Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC) Resolution on the Bill Before the DC Council to Establish a Research Advisory Board and Collaborative

Whereas DC Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Robert White Jr, Charles Allen , Vincent Gray , Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman , Anita Bonds, and Trayon White, Sr. have co-sponsored the “District of Columbia Education Research Advisory Board and Collaborative Establishment Amendment Act of 2018,” and,

Whereas the Council included $500,000 in the FY 2019 budget and budget support act considered on first reading on May 15, 2018 to pilot such a program and,

Whereas C4DC believes independent research is critical to continuous improvement of public education; and,

Whereas the Act calls for creating a sixteen-person advisory board including representatives from DCPS, the DME, OSSE, PCSB, SBOE, parent organizations, DC education non-profits, the WTU, the principals’ union, and DC community representatives; and,

Whereas the Advisory Board, staff and DC Auditor will be charged with proposing to the DC Council the design for a long-term structure for an independent research entity; and

Whereas the collaborative will prepare “state of public education” reports each July; and

Whereas the Advisory Board and DC Auditor will hire an executive director and staff but also contract out independent research projects;

Be it therefore resolved, that the C4DC supports the principle of independent research and a representative advisory board, and the bill titled “The District of Columbia Education Research Advisory Board and Collaborative Establishment Amendment Act of 2018” and urges the Council to include its proposed $500,000 funding for FY19 to pilot such an initiative and to hold hearings on and enact a law based on the proposed bill before the start of FY19.

Signed By the Following Groups:

Ward 1 Education Collaborative
Ward 3/Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Council on Education
Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council
Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators
Teaching for Change
Washington Teachers Union
Washington Lawyers Committee


CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, May 15, at Jefferson Middle School Academy

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization Members,

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, May 15, at Jefferson Middle School Academy (801 7th St., SW) from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. We will have an informal discussion with Michael Bekesha a candidate for the Ward 6 City Councilmember position. Unfortunately, Lisa Hunter and Charles Allen will not be able to attend our meeting due to scheduling conflicts.

Betsy Wolf, an Amidon-Bowen parent, will lead a presentation on at-risk funding. If you have information on how at-risk funds are used at your schools, please bring it to share.

Finally, we’ll have open discussions on 1) DC Education Research Advisory Board and CollaborativeEstablishment Bill that was introduced by Councilmember Cheh last month, 2) principal selection panels, and 3) traffic safety issues around our schools.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

051518 CHPSPO Agenda.docx


Amber Gove Testimony, DCPS Budget Hearing, April 11, 2018

Thank you Councilmember Grosso and committee members for the chance to testify today.

As recent events have highlighted, DCPS needs steady leadership from someone who knows our city and system, and can deliver what parents, students and teachers need most: quality, safe schools that meet the needs of all students. This is also an election year, and given recent events, all eyes are on DCPS and the current budget cycle. This situation presents a unique opportunity to deliver on Mayor Bowser’s campaign promises, including her commitment to “Alice Deal for All,” a pledge to ensure all DCPS middle schools are as well-resourced as Deal. Unfortunately, raising the quality of all middle schools is a dream that has largely been deferred: according to OSSE data, the feeder school capture rate for all DCPS middle schools is 39 percent; Deal is an outlier at 74 percent. When it comes time to enroll their children in middle school, many parents do not yet believe that DCPS is the best option and they vote with their feet at an alarming rate.

As a Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, Local School Advisory Team member, and parent of two girls at Maury Elementary on Capitol Hill, I regularly hear from residents about their educational aspirations for their children. Middle school choice is the hot topic of every playdate, parent gathering on the playground, and church coffee hour. What families want most is a safe, quality school that will meet the educational needs of their children and all of the children that it serves. They want a school that will welcome their involvement and volunteerism. And they don’t want to have to travel across town to get it: they want their children to walk or bike to their neighborhood middle school.

