Status

Caryn Ernst Testimony – OSSE Performance Oversight – Feb 14, 2017

Thank you for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to weigh in on OSSE’s work to develop new school accountability measures under ESSA. OSSE has an important opportunity to shape a stronger accountability and school support system through the new federal ESSA law that will drive what our students learn and how and where they are taught for the next ten years.

OSSE’s current proposal, which keeps test scores at 80% of a school’s rating will repeat many of the same failures and negative impacts of NCLB, which over the last ten years did nothing to close the achievement gap and arguably has led to greater segregation of our schools and a narrowing of our children’s academic opportunities.  

I urge OSSE to not rush into a final plan by April 3rd, and instead to wait until the second submission window in September, and I urge OSSE to use ESSA’s flexibility to create school “Dashboards” rather than “Ratings.”

Submit Accountability Proposal in September, not April

Three critical reasons to submit proposal in September:

  1.  Take the time to gain maximum engagement from parents, educators and other stakeholders. Parents are just beginning to understand the draft plan and its impact and want more opportunity to discuss and give input to the plan. This plan is complicated and there needs to be robust discussion of its potential impacts.
  2. Take the time to work with a variety of experts on various aspects of the plan from what is best for English language learners (ELs) and students with disabilities to what are the best indicators of school success in addition to testing that are valid, reliable and can be disaggregated and differentiated.
  3. Give Chancellor Wilson an authentic opportunity to weigh in. It is unreasonable that Chancellor Wilson will not have a significant hand in shaping the new plan that he will be responsible for implementing for 49,000 students. We parents will hold him accountable for DCPS’s success. He deserves the chance to have a say in how it will be judged. OSSE released its draft plan just as the Chancellor came on board and it will be final just two months later. Chancellor Wilson needs time to understand and hear from DCPS’s 109 school leaders and educators, 8 ward education councils, numerous nonprofit partners, and tens of thousands of parents.

It is unconscionable that OSSE drafted this plan in the Chancellor’s absence and then is aiming to finish it within the first two months of his tenure. DC charter school leaders have had time to engage their stakeholders, gather experts and weigh in with OSSE since ESSA was signed in December of 2015 – over a year ago. To argue that our new DCPS Chancellor has to make the same commitments to a new system in only two months is wrong.

Use ESSA Flexibility to Create School “Dashboard” rather than “Rating”  

The ESSA legislation gives states the flexibility to create a school Dashboard, instead of, or in addition to, a school Rating. A Dashboard would present a few categories of data on each school, such as growth, proficiency, reenrollment and graduation rates, without trying to combine those categories into a final “Score” or “Rating” for each school.  

When high level data is combined to create a single rating, it obfuscates the real data behind a made up number that reflects more the percentage weight given to each data point, rather than the value of the data itself.  

The types of data collected and shared publicly under ESSA guidelines is important to guide school improvement efforts and to inform parents’ school choices. When data is combined into a final score it becomes almost meaningless for both of these purposes.  

If there is a legislative requirement to combine them into a final score, that score should only be used for federal legislative purposes, while the Dashboard of data should be used to share data with the public about school quality.

Robust, verifiable and reliable data that’s made publicly available for ALL schools on a wide-range of school performance measures would give parents, teachers, students and school leaders the shared data they need to collaborate effectively on school improvement.

The types of data that needs to be collected and made publicly available under ESSA, includes:

  1. Robust school climate assessments that provide actionable data and are administered to students, teachers and parents, like the Cal State Assessment Instrument.
  2. Teacher turnover rates and percent of teachers considered highly effective.
  3. Percent of students that leave mid-year, as well as reenrollment rates for the school.
  4. Attendance rates for both students and teachers.
  5. Number of expulsions and suspensions.
  6. Measures that would indicate the quality of science and social studies instruction, particularly in middle and high school, and
  7. List of electives and after school activities to which all students have access.

Most schools are already tracking this information in some way, it just isn’t tracked consistently or reliably and the data isn’t shared publicly. 

Taking a Dashboard approach to public education data would take the politics out of discussion of what data point has more or less meaning, and would enable an honest look at the quality and content of the education offered at ALL schools in DC.  

