Sara Moore Kerai Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

Testimony of Sara Moore Kerai
DC State Board of Education Hearing
March 15, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Sara Moore Kerai and I am a parent of a pre- K 3 child at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

I care deeply about the quality of my children’s education and the need to understand the quality of our schools based on more than just a test score. I was excited and hopeful at the opportunity to create a new accountability system that will value test scores alongside other important ways of demonstrating school quality & environment.

I read the draft plan and attended an OSSE outreach session hosted by the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization. I was pleased to hear the deep interest in a new accountability system that looked at the whole child shared by all of the parents who attended.

At the meeting, I was concerned by OSSE’s seeming lack of motivation to make significant changes, and to allow more time to think critically about these issues as a broad community.

Later, I was pleased when the State Board of Education released a list of well thought-out and meaningful recommendations for changes to the draft ESSA plan. The recommended changes are greatly supported by my community, including teachers and parents. The recommendations also demonstrated that members of the State Board actually listened to feedback from the community. My community has hoped that the State Board would not approve an OSSE plan that does not implement those changes in full.

However, only yesterday, OSSE released its response to public and State Board comments.

This left us once again with precious little time to review and understand the response and its impact before today’s hearing. As I understand it, the plan takes some meaningful steps in addressing the State Board’s comments, as well as parent and educator input, but it does not go nearly all the way. Is the State Board indicating that it generally supports the revised plan as is? It is disappointing to me and my school community that we are essentially backed into a corner with no additional room for revision or improvement.

While I appreciate OSSE’s efforts to respond to some of the community input, I still believe we can do better. I hope that you will not stop with the plan. I hope that OSSE will continue to work with the parent and educator community every step of the way through implementation. A plan is only as good as its implementation – and implementation will not be effective without parent and educator partnership.

Thank you.


Danica Petroshius Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

DC State Board of Education Hearing
March 15, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m Danica Petroshius, parent of two at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

Based on the conversation at your meeting yesterday I viewed via Periscope, it appears that there is State Board support for the revised ESSA plan. It begs the question: Is this a fake hearing?

I have been astounded at the disregard for DCPS parent and educator engagement in the ESSA plan process even though we support 49,000 students every day. OSSE has touted that it held “50 meetings with 100 organizations” throughout 2016 before the draft plan went public. We are supposed to applaud that as great public engagement. Who were those private meetings with?

  • 50 charter schools or charter organizations
  • 34 national education groups
  • Only 10 local education organizations
  • 4 universities
  • 4 DC government agencies including DCPS

This is a very unbalanced outreach plan where 84% of the input came from charters and
national organizations that have no understanding of how DCPS schools operate and what the needs of our students are.

OSSE did hold one public meeting in each ward in June 2016. I can’t take that seriously. Anyone that truly wants to engage parents and teachers does not do so at end of school and summer when communication with schools and parents is difficult. Let’s face it. The DCPS parent and educator community did not help create the draft.

After these 2016 meetings, parents and educators did not see the draft plan until January 30th of this year. We had only one month to give input on a plan that will affect our children’s education for the next 10 years.

Now, again, we are being treated as expendable in this process. The revised draft came out only yesterday yet we have to testify on its merits within 24 hours.

Parents appreciated the full set of State Board recommendations to improve the ESSA plan.

Yesterday’s revised draft plan includes some improvements and it’s clear our advocacy helped move the needle forward. But it was not without a massive effort by us to overcome the reluctance of OSSE to listen.

OSSE is not elected and so has less stake in our voice. But the State Board is elected and has power to say “wait – we can think more, plan more, do better.” Please stop saying September is too late. 30 states are waiting until September to submit their plans and they will start collecting baseline data in 17-18 just like DC. We could wait and build a better plan with deep buy in. But OSSE says they won’t. I urge you, our elected body, to vote no on the plan. But based on yesterday’s swift, seemingly pre-baked support of the tweaked OSSE plan, it seems you have already decided to stand down.

So tonight I’m standing up for parents and educators who do the daily work to build excellent DCPS schools to say that we as a community can do better. We should not make stakeholders beg for real engagement. Parents and educators should not be “processed out” of the system by back-door deals.

I ask OSSE and the State Board to commit today to a better process going forward. As
Superintendent Kang has said over and over, this plan is “just the beginning.” In fact, the plan is full of policies that include “let’s look into it more”, “let’s phase it in” and “let’s test it out first.”