In our neighborhood, Eliot-Hine Middle School has the potential to deliver what Ward 6 parents want. But the school, like many within DCPS, is facing serious budget constraints related to its current enrollment levels. The funding formula for a middle school with just over 200 students presents limited opportunities for growth and vision. In multiple meetings with prospective parents, Principal Young and her leadership team have articulated a vision that includes staffing to meet the needs of all students, a focus on school culture and classroom responsiveness, and the extension of the school day to expand programming. Realizing this vision will require working outside of DCPS’ rigid enrollment-based funding formula, yet to date, DCPS has not even provided the minimum staffing model required by the International Baccalaureate program, particularly with regards to language. This needs to change, and urgently. Our community is seeking your support in asking the Deputy Mayor for Education and DCPS to fund Eliot-Hine not just to the levels of its existing enrollment, but through additional investments that support the school’s expected growth to some 500 students over the next few years.
Funding the school’s priorities is paramount if DCPS wishes Eliot-Hine to grow to its full potential and be able to attract more families from feeder and other Ward 6 schools. If you build it, we will come. At Maury we have compiled a list of nearly 40 students whose families are committed to enrolling at Eliot-Hine. Similar lists are being compiled at other feeder and non-feeder schools. Each of those school communities should be consulted to better understand what they would like to see at their child’s middle school. For example, parents of Tyler Elementary students are particularly interested in accelerated Spanish and immersion opportunities, an option not currently available at any nearby middle school. They are not alone, as the testimony of DC Language Immersion Project indicates. I ask that DCPS engage with principals and use the current budget cycle to fund the vision they and their communities have for their middle schools, beyond what current enrollment levels might dictate.

I also ask that the Deputy Mayor for Education work with the Chancellor to create a more pro-equity funding formula for all middle schools. As the figures attached to my testimony indicate, there is substantial variation in the amount of per-pupil funding middle schools receive for non-personnel costs. My analysis of FY19 budgets shows that while Deal can expect $1802 per student for non-personnel expenditures, nine of the eleven other middle schools receive less per student, and several receive only a third of Deal’s expected allocation. Some of these schools, like Eliot-Hine, have at risk populations of 70 percent or more. I was shocked to learn that middle schools receive a flat amount per student of just $9 for art, $10 each for music and PE/health, $12 for science and $20 for literacy: $61 in total for each student to support these critical subject areas. As a recent Washington Post article reports, more advantaged schools are able to supplement their DCPS allocations by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through their PTAs. Most schools on this chart, and in particular those with a high percentage of at-risk students, have no such luxury. As just one proposal, I would suggesting starting every middle school with the same $1802 Deal will receive, and then add additional resources based on the proportion of at-risk students the school supports.

As an international education researcher and policy advisor, I’m often asked why I don’t work on domestic education issues. My usual response is that I work in places with all of the will and not enough means, while in the United States we have all of the means and not enough will. DC is different. As recent events have laid bare, there is a critical mass of residents, like me, who want our city to deliver on the promise of educating all students. We don’t want to play the lottery or compete for space in charter schools, leaving others behind. We don’t want our children to travel halfway across the city because their neighborhood school does not offer them what they need. And we don’t want to see another generation of students passed through the system without having their learning needs met. We have both the will and the means to achieve quality education for all, in all of our wards and neighborhoods. And we will remember the promises made (and the promises not fulfilled) at the polls in June and November.




Heather Schoell Written Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective. I’m the parent of a 10th grader at Eastern and an 8th grader at Eliot-Hine. I’m the PTO secretary at the former, the PTO president at the latter, and LSAT secretary for both schools. I have been involved in improving public schools since 2005.

Middle School Outcomes. I want to bring to your attention the struggle of middle schools and why the funding allocation is a square peg. Middle schools have only three years to work with students. Eliot-Hine, the feeder school for Maury, Miner, Payne, and SWS @ Goding, has not typically gotten the top-performing students from each feeder’s 5th grade. (Those kids are often taken out of their elementary school at 5th in favor of charters.) Two-thirds of the Eliot-Hine student population comes from Wards 7 and 8. Wherever they come from, Eliot-Hine inherits kids who read significantly below grade level, and staff has only three years to try to mitigate the deficiency.

That’s the way it’s been for years. How is that fair, then, to hold Eliot-Hine to a funding standard as they work to undo the damage that’s been done to these kids, when elementary schools (or other middle schools if they’ve transferred in) have failed to teach them to read? Reading is fundamental. We can’t expect academic success when children aren’t reading at or near grade level, let alone when they’re four or more grade levels behind. And when they can’t read, they can’t do math, social studies, or science. Reading is everything. It’s a struggle to thrive when you feel ashamed, and know that these kids absolutely feel shame about their reading levels.

Until someone stands up for these kids and does something different at both the elementary level for prevention and the middle school level for remediation, we can expect the same outcomes in middle and high school (and beyond). We can expect low levels of academic success, and we can continue to pour money into the same baseline budget formulas based on enrollment, and parents of the top students can continue to choose schools outside of their neighborhood, citing low test scores and/or the unrenovated building.

