ernst, CHPSPO Member, and Member of the Cross Sector Task Force
Over the course of two years, the Deputy Mayor of Education (DME) has allowed the Task Force to only focus on a small set of areas that would result in little or no push back from DCPS or charters. They are releasing soon a set of recommendations for public input and are releasing meeting dates for feedback.
Generally, they have proposed the following core issues which are generally the right issues:
- Opening, closing and siting of schools
- Serving at-risk students
- Enrollment stability
But within each category the recommendations are very narrow and parents on the Task Force, including Caryn, have concerns the Task Force should recommend more:
Opening, closing and siting of schools
Issue: Charters are opening schools without citywide strategic plan and without community input. Areas with dozens of schools and other areas with dirth of schools. No coordination re: closing schools or siting of schools.
Recommendation: Have a citywide strategic plan on where schools are, where excess capacity is, how are programs spread throughout city, where are achievement levels different, etc. This is a good recommendation however there is no overarching criteria around that nor any requirement that charters abide by it. Charters have said that they will continue to open schools regardless of plan as long as there is one child not achieving at proficient. There has been no pressure put back on the charter board to stop opening schools without the plan. No agreement to put caps on the amount of charters or collaborative planning – they are allowed to open as many as they want whenever.
Issue: On school sitings parents have pushed for community involvement. Currently, charters simply notify an ANC commissioner within a month of the opening of a school and count that as community engagement. They believe that is sufficient.
Issue: The recommendations do not acknowledgement that neighborhood schools and charters are different and should be treated differently around closings. Neighborhood public schools should not be closed based on ESSA metrics/test scores. Yet DME is pushing very hard to replicate what Denver does – when a school scores below a certain level on the quality score, they are closed after 3 years of warning. Then there is a notice to open new schools. Denver however even acknowledges that schools in low-income communities get closed first and that creates churn and that is not good for those communities.
Serving At-Risk Students
Issue: Of the 10-15 recommendations that will be released for input, the vast majority are about promoting school choice. To improve options for at-risk kids, they recommend giving preference in the lottery if you are at-risk. DME data shows this policy would impact less than 1,000 at-risk students which means it’s not a solution. It doesn’t solve the problem of educating at-risk students better. We need to figure out which schools are beating the odds, look at those schools and what they are doing, and then replicate them. The DME refused to do that.
Recommendations to centralize the mobility process are included to address the problems we have now that you can walk out and go to another school, and there is no data or funding transfer and it creates many issues. So, the recommendation is to centralize the mobility data and the parents on the Task Force support that recommendation. But it’s not enough. The recommendation doesn’t address enrollment stability. It helps smooth mobility and data collection, but doesn’t solve it.
Parents recommended (but were rejected) that after October, wait lists be eliminated and the decisions about mobility go to a centralized system so that movement can be distributed evenly. A centralized wait list would increase stability.
The recommendations from the Task Force also include instituting that the funding follows the student if they transfer.
The parents encouraged other parents and community members to attend the meetings and give feedback. (Confirm here, in case of changes –> https://dme.dc.gov/collaboration)
- School Leader and Principal Focus Group
- Wednesday, February 7, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm at Capitol View Library (5001 Central Ave SE)
- Register Here
- Family and Advocacy Focus Groups
- Friday, February 9, 9:30 am – 11:00 am at Mt. Pleasant Library (3160 16th St NW)
- Tuesday, February 13, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Capitol View Library (5001 Central Ave SE)
- Register Here
- Policy Expert Focus Group
- Wednesday, February 14, 9:30 am – 11:00 am at Shaw Library (1630 7th St NW)
- Register Here
- Teacher and School Staff Focus Group
- Wednesday, February 28, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at Benning (Dorothy I. Height) Library (3935 Benning Rd NE)
- Register Here
- Citywide Meetings
- Tuesday, March 13, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm (Location TBD)
- Wednesday, March 21, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm (Location TBD)
Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force
- General Meeting: Tuesday, January 30, Education Counsel (101 Constitution Ave, NW, Suite 900)
- Focus Groups: (see above)
JO Wilson’s 4th Annual DC Summer Camp Fair (http://www.dccampfair.com/)
Thursday, January 25, 6 – 8pm, J.O. Wilson (660 K Street, NE)
CHPSPO Strategic Planning Meeting
Saturday, February 24, 9:30 am – 1 pm, Northeast Library (7th & Maryland Avenue, NE)
Next CHPSPO meeting is on Tuesday, February 20, 2018