 ——

OSSE Performance Oversight

Every Student Succeeds Act – School Accountability Measures

February 14, 2017

Testimony by Caryn Ernst 

Parent at School Without Walls and Capitol Hill Cluster School

Status

Helena Smolich Testimony – OSSE Performance Oversight – Feb 14, 2017

Good afternoon and thank you for hearing my testimony.  

I’m Helena Smolich, a parent at CHM@L, and a Ward 6 resident. OSSE is set to submit its new Education Plan to the Department of Education on April 3rd, 2017. The period for public comment and community meetings will close by March 3rd. If meaningful input is the goal, which it should be, I believe April 3rd is not sufficient time to gather and review fully the views of the community. I urge OSSE to postpone the submission and give some more thought and time to complete a comprehensive plan, designed to set our students up for success. Two overarching goals of the new Education plan are for DC to “become the fastest improving state and city in the nation in student achievement outcomes; and to ensure greater equity in outcomes for our students, by accelerating progress for those who are furthest behind”. While both are worthy, I wonder if these goals are in step with the larger context of our city. It’s generally acknowledged that academic outcomes are closely related to economic circumstances. So, from that perspective, is DC aiming to achieve the same kind of economic growth; to reduce and eliminate poverty and homelessness in our city, thusly facilitating academic growth of our students? In absence of such coordinated efforts, the new education plan could put unfair pressure on our teachers and students to treat the symptom, rather then the cause. 

Proposed accountability measure is composed of 80% standardized test scores, 15% school environment, and 5% English language proficiency (for K-8 grades). The school environment includes attendance, in-seat attendance, and re-enrollment. Is standardized test score the most important measure of school’s success? My family lives half a block from Brent Elementary, a highly coveted elementary school in ward 6. Rather then enrolling my sons at Brent, we make a trek across the Hill to CHM@L. And I can tell you, it is not because of the test scores. I worry that with this great emphasis on test scores, our schools will become corporatized, overly focused on their quarterly financial statements, and making the numbers look good, so to speak.  

There are so many aspects of what makes a school a good school, which could be quantified and used for overall school grade. Student satisfaction, parent satisfaction, teacher satisfaction, teacher turnover, teacher education level, expulsion rates, reported incidences of bullying (and the reduction of the same), even the number of students on the wait list can be an indicator of the school quality. None of these are part of the proposed accountability measure. 

I would like to end by reading a post from the list serve I belong to, that reflects a thought process of a parent entering the school system for the first time: “I’m curious about folks’ thoughts on some of the charter or public schools in our area that do not seem to have as high of demand ….For example, [Kipp Connect PCS] seems to be rated very highly per the Charter School Board system, but it had only a single digit waitlist. “ Is this a good school? I don’t know, but I do know parents look for far more then test scores when deciding on their children’s education. 

Thank you for your time. 

———

Testimony of Helena Smolich 

Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan OSSE Performance Oversight Hearing

Committee on Education 

February 14, 2017  

Status

Danica Petroshius Testimony – OSSE Performance Oversight – Feb 14, 2017

Thank you for holding this important hearing. I’m Danica Petroshius, parent of two at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML), LSAT committee member, and a Ward 6 resident.  

As you all know, OSSE has an important opportunity to shape a stronger, more modern accountability and support system through the new federal ESSA law.  

The risk is that the new plan will define and drive our school accountability and support system for the next 10 years, at least. We know that major federal education laws take ten years or more on average to overhaul. While the federal Department of Education may allow some adjustments and changes to DC’s plan during the next 10 years, the bulk of the plan will stay the same until the ESSA law changes.   

