See Ya, Kaya: ‘Legacy of Progress’?

Cross-Post from The Fight Back
written by Pete Tucker

This is the first in a three-part series on Kaya Henderson’s time atop DCPS.

After six years as head of D.C. Public Schools, Kaya Henderson is calling it quits Friday.

According to the Washington Post, her biggest booster, Henderson is leaving behind a “legacy of progress.”

Not everyone agrees.

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Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee. Photo: Washington Post

Before ascending to chancellor, Henderson served three years as top deputy to her close friend, Michelle Rhee, known for mass teacher firings and school closings.

Henderson has continued in Rhee’s footsteps, albeit with less bombast.

Throughout the Rhee and Henderson years, the Post has played the role of lead-cheerleader (even collaborating on coverage). Now the Post wants the good times to continue.

Instead of conducting a search for the next chancellor, the Post’s Jay Mathews says D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser should just ask Henderson to name her replacement since “she knows better than anybody what the job is.”

But after nearly a decade atop DCPS, some don’t give the Rhee/Henderson team such high marks.

‘Haters’

Improving test scores has been central to Henderson and Rhee’s claims of turning DCPS around.

But when retired DCPS teacher Erich Martel dug into the data, he found the gains were largely due to D.C.’s rapid gentrification, which has pushed lower-income African American students out, while ushering in wealthier whites, who score higher on tests.

Associated Press reporter Ben Nuckols similarly noted, “The gains in test scores have… coincided with the city becoming wealthier and the white population increasing.”

“Literally, I just got to just let this out,” Henderson has said in response to such critiques, “Haters are going to hate.”

Cheating Scandal

Within a year of Rhee’s 2007 DCPS takeover, test scores started climbing, dramatically at some schools.

While the Post was busy touting the results, out-of-town news organizations questioned them. A 2011 USA Today investigation found a higher than average wrong-to-right erasure rate the prior three years at “more than half of D.C. schools.”

Erasure rate refers to the number of changed answers on a test and can be used to identify possible cheating.

“A high erasure rate alone is not evidence of impropriety,” Henderson said in response.

But some of the erasure rates were very, very high. At Noyes Education Campus, for example, USA Today found,

The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance.

After USA Today’s exposé, scores at Noyes dropped, according to data posted at Guy Brandenburg’s education blog.

“Real students may be fidgety and jumpy, but their scores on yearly high-stakes tests… do NOT jump around like this,” wrote Brandenburg, a retired DCPS teacher.

“Look at those scores,” wrote historian and education scholar Diane Ravitch, who served as assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush. “First the soar up, then they plummet down. Nothing suspicious there, right?”

Not for D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, who found no evidence of widespread cheating, despite only investigating one school, Noyes. The U.S. Education Department Inspector General, in a “tandem” investigation, came to a similar conclusion.

Meanwhile, DCPS failed to conduct its own investigation, even after an internal memo called for one, as PBS’s John Merrow reported at his blog.

“There have been no meaningful investigations of the evidence of widespread cheating,” civil rights attorney and D.C. budget expert Mary Levy wrote in response to the inspectors general’s findings.

“Among the top 10 DCPS erasure schools… scores plummeted at all but one by 2010,” noted Levy. “The bottom dropped out by chance at all those schools?”

Atlanta

Public schools in Atlanta experienced similar testing irregularities around the same time DCPS did. In Atlanta, however, superintendent Beverly Hall was unable to thwart an investigation.

“There’s one key difference between Atlanta and Washington,” wrote PBS’s Merrow, “the role played by the local newspapers.”

Unlike the Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution kept a spotlight on the issue.

The result? Dr. Hall and 34 educators were charged with racketeering.

The co-leader of Atlanta’s independent investigation, former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert Wilson, also followed the situation in D.C., concluding, “the big difference is that nobody in D.C. wanted to know the truth.”

‘Legacy of Progress’

As Henderson prepares to step down Friday, she does so amidst a wave of positive press, led by the Post.

“For a decade… Henderson has worked to turn around one of the nation’s most troubled school systems,” the Post reported Tuesday, pointing to “better test scores” under her watch.

The role that gentrification and cheating have played in achieving these “better test scores” is left unsaid.

Next up: See Ya, Kaya: Shortchanging At-risk Students

The DC State Board of Education Requests Input on the Every Student Succeeds Act and More!

