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 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’t-let- tests-be-a-substitute-for-a-strong- education.html

State Superintendent Proposes Dramatic Changes to DCPS Graduation Requirements

The following is taken from the February edition of the Citizen Reader, a newsletter published by Grassroots DC Education Contributor Sarah Livingston.  Sarah Livingston is a native of Mississippi who ardently believes that democracy is the best thing we have going for us in America and that good, helpful information is essential to the most inclusive and most equal participation of *all* citizens in it.  From that belief, Livingview Communications–A Citizens Information Service was born. *Citizen Reader* is LVC’s third project since 2004.Citizen Reader Heading

young man with tin can telephone

State Superintendent proposes dramatic changes to graduation requirements

In recent years, both the State Board of Education and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education have discussed alternate ways of awarding credit for courses taken toward high school graduation. Much of the discussion has centered on “competency-based” learning or CBL. The current method awards credit in Carnegie units that are based on time in class. CBL awards credit for demonstrated mastery of a subject regardless of time.

Last summer, the Board convened a task force to study “high school credit flexibility” and at its December 16, 2015 public meeting, unanimously adopted a Resolution approving four recommendations, based on the study, to change how credits toward graduation are awarded. It advised the State Superintendent “to initiate rulemaking to implement the recommendations endorsed in this resolution.” Below are the recommendations as stated in that resolution:

1. Create a waiver process for schools wishing to pursue competency-based learning;
2. Allow students to receive credit for demonstrated knowledge in world languages and mathematics;
3. Maintain Carnegie units as the default means for earning credit where neither of the two above conditions apply;
4. Consistent with the benefits of student self-based learning associated with competency-based models, remove the requirement that students enroll in Algebra 1 by 9th grade.

When OSSE published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the DC Register of January 22, 2016 for the thirty-day public comment period, numbers 2 and 4 of the recommendations had been altered extensively from their original wording in the Resolution. The proposed rules would radically change the way students would be educated in the city’s high schools. The comment period, which closes on February 20, 2016, is the time for citizens to consider the proposed rules, what they would mean, and to have their say about them. • To find the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and submit comments online go to:


• Pick up copies and mail or hand deliver comments to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), 810 First St. NE 9th Floor, WDC 20002 Attn: Jamai Deuberry re: Graduation Requirements and Diplomas or email:

Continue reading State Superintendent Proposes Dramatic Changes to DCPS Graduation Requirements

The Bottom Line on Mayoral Control of DCPS

It was a very welcome sight to this citizen’s eyes to read Grassroots DC’s announcement a few weeks ago about the report on mayoral control of the schools—An Evaluation of the Public Schools of the District of Columbia: Reform in a Changing Landscape.  Especially since the report has received far, far less attention in the other media than passing the law that gave the mayor control, the Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA), did in 2007. The reasons for this difference in attention may have something to do with the fact that those who benefit from mayoral control probably aren’t so keen to have a report that shows several deficiencies in this form of school governance widely known amongst the public.

The saddest, but probably not the most surprising, finding the report makes is that in all the schools together, DCPS and charters, 49.9% of the 70,000 plus students are proficient or above in reading and 54.4% proficient or above in math. That means that about half the students in the two systems, some 35,000 of the city’s children and teenagers, have basic or below basic skills in two of the most important things they need to know in order to continue learning.

Without acquiring these skills in the early grades, kindergarten up to third or fourth grade, children are seriously impaired in their ability to go further in their learning and stay on grade level or better. Catching up is hard to do and even harder in schools that aren’t providing these students with what they need to learn the basics in the first place, much less catch up when they do fall behind. But mayoral control has put people in charge of DCPS who don’t seem to know what’s needed and even when the Council increased funds for “at-risk” kids in 2013, spent the money on other things.

Meanwhile, the charter schools have gained a reputation for finding ways to eliminate students who have fallen behind, which helps their