Funding can remain the same, or you can step up and right this wrong. Make the commitment to show that these kids are worth the investment. Fund a full-time librarian so she can continue to help students find the books that will inspire them to read and help them to do successful research for their IB projects. Fund City Year for Eliot-Hine, which will not only help with small-group differentiation in the classrooms, but would also serve as mentors. Mentors can alter the path of a child’s life.

Heath and Welfare. I’ve testified about this before, but I’ll say it again and again. Take the mental health and social worker positions out of the schools’ budgets! Put the onus on DBH and CFSA to embed their people in schools so students get the help they need and schools can hire teachers instead of social workers. This way it’s more equitable and needs-based, and more direct. This would help with attendance, too, as so much time is wasted in the process of noting chronic absence and doing something to address and mitigate it. And of course, good mental health and welfare directly correlates with the level of academic success. We need to have the courage to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working and fix it.

Conclusion. One thing is for sure: we can’t do the same thing and expect different outcomes. We’re talking about the same problems this year as we did five years ago. That can’t feel good, sitting where you are. It certainly doesn’t feel good to the students who aren’t getting what they need. Invest in prevention in elementary and targeted intervention and remediation in middle school. Have the courage to make big changes that will make a difference. Raise the bar – we rise to the level of our lowest expectations.


Kristina Vidal Written Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

I’m writing today to advocate for Eliot-Hine Middle School, an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Ward 6 that draws a significant number of students from Wards 7 & 8. As an IB school, our curriculum is based around 8 core content areas, and though it aligns with the Common Core standards, the way that content is taught is approached differently. Not surprisingly, an IB school’s staffing model looks a bit different than a typical school, too. DCPS has actually developed guidelines for staffing IB schools, but since Eliot-Hine’s accreditation as an IB school in 2015, we have yet to receive a budget allocation that matches those guidelines. Instead, every year is a struggle to lobby for the resources that our school needs.

For example, in the FY16 School Budget Development Guide developed by DCPS, Middle Years Programme (MYP) schools (grades 5-10) should have “a full-time IB Coordinator”, “classroom teachers for all grade levels; all content areas” and “2 World Language teachers (must service the whole school, the entire year)”and have a “Specialist – Library/Media. I have been an LSAT member for Eliot-Hine for the past two years, and we’ve never received an initial budget that covers those four guidelines. Instead, are forced to use money that would otherwise go to instituting programs like a Saturday Academy to cover deficiencies. if we include FY18/19, we’ve had a half-time Librarian for 3 out of 4 years, we only got grade-level teachers for ELA and Math content as of SY17/18 (and don’t have that for Science or Social Studies), and we’ve only had a single World Language teacher in the building for the last three years.

Why does this matter? At MYP schools, every 8th grader is required to complete a year-long IB Community project, which is based on a need that they see within their community that resonates with them. Research, both skills and access to appropriate resources, is a vital component of this project, and Eliot-Hine students and teachers have leaned on our Librarian to help students complete their projects. The Eliot-Hine community has aggressively pursued library resources in recent years to address known deficiencies in the size, age and quality of our media collection. In the past 3 years, we’ve successfully brought in over $15,000 in new books and audio books to support readers across a broad range of reading levels and interests. We have created a Spanish- language collection from scratch and have been deliberate in selecting books with diverse characters and global themes to support the global-mindedness of our IB curriculum. However, next year’s school budget will yet again only cover a half-time Librarian, which means that our students not be able to get full use out of our collection. We would love to have a fully-funded Librarian position for SY18/19.

For middle schools, the IB Middle Years Programme is an inclusive model, which means that every student benefits from a globally-minded, inquiry-based education with a significant service learning component. Every student should have access to a World Language in this model, and we’ve been able to find ways to make that work with just one language teacher in the school. However, the fidelity of implementation of the IB curriculum is being undermined by the failure of DCPS schools to get students to grade-level proficiency before they enter sixth grade. Eliot-Hine has approximately 150 students this year who require a reading intervention period to help them close the gap to get back on grade level. In SY17/18, many students missed out on an elective, such as Spanish, so that their schedule could accommodate their required intervention block within their class schedule.