June Citizen Reader Header

Citizen Reader PicBelow is the June edition of the Citizen Reader.  Scroll down to find article on the following topics: 

Calling All Citizens:  The SBOE Seeks Your Thought on the ESSA
DOEE conducting free blood lead screenings in response to recent elevated levels of lead in the water of some schools
District Law and Lead in Children
June 14 Primary Election Councilmember Candidate’s Views on Education
Calling all citizens: the SBOE seeks your thoughts on the ESSA
State Trends in Student Data Privacy Bills
After School in Japanese!
Schedule of SBOE/ESSA meetings
Schedule of Committee on Education Hearings
…and there’s more to come in this busy month of June, 2016

 

Calling All Citizens:  The SBOE Seeks Your Thought on the ESSA

Like their counterparts across the country, DC’s State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Education are in the process of leading the city in the transition from the No Child Left Behind Act to the new federal education law that replaced it in December 2015–the Every Student Succeeds Act.

As a part of that process, the Board has set up a page on its website just for ESSA and on that page there is a survey in three languages: English, Spanish and Amharic. The public is encouraged to email the Board with any thoughts that don’t fit on the survey. There is also a schedule of meetings the Board is holding across the city to provide an overview of the new law and its requirements and to hear the public’s views and thoughts. The meetings are Ward based but they are not limited to residents of the particular Ward—anyone is free to attend the meeting in any ward.

The Board’s ESSA page also has a video-recording of its March 16 meeting where three very knowledgeable people with long experience in public education, policy and law presented their understandings of the new law and there is a document called “What YOU Need to Know About ESSA” in a power point format that shows some of the contrast between NCLB and ESSA and many of the requirements and other factors to be considered as DC works out its own plan for what its public education system should be accountable for and how it will do that. See next page for more resources and last page for schedule of the meetings.

 

DOEE Conducting Free Blood Lead Screenings in Response to Recent Elevated Levels of Lead in the Water of Some Schools

This is the schedule on the Department of Energy and Environment website:
• Saturday, June 11 from 10 am to 4 pm at Michigan Park, 1731 Bunker Hill Rd. NE
• Friday, June 17 from 12 to 6 pm at the King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N St. SW
• Saturday, June 25 from 11 am to 3 pm at the Raymond Recreation Center, 3725 10th St. NW • Saturday, August 6 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Columbia Heights Recreation Center, 1480 Girard St. NW
Screenings also took place on June 1 and on June 4. For more information, see www.doee.dc.gov or call 202-535-2600, TTY711.

Additional Information about ESSA:

● All the information mentioned on the previous page can be found at www.sboe.dc.gov/essa. The Board’s email address is sboe@dc.gov. 202-741-0888 ● There is more at www.osse.dc.gov/essa And the following:

● US Department of Education, www.ed.gov/essa explains it all and has a link to the law itself.
● National Conference of State Legislatures provides a summary at www.ncsl.org, type ESSA summary into search box.
● American Federation of Teachers has plain English explanations in a series of Fact Sheets and much more at www.aft.org/position/every-student- succeeds-act

ESSA rule making has been moving along quickly.  The US Department of Education’s committee to write the rules needed to implement the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, held its first three day session in late March. On April 1, the Department issued a press release, Education Department Releases Proposals for Consideration by ESSA Negotiated Rules Making Committee. The proposals concern two elements of the law: Assessments and the mandate to Supplement, Not Supplant. The press release summarizes the proposals and provides links to the full versions. www.ed.gov/news/press-releases

 

District Law and Lead in Children

One of the DC Department of Energy and the Environment’s responsibilities is ensuring that DC laws about lead and other toxic substances are known and adhered to. You’ll find everything about the subject at www.doee.dc.gov/lawsandregulations

A law, “Childhood Lead Screening Amendment Act of 2006” that became effective on March 14, 2007 requires that all children living in DC be screened for lead by the age of 6.

The schedule by which the screenings are supposed to take place is:
+ Between the ages of 6 months and 14 months, and again
+ Between the ages of 22 months and 26 months
+ If a child who lives in the District has not been screened at these ages, they must be screened at least once before they are 6 years old.
+ District law also requires that all children must be screened before entering day care, pre-school or kindergarten.”

So, children born in DC since 2007 should already have had two screenings by the time they are two years and 2 months old as part of their well-baby check- ups. Parents or guardians with questions should contact their child’s doctor.

Continue reading The DC State Board of Education Requests Input on the Every Student Succeeds Act and More!