So I ask you to make public and articulate in the plan:

  1. your commitment to full transparency and ongoing engagement;
  2. a schedule that you will execute on engagement at each phase of implementation with the intention of seeking ways to continuously improve the plan;
  3.  a process for implementing the Task Forces recommended by the State Board; and
  4. a process for sharing results of the pilot fully and hosting engagement meetings to
    discuss how as a community we should use the results to improve the system.

We hope that OSSE and the State Board support our calls for more engagement, more
innovation and more transparency. Our students deserve it.


Valerie Jablow Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

Jablow Testimony
OSSE’s ESSA Draft Proposal

Dear members of DC’s state board of education,

I am Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent. I am sending you all this via email because it is the only way I can get timely feedback to you on OSSE’s response to your recommendations on ESSA. I urge you to vote NO on OSSE’s ESSA proposal.

Yesterday afternoon, I found out about OSSE’s response to public comment on its ESSA draft proposal.

I didn’t get to read that response until this morning, while eating breakfast and trying to get my kids out the door.

Then I read that OSSE would promulgate a new draft plan by the end of today, which I have not yet seen.

How do you keep up?

Perhaps more importantly, how does any parent, teacher, or administrator keep up?

Back in November, I and other parents of public school students in DC testified before you about the horrible effect of a test-heavy emphasis in accountability on students and schools in DC.

In February, when the superintendent of OSSE and her chief of staff held a public meeting in Ward 6 on ESSA, they touted the feedback they had already received in 50 meetings with 100 different groups. And they repeatedly said that teachers, principals, and parents wanted the heavy-test emphasis of its draft proposal.

Jaws dropped in the room that night. Who were those people who wanted testing to dominate accountability? Certainly not anyone we knew in our schools!

Thus, several weeks ago I made a FOIA request of OSSE, for a list of meetings, participants, and feedback received in all its meetings on ESSA from such groups and individuals from January 1, 2016 through the end of February 2017.

Right now, the best evidence we have for such feedback is OSSE’s response document from yesterday—in which “many” and “some” commenters are said to have said something, all of which is not necessarily reflected in what OSSE is now proposing to do with ESSA!

Thus, I hope that my FOIA request will allow me and others to find out what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation had to say about ESSA in DC public schools—as well as the other organizations whose staff met with OSSE on ESSA implementation for more than a YEAR, while all of us DC citizens (who, unlike the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, actually have children and/or taxes in this game) had only 33 days to comment on the proposal. (Which is three days more than the federal minimum of 30 days for public comment–and a few days more than the DCPS chancellor got.)

Perhaps the most radical thing in OSSE’s draft calls for schools being taken over by other operators when their test scores do not go up after 4 years (p. 59).

As you know, even with the changes it is proposing, OSSE is still placing a heavy emphasis on test scores and attendance. At the same time, there is nothing in OSSE’s accountability framework that penalizes schools whatsoever for high suspension and expulsion rates.

So what is to stop a school from suspending and expelling its way into higher attendance rates or higher test scores?


And where will those students go when they are expelled or encouraged to leave?

To their by right schools!

So what does OSSE’s proposal do to take this differential into account and its effect on the scores of receiving schools?


This is what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.

As you know, our city creates new charter schools whenever and wherever, without any regard for the effect on existing schools, neighborhoods, or unfilled seats.

As a result, DCPS is losing about 1% per year of “marketshare,” because growth in DC public school seats does not match growth of overall enrollments or of our student population. Just next week, for instance, the charter board will hear comments on proposals by two charter operators—KIPP DC and DC Prep—to create five new schools and 4000 new seats. The board will vote on those proposals in April. The board has also received applications for eight new charter schools beyond that, which it will vote on in May.

At the same time that the charter board is considering 13 (!) new schools, DC has more than 10,000 unfilled seats at existing public schools. (Data from 21st Century School Fund, using current audited enrollment numbers and MFP.)

So what will happen ten years from now, when these ESSA rules are up for re-assessment?

Absent any change from city leaders in our public school governance, DCPS will certainly be the smallest school system. This means more DCPS closures.

And absent any change in this OSSE policy, it means that some schools in DCPS will just become a place for kids off’ed from other schools, as those other schools chase better attendance and higher test scores—and thus create an even faster metric by which receiving DCPS schools will be taken over or closed altogether, because there is no accounting for this dynamic whatsoever in this policy or any city governance of our public schools.

This is what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.

One of the aims of OSSE’s ESSA policy is to provide a way to compare schools fairly and to have a common system of accountability between them. But this betrays a facile notion of how our schools actually work.