To ensure that the ESSA opportunity outweighs the risk, we should not rush into a final plan by April 3rd; we should wait until the second submission window in September for three critical reasons: 

  1. Take the time to gain maximum engagement from parents, educators and other stakeholders. Parents in my community are just beginning to understand the draft plan and its impact. They want to attend the outreach sessions and then go back again for more discussion and input because this plan is complicated and has direct impact on our kids, teachers and schools. 
  2. Take the time to work with a variety of experts on various aspects of the plan from what is best for English language learners (ELs) and students with disabilities to what are the best indicators of school success, in addition to testing, that are valid, reliable and can be disaggregated and differentiated. 
  3. Give Chancellor Wilson an authentic, community-based opportunity to weigh in. It is unreasonable that Chancellor Wilson will not have time to get to know our school communities and use that new information to help shape a plan that he will implement for all 49,000 students. OSSE released its draft plan just as the Chancellor came on board and it will be final just two months later. Chancellor Wilson needs more time to understand and hear from DCPS’s 109 school leaders and educators, 8 ward education councils, numerous nonprofit partners, and tens of thousands of parents. We parents will hold the Chancellor accountable for DCPS’s success; he should have time to work with us before weighing in. DC charter school leaders have had time to engage their stakeholders, gather experts and weigh in with OSSE since ESSA was signed in December 2015 – over a year ago. To argue that our new DCPS Chancellor has to make the same commitments to a new system and a new community in only two months is wrong.  

OSSE may argue that by waiting until September, we are delaying a better system for kids. The reality is that whether a state applies in April or September, the 17-18 school year is a planning and transition year. Either way, the 18-19 school year is when the new plans begin to really take hold.  

We as a city must give ourselves time to get this right and ensure stakeholder buy-in so that there is widespread commitment to its success. This is a plan that will drive how my children and many others are educated and supported, their teachers valued and their schools judged though their high school graduation day. We should be willing to wait a few months to make sure the next 10 years are the best they can be. 
———–

Testimony of Danica Petroshius 

OSSE Oversight Hearing in the Committee on Education 

February 14, 2017  

Status

Suzanne Wells Testimony – OSSE Performance Oversight – Feb 14, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Performance Oversight Hearing. I am going to focus my remarks on the important work OSSE is doing to develop school accountability measures under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA or the Act). The Act provides us a welcomed opportunity to make meaningful changes in how school quality is accessed, and we owe it to our students, teachers and school administrators to make thoughtful changes. 

In June, representatives from the State Board of Education came to the monthly meeting of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO). At that meeting, parents shared their ideas on what they think makes a great school. You may be surprised, but not a single parent at the meeting said that high test scores made a great school. In fact, parents expressed concern that their children are being tested too much, and it comes at the expense of a well-rounded, academically challenging educational experience. Parents wanted to see testing used by teachers to assess students so the teacher could better target the areas where a student needed to improve rather than testing done primarily for the purpose of evaluating an entire school.
When parents were asked what made a great school, they spoke to issues that relate to the school climate. Is there trust between the principal and the teachers? Do students feel welcomed and excited about their school? Are the parents encouraged to be involved with the school? Does the school offer a challenging curriculum beyond English language arts and math? Does it have rich programs in arts, music, science, history, foreign language, physical education, and library studies? Does the school do a good job of creating a social/emotional climate that promotes conflict resolution, bullying prevention, and social/emotional learning? And, how does the school work to support its most vulnerable students; the students who are homeless, those whose parents are getting divorced, those whose parents are incarcerated or have substance abuse problems?

There are three things I want to encourage OSSE to consider as it develops its final plan for measuring school accountability: 1) the weight allocated to testing, 2) the consideration of school climate measures; and 3) the date OSSE submits its school accountability plan to the Department of Education.   

ESSA requires that the majority of the weight for school accountability be allocated to test scores. OSSE’s current proposal would give 80% of the weight to testing; 40% to the test scores, and 40% to growth in test scores. Devoting such a large percentage to test scores is concerning for several reasons. First, think back to when you were in school. Most often a grade in an individual class was determined based on the homework you completed, the written assignments, class participation, a mid-term exam, and a final exam. Maybe your final exam accounted for 40% of your grade, but rarely was the final exam 80% of your final grade. Why would we want to make test scores 80% of our school accountability measure? Second, the PARCC test scores are based on English and math. Why would we choose to ignore everything else that is taught in school throughout the year, for example, social studies and science?  

It is hard to underestimate the importance of school climate as it relates to student learning. Students learn a lot more when they attend school every day, and feel safe and welcomed at the school. Schools where teachers collaborate with each other, and where there is low teacher turnover can provide better instruction for their students. Schools where principals gather data to understand the school’s strengths and weaknesses in order to continually improve a school are more likely to be successful. School climate surveys exist which can be used to gather meaningful data to both hold schools accountable, and also to continual improve a school. Because the new school accountability measures will not go into effect until the 2018-2019 school year, there is time to pilot test the use of school climate surveys as an instrument to both gather information on school accountability and to develop actionable items that can be used to improve individual school performance.