D.C. Public School Budget 2017

The following was taken from the April issue of the Citizen Reader, which focused in part on this year’s school budget. 

DC auditor’s comments on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget

“30 percent: That is how much the District’s local funds budget has grown, adjusted for inflation, since the fiscal year 2006 budget was approved…” according to DC’s auditor Kathy Patterson in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on May 21, 2015. “Local funds budget,” she went on to say “means the dollars raised from taxes—sales, property and income—and excludes federal grants and fees raised by utilities and other special sources.”

The FY16 budget was $7.3 billion of local funds compared to the FY06 budget of $5.6 billion. In addition, the number of DC government employees increased 13.5 percent from 2006 with 27,708 full time equivalent employees or 35,835 if part-time and temporary personnel are included.

The median salary, she said, is $63,600. And 4,352 earn more than $100,000. “The three highest earners, hovering around $300,000, are the [then] interim president of the University of the District of Columbia, the new city administrator and the chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.”

Fiscal year 2016 also includes $600 million for the cost of borrowing. “That number,” the auditor stated, “is, in part, the price we are paying for all the new schools and recreation centers. In 2006, the council opted to spend annual tax revenue to rebuild schools, but that lasted just three years. Since then, it’s all been borrowed money.”

 

Highlights from the FY 2017 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan, “A Fair Shot”

“This is the first budget that recognizes our authority over our locally raised funds, and is submitted to you within a week of the historic decision of the Superior Court, upholding the lawfulness of the Budget Autonomy Act.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser in her budget transmittal letter of March 24, 2016, Executive Summary

● Total amount of the proposed budget and financial plan: $13. 4 billion

● FY 17 Local funds increase $222.4 million or 3.4% over FY16 Six largest “coat drivers” of the increase:

Pay-As-You-Go Capital: $54.3 million
District of Columbia Public Charter Schools: $46 million* Department of Human Services: $31.1 million
DC Public Schools: $28.9 million*
Repayment of Loans and Interest: $28.6 million
Teachers Retirement System: $12.3 million

*Explained in the text as due to increased enrollment in both systems and to 6 new schools opening in SY16-17, 2 in DCPS and 4 new Charter Schools. These figures are from pages 5-7 of the CFO’s transmittal letter to the Mayor at the beginning of Volume 3.

● From Volume 3, Agency Budget Chapters-Part II, Public Education System:

Agency

FY 17 Proposed Operating Budget

FTEs

D.C. Public Schools

$905,881,570

8,185.8

Teacher Retirement System

$56,781,000

not stated

Office of State Superintendent of Schools

$506,457,847

403.3

D.C. Public Charter Schools

$723,717,252

1.0

UDC Subsidy Account

$76,200,000

not stated

D.C. Public Library

$58,623,914

551.3

Public Charter School Board*

$8,013,987

not stated

Non-Public Tuition

$74,460,953

18.0

Special Education Transportation

$93,070,026

1,393.7

D.C. State Board of Education

$1,247,608

19.0

Deputy Mayor for Education

$3,132,667

18.0

*Note: PCSB does not use the District’s financial system. For gross funds actual expenditures, please refer to PCSB’s annual report located on the agency’s website at http://www.dcpsb.org/report/pcsb-annual-reports. List compiled of figures at beginning at each agency’s section. FTEs are full time equivalency employment positions.

● At-risk funds:
DCPS: 24,858 students • $2,120 per pupil • $52,707,859
Charter Schools: 18,148 students • $2,120 per pupil • $38,473,760

● Number of students served: Audited enrollment total public school students: 87,344 for SY15-16, up 2.3% from 85,403 in SY14-15
DCPS: 48,439, up from 47,548 in SY14-15
Charter Schools: 38,905, up from 37,684 in SY14-15

osse.dc.gov press release February 11, 2016

• For much, much more on the budget for DCPS see www.c4dcpublicschools.org/blog

Questions for D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Education

Cross-posted from the April Edition of the Citizen Reader.

Every year, as part of the Council’s oversight responsibilities, the various committees send out a list of questions to each of the agencies within their purview. The questions and agencies’ responses are then posted on the Council’s Home Page under Agency Responses providing the public with a wealth of information rarely seen elsewhere.