As you know, one school system in our city is bound to uphold a RIGHT to education. That is DCPS. The other system, charter schools, is not bound to uphold that RIGHT. That immediately differentiates the two sectors in a way that cannot be compared. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other—it simply means that they are different by design. Why wouldn’t you have a system of accountability that takes that difference into account instead of actively denying it even exists?

Moreover, there is nothing common between those two sectors in expulsion rules; suspension rules; facilities requirements; curricula; teacher training; and teacher retention rates—all of which are important not only to student achievement, but also in accountability to the public. OSSE’s proposal doesn’t acknowledge any of this.

In fact, OSSE has made some rather huge assumptions in its draft proposal, which distort true accountability.

To wit:

–That student satisfaction = school success = higher attendance rates. (See p. 5 of the response document.) What evidence is given to show attendance is 100% (or some other percentage) in the control of each school? What evidence is given to show that student satisfaction means the school is “successful” and that students will attend at higher rates? Indeed, what is “success” in this scheme if not mainly high test scores?

–That one of the purposes of the new rating system is to facilitate school choice by parents. This is perhaps the most grotesque distortion of ESSA possible. The point of school accountability is not to facilitate school choice, but to help students and to help schools help them. What assurance is here that parents and teachers will be able to use these test results and other criteria measured to help students learn better, except only in a punitive way, to avoid censure or takeover? Facilitating school choice should be the LAST thing that anyone is concerned about when it comes to helping our kids learn!

These assumptions and distortions are what you are voting for with OSSE’s policy here.

Finally, a note about compromise:

OSSE characterized its response yesterday to you and the public as a compromise.

But you, collectively, put together ten recommendations on OSSE’s draft proposal as a compromise before that—most of which have not even made it into OSSE’s response document.

So how much of a compromise was OSSE’s response yesterday—and for whom is it a compromise?

Here is a more concrete example:

OSSE’s rationale for not measuring high school growth is that different groups of high school students take different PARCC math tests and that it distorts scoring when those scores are combined.

OK. But right now, OSSE groups together middle school accelerated math test scores with regular math test scores and blithely spits out a number for both achievement and growth. That practice does indeed distort test scores—but OSSE has determined that’s OK with middle schools.

What sort of compromise is this?

I can attest that OSSE’s practice with those middle school scores has actively hurt my DCPS middle school, because a relatively large portion of its student body takes those accelerated math tests—whereas most other middle schools avoid those tests or have only a small fraction of their students take them.

So, instead of giving up on measuring high school growth or accurate middle school reporting, how about reporting data more responsibly (i.e., separate out results for accelerated tests)–or just using a different measure of math achievement than PARCC?

For all these reasons, I ask you to please not accept what OSSE is offering now. It is only a compromise of our ability to have rich, nuanced, and accurate assessments, which we desperately need and are not getting.

Your voting NO to OSSE’s proposal will give all of us time to make a policy of accountability that will reflect well on each school and every child. Thank you.


Suzanne Wells Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

State Board of EducationMarch 15, 2017
Public Hearing
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
School Accountability Measures
Testimony of Suzanne Wells
Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Parent of a 6th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening on the Office of the State Superintendent’s (OSSE) School Accountability Measures/State Plan that has been developed to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA or the Act).  The Act provides us a welcomed opportunity to make meaningful changes in how schools are held accountable. As has been said before, “What gets measured gets done,” so how schools are measured has profound impacts on what students are taught in the classroom, on how teachers spend their time, and on how schools serving our most vulnerable students are evaluated.

There has been considerable public interest in the School Accountability Measures precisely because they are so important.  I commend the State Board of Education (SBOE) for informing our community over eight months ago about the School Accountability requirements under ESSA, and seeking our input on what we believe should be measured.  I commend the SBOE for developing a set of recommendations on OSSE’s draft plan. I commend parents in my community for taking the time to become knowledgeable about the School Accountability Measures plan, and for thoughtfully developing comments on the draft plan.

A little more than 24 hours ago, OSSE released its summary of the comments it received throughout the public comment period, and the decisions it made in the updated state plan based on that feedback.  I am sorry to say that OSSE did not begin to meaningfully address the substantive comments it received from the public or the SBOE.  OSSE’s tweaked its initial proposal in minor ways, for example, it lowered the weight afforded to testing from 80% to 70%. At first glance that might seem like a lot until you understand that virtually every public commenter asked that the weight afforded to testing be dropped to the lowest allowable by law which is 51%.