ESSA allows for school accountability plans to be submitted in either April or September of 2017. Since the school accountability plans won’t go into effect next year, but rather in the 2018-2019 school year, there is no reason for OSSE to rush submission of its school accountability plan. I recommend the school accountability plan be submitted in September of 2017. This will allow OSSE time to thoughtfully evaluate the substantive comments it has received on the school accountability measures. It will also give the new DCPS Chancellor, Antwan Wilson, time to weigh in on the school accountability measures and how they will work to support his efforts to close the achievement gap.

In closing, I’d like to provide some specific suggestions for OSSE to consider before it submits its plan to measure school accountability. I encourage OSSE to:

  • Place the lowest weight allowed by the Every Student Succeeds Act on test scores while allowing student growth to play a large role in the weighting of test scores, and seek to find ways to express accountability in subject areas beyond English and math;
  • Pilot test a school climate survey instrument that will allows schools to gather actionable data on improving the school; and submit the school accountability measures in September 2017.

—–

Testimony

Suzanne Wells

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO)

before the 

Education Committee

Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)

Performance Oversight Hearing

February 14, 2016

Status

Carys Gill Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 14 2016

Testimony of Carys Gill

Student, J.O. Wilson Elementary

to the DC Council Committee on Education

April 14, 2016

For more information: iris007gill (at) gmail (dot) com.

 

Good evening Council Members.

My name is Carys Gill and I am in Ms. Gruse’s second grade-class at J.O. Wilson Elementary School.

I am proud to be here today to represent my school, my community, and my classmates.

I hope you will support J.O. Wilson Elementary School and I hope you will come to visit us.

You can see our awesome school garden— we even got chickens last week.

You can meet our cool teachers.

And you can see what a great place it is to learn.

We are a growing school that is doing well. But our school building isn’t as good as it should be.

Kids have to wait in long lines for lunch, which means we run out of time to play outside.

Kids have been hurt by the building when sinks fall off the bathroom walls.

And Kids have to take indoor recess in classrooms or hallways because we don’t have a gym.

I love my school. But right now, not everyone who wants to be a Cardinal, can be one. If kids are in wheelchairs or need help to get around, they have to go to a different school— one that has an elevator or ramps. That’s just not right!

We want our school to be a place for everyone and we want to welcome anybody who wants to come.

In our school pledge we say,

“I will act in such a way that I will be proud of myself and others will

be proud of me too. I came to school to learn and I will learn. I will

have a great day.”

Status

Evan Yeats Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 14 2016

Testimony of Evan Yeats

Parent, J.O. Wilson Elementary

to the DC Council Committee on Education

April 14, 2016

For more information: evan.yeats (at) gmail (dot) com

 

Good evening members of the committee. My name is Evan Yeats, and I’m the parent of a pre-kindergarten student at J.O. Wilson. I’m a resident of Petworth in Ward 4, and we’re one of many out-of-boundary parents that have found a home at J.O. Wilson.

I wanted to start by thanking both the Chairman and the Mayor for working to find a system to determine when school renovations occur that is based more in data and less in politics and influence. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Perhaps it’s because my son’s school gets left behind in these calculations, but I can’t help but worry about four criteria that got left off the funding formulas:

ADA accessibility: you’ve heard this concern from the other two parents up here, and I can’t help but emphasize it again. We believe that all children should be able to get the quality education our children are getting, and right now, that’s not possible. Right now, we have no idea if or when that issue will be fixed and urge you to include ADA accessibility as part of your renovation formula. A school should be accessible for the whole community.

Date of last renovation: By not considering the scope of the renovation, this scoring negatively impacts schools that have been already negatively impacted by the now-abandoned phased renovation system. At J.O. Wilson, we received phase one of a three phase renovation – a phase that mainly consisted of replacing windows and the HVAC system over a portion of the building. A large portion of the building was not touched by this phase one, and the needs are clearly far greater than just new windows. Under this committee’s scoring system, we receive the same score as a school that was constructed new on the same date, while clearly our building is not in the same condition.