Because of Mayor Bowser’s changes in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) when she took office last year, such as moving the DCPS chancellor and the Department of Parks and Recreation into the DME’s responsibilities, and because of the DME’s description of its mission, which says in part, “…responsibility for developing and implementing the Mayor’s vision for academic excellence and creating a high quality education…”, and because, though she has made numerous announcements of particular initiatives, the Mayor has not yet presented her own vision or over-all plan for education in DC to the public, it seems worthwhile to the Citizen Reader to give some attention to a few of the Committee on Education’s oversight questions of the DME’s office.

The Committee asked 49 questions which, together with the responses, take up 44 pages not including the many appendixes. Below are some of the questions in their original words in bold italics. The responses are summarized in regular type.

Q1. Discuss each of the programmatic and policy initiatives the DME has worked on in FY15 and FY16 to date. Please include details about a long-term strategic plan if there is one being developed.

The response lists and describes in detail the following: My School DC, (Supply, Demand, Need data), LEA Payment initiative, Equity Reports, since 2013, Truancy Task Force, Request for Offer (RFO), Transportation Working Group (TWG), Cross Sector Task Force, and ReEngagement Center evaluation.

The response does not mention a long-term strategic plan, but the details offered on the LEA Payment initiative say that the way that money is allocated to DCPS and the Charter Schools will change so that, beginning in SY16-17, both receive funds based on their audited enrollment rather than the Charters by audited and DCPS by projected enrollment.

Q4. In June, the National Academy of Sciences released it five-year evaluation of public education in the District of Columbia under mayoral control. Discuss and provide plans for how the DME intends to address each of the following three recommendations from the study:

– Recommendation 1: The District of Columbia should have a comprehensive data warehouse that makes basic information about the school system available in one place that is readily accessible online to parents, the community, and researchers.

The response mentions the Office of State Superintendent’s LearnDC website that provides “school level information on the metrics of federal accountability measures including assessments (report card tab), student enrollment, college-readiness, and growth in student achievement (profile tab), and how well schools equitably serve students including suspensions and expulsions and enrollment mobility and detailed subgroup presentation (equity reports tab).”

It also says that OSSE has requested $15 million for a 5-year capital investment, beginning in FY2017, and that OSSE’s staff and developers are meeting weekly to identify all the authoritative data that will be housed in the new data warehouse.

– Recommendation 2: The District of Columbia should establish institutional arrangements that will support ongoing independent evaluation of its public education system.

The response says the DME has met with various entities to discuss the best way to support ongoing evaluation including with the DC auditor and that the DME is also exploring best practice models from other jurisdictions.

– Recommendation 3: The District of Columbia’s primary objective for its public schools should be to address the serious and persistent disparities in learning opportunities and academic progress that are evident across student groups and neighborhoods, with equal attention to DCPS and public charter schools. To that end, the NRC Committee recommends that the city attend to:
Continue reading Questions for D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Education

Changing the Rules on Graduation Requirements

DC “State” Board of Education has proposed changing the rules for District of Columbia Graduates.  Rather than taking all the courses required to get their degree, students could simply pass the right tests and get their degree.  With the exception of testing out of math and language courses, many educators think this is a bad idea.  The following two articles, taken from the March Citizen Reader, published by Living View Communications, highlight the details.

Update on Proposed Rules
by Sarah Livingston

As reported last month, the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education proposed a set of rules on January 22 that would radically alter high school by allowing students to acquire credit by passing OSSE approved tests, among other provisions.

According to a memo from the Superintendent to the Board dated February 26, 2016, twenty-five comments were received. After reviewing them, the superintendent made “certain clarifying technical amendments” which were determined by the Attorney General to not constitute substantial changes. However, the memo continues, the comments raised enough questions about subsection 2203.7 that the “OSSE believes further discussion on this topic would be beneficial,” and proposes to put that section in “reserve.” Meanwhile, she is requesting that the Board give final approval to the remainder of the rules as amended.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the matter at its meeting on March 16 in the Old Council Chambers at 441 4th St. NW. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm and the agenda includes time for public comments. See www.sboe.dc.gov for the full agenda.

Citizens Petition Against Proposed Rules
by Sarah Livingston

Shortly after the Citizen Reader came out last month, Cathy Reilly, Executive Director of the Senior High Alliance for Parents, Principles and Educators (SHAPPE) posted a petition against the proposed rules on-line. To date, it has been signed by close to 300 people. The preamble to the petition gives a

good overview of what is at stake in the proposed rules while individual signers provide brief statements of their concerns and opposition. The petition can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/don’t-let- tests-be-a-substitute-for-a-strong- education.html