OSSE continues to want to use attendance as a proxy measure of school satisfaction, and their final plan increases by over 1% the weight going towards attendance measures.  While attendance is undoubtedly important, it’s truly hard to understand why attendance, which is compulsory for students between the ages of 5 – 18, and for which just seven unexcused absences can result in you getting a letter from the Metropolitan Police Department, can be viewed as a meaningful measure of school satisfaction.  The public repeatedly commented that school climate surveys would be better measures of school satisfaction AND would provide actionable data upon which schools could make meaningful improvements.  OSSE is afraid to use school climate surveys which they believe are not adequately tested, but they are fearless about using the PARCC test which is an imperfect measure of academic success at best.

The public asked that measures on a well-rounded education be considered.  In response, OSSE put a vague, yet to be determined, measure of “Access and Opportunities” that they want to test two years down the road under school environment and gave it a 5% weight. Worse still that 5% might also have to cover whatever is decided regarding school climate surveys.

So what does the OSSE state plan look like now for an elementary school?  We’ve got 70% being dedicated to a test given once a year that is an imperfect measure of academic success, 12.5% going to measure compulsory attendance rates, 7.5% to re-enrollment, 5% to a yet to be determined well-rounded education and school climate assessment, and 5% to an ESSA required English language learner proficiency.  I’d be hard pressed to say that sounds like a solid path forward to making educational progress for our students.

So what to do now?  I suggest that the SBOE’s work on the state plan is not done.  I urge the State Board of Education to vote NO on the OSSE State Plan.  The SBOE and OSSE have the chance to make important changes to how our schools are evaluated for the next ten years.  You have the opportunity to say we don’t want our teachers to teach to the test, that we want our students to have a well-rounded education, and that we want our students to be in school environments conducive to learning.  Don’t stop before you get to the finish line.  Vote NO on the OSSE State Plan, and do the hard work it will take to get this plan right.


Karla Reid-Witt Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

Karla  Reid-Witt
SBOE Testimony Regarding DC ESSA Accountability Plan
March 15, 2017

I fully support all of the SBOE recommendations regarding DC’s ESSA Accountability Plan.

I have three kids.  The first and the last are 8 years apart.  My youngest is now a 9th grader.  My middle child is a 12th grader.  My oldest is 22 years old.  All 3 attended the same middle school.  Within the 8 years between my oldest entering middle school and my youngest entering middle school, public education has completely changed.  I blame overemphasis on testing for this great downfall.  When my oldest entered public school I knew the school system was struggling but I thought, “Together, we can pull this off.”  As I look back, I liken public education to the Titanic.  When my oldest came along we knew the ship was struggling but we were still afloat, when my middle child came along the boat was at 45 degrees and when my youngest hit middle school the boat was fully vertical, she was holding on to the rail with her feet dangling in the air.

I don’t think the downfall is the teachers.  In fact, I know it isn’t.  I don’t think it is the principals or school district leaders.  I think the downfall is behavior, behavior driven by an accountability system based almost entirely on test scores.  When you design an accountability system, in effect, you create an adult behavioral plan.  Teachers, principals, system leaders and, even parents are trapped into behaving in ways which optimize numerical outcomes favored by the accountability system whether or not they feel their decisions are in the best interest of students.  The current plan does not account for this, nor does it contemplate diversity within racial, ethnic, geographical, disability or income groups.

For example, the current plan includes different growth rates goals based on race.  Let’s pretend it SY 2017-18, and I am a school district leader.  According to the current version of the plan, the percentage of Black students who must score Level 4 or higher in ELA is 25.2 % and the number of White students must who must score Level 4 or higher is 79.8%.  Black students in my school will easily meet the 25.2% threshold goal.  In fact, I could push them far beyond that goal.  However, a number of my white students are struggling.  I am worried they won’t meet the 79.8% white student goal.   Where do you think I will focus my resources?  How do you think I will behave?

We need a new plan.  I would like OSSE to wait to submit our plan until we get this right.  We need to design a child-centered plan focused on maximization of adult behavior not for the purpose of improving test scores but rather, for the purpose of achieving good life outcomes for all students.


Andrea Tucker Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

DC State Board of Education
Public Board Meeting
March 15, 2017
Andrea Tucker, Parent and Ward 8 Resident

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.


Erin Thesing Testimony – ESSA – State Board of Education – March 15 2017

State Board of Education
March 15, 2017
Public Hearing
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
School Accountability Measures
Testimony of Erin Thesing
Fifth Grade Teacher at Maury Elementary School
Ward 1 Community Member

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.