Health and safety concerns: while the formula used by this committee reflects the DGS “grades” assigned to the facilities, they don’t reflect real health & safety concerns of the population that are using them. The District is probably already be tracking, for liability purposes, a more useful metric – like building-related injury reports. If students and community members are being injured due to the condition of a DCPS facility, that should count in your rankings.

Equity of access to facilities: An indoor activity and play space, like a gym, is essential for elementary school children in a climate like Washington’s where a substantial portion of their recreation time is likely to be spent indoors. J.O. Wilson doesn’t have a gym, and that paired with high enrollment and high building utilization means that there is essentially no indoor recreation space. My son’s class takes indoor recess by literally running laps in the halls. In the committee’s formula, our school is the same priority as a (hypothetical) school that has a gym, an auditorium, a separate cafeteria or even a pool.

I believe, that like the parents and families at J.O. Wilson, that the Mayor and the members of this committee want to provide facilities for DCPS students that enable our children to learn and succeed. I admire the committee’s efforts to make a fairer, more transparent process for renovations. But I think that these categories need consideration, as well.

Thank you.

Status

Iris Bond Gill Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 14 2016

Testimony of Iris Bond Gill

Parent, J.O. Wilson Elementary

to the DC Council Committee on Education

April 14, 2016

For more information: iris007gill (at) gmail (dot) com.

 

Good evening Chairman Grosso and Members of the Education Committee.

My name is Iris Bond Gill and I am parent of first and second grade students at J.O. Wilson Elementary School. I also serve on the executive board of the PTA and on the LSAT. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over a decade and am grateful that we have a strong neighborhood school that my children can walk to and attend.

I want to talk about some of the immediate health and safety challenges we face at J.O. Wilson.

Accessibility: One of our biggest challenges is the lack of ADA accessibility at our school. We have a three-level building with no elevator or chairlift, and none of the main entrances are wheelchair accessible. Our principal has had to turn students away because it was too difficult for them to get to classes. In 2016, in our nation’s capitol, this situation is unacceptable, and in the current budget, there is no schedule for this to change.  We thank our ANC commissioner who just yesterday put forth a resolution requesting ADA compliance for JO Wilson.

Stairwells: DGS rated our facilities as unsatisfactory or poor in two categories– “unsatisfactory in conveying” and “poor in stairwells” this year. This is the third year in a row that we’ve received poor ratings so we are saying now, on the record, that we need our stairwells upgraded to a safe standard for all students.

Cafeteria: While we received a partial phase one of a three-phase renovation several years ago, there is a large portion of our school that went untouched, including the cafeteria. Our cafeteria is overwhelmed by student demand. The huge uptick in enrollment at our school means that our only indoor space of any size, which also functions as an auditorium, is occupied for most of the day and the slow service–because our kitchen is inadequate to meet the high demand–prevents our children from getting the recess time they need after lunch.

Bathroom: And finally, this winter, a sink fell off a wall in a third floor bathroom while a student was using it. That student was injured by the shattering sink and had to go to the hospital for stitches. And that’s just one story that illustrates our need for bathroom upgrades throughout the building.

Our school is rapidly becoming an environment no longer conducive to learning. Yet we have no money allocated for renovations in this year’s budget or in any budget going forward.

We are specifically asking for two requests in the FY17 budget.

First, we need funding to remedy the health and safety concerns associated with the poor stairwells, lack of ADA accessibility, and bathrooms in need of repair.

Second, we need seed money to plan collaboratively with DCPS and DGS for the out-year renovations.

Families from all over the city are choosing JO Wilson. We’re sending our children at every grade level. We don’t experience the drop-off that other elementary schools experience after fourth grade. We have a very full fifth grade and we feed into a strong DCPS middle school. Our school is fully utilized from 7am until 6pm with one of the highest before and aftercare rates in the city.

This is a good problem to have and one way to continue to keep people is to have a great facility that can truly accommodate the daily wear and tear of school like ours. And the planning dollars will help us start this process of creating a smart and sustainable plan for our school.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns and requests with you today.