At the same time, we have a small (but growing) cohort of students whose achievement is well above grade level, which means that within our classrooms there is often a wide range of ability and mastery of subject content. With only one instructor and no ‘tracking’ of high and low performing students, teachers have to split time to handle re-teaching, grade-level content and enrichment activities within a single class period. With classroom technology, some of the challenges of differentiated instruction could be met with technology, but with only 82 functional laptops for 208 students, we are only able to provide laptops to one content area at a time. And since schools seem to live or die by their PARCC scores, our ELA and Math classes have gotten priority for these resources, which means that Social Studies, Science and Spanish have had to go without. Again, while some schools have a PTO that can bring more laptops into the building, our PTO doesn’t have the means to do so, and even if we did, the lack of clear guidelines in terms of what OCTO will support for classroom technology in the future means we are at risk of buying Chromebooks or other devices that won’t be supported by central resources from SY18/19 onward. We cannot afford to buy devices that will become obsolete.

While we are providing interventions to the students that need them, they’re often in a large-group setting, which makes the one-on-one interaction that really helps students achieve growth much less likely. Our school budget does not provide for Aide positions outside the requirements for our Special Education population, and again, our PTO cannot afford to cover salaries for additional staff to help out in the classroom.

We feel our community would be particularly well-served by a program like City Year, but when we’re scrounging to find the money to fill the holes in our IB staffing model, there is barely enough left over for basics like copy paper and custodial supplies. But on a dollar-for-dollar basis, City Year represents a fantastic bargain for a school like Eliot-Hine, which sorely needs both classroom aides and additional adults in the building to support climate and culture goals as well as student clubs and activities. For the cost of one additional full-time DCPS teacher, we could bring 8-10 more adults into our building to serve our school in a host of ways. We urge you to help us bring this program to our school in SY18/19.

Literacy has already been identified as a primary focus for SY18/19. We feel that bringing both a full-time Librarian and City Year to our school are actions that align extremely well-aligned with this focus and will help to make a difference with our kids, many who have been chronically underserved by DCPS prior to their arrival in middle school.

Kristina Vidal
Mother to DCPS 4th & 7th graders
PTO Treasurer and LSAT member for Eliot-Hine Middle School


Michael N. Kruger Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

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

My name is Mike Kruger and I am a parent of a first grader and rising EC-3 student at J.O. Wilson Elementary.

I am proud of the J.O. Wilson community and, like many parents, feel that the physical building doesn’t provide our children the best learning environment.

J.O. Wilson underwent the beginning of the Phase One renovation in 2013. That was an improvement, but there is still much to be done.

Since then, there have been some improvements. In 2016, the kitchen received a $450,000 renovation that included a new walk-in fridge and second serving line for our 100% free and reduced student population.

In 2016 and 2017, we worked closely with DGS to get the lead out of our water. While that process wasn’t easy, we do appreciate the final result of lead-free water.

Finally, last summer, we received new exterior doors that have improved the attractiveness of the entryway.

However, we still have some real impediments to learning. As you will hear, we are not ADA compliant and need ramps or lifts at our entries plus an elevator. There were verbal commitments to Principal Haggerty that the elevator would be installed this summer. I was informed on April 9th by Ms. Carla Watson that the elevator wouldn’t be installed until FY19. She did say, “We are working to install a lift or ramp this summer,” which isn’t very useful or valuable without an elevator.

The current configuration of the school building is not how it was when the HVAC system was designed and installed. Therefore, we have rooms without heat vents or returns. In the winter, students have to put on their coats to attend “specials” or go to the library. In the summer, they are unable to use some of the rooms due to the heat.

Our façade doesn’t not adequately drain when it rains. Therefore, the concrete chips and falls off. There have been many repairs in the last three years. Each one working as poorly as previously, and only making the school appear in disrepair from the street.

Also, water seeps into classrooms. Every room on the front (south) of the building has water stains on their ceiling. Given health concerns about indoor air quality and mold, it is frustrating this problem is not addressed.

Finally, in the recent PACE scores, J.O. Wilson was the school most in need of modernization in Ward 6. While not an honor we are especially excited about, it is one that clearly demonstrates with data what many parents feel about our building in their hearts. It doesn’t meet the challenges of educating students in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

The funding for the renovation would be in FY24, but it appears the project wouldn’t be completed until August 2026. My first grade son will be a freshman in high school and my daughter, who starts at J.O. Wilson next school year, will be in the third grade before the renovation is completed.

That’s too long. We look forward to having further conversations about how to improve the facility while our children are still there.

I call on the Council to reprogram the budget to ensure the elevator and HVAC issues are addressed this summer, while providing planning dollars for the water damage and falling façade that can be addressed in next year’s budget.

Finally, given the community interest in the school, we’d ask for a small amount of money to help facilitate school and local community engagement to begin planning for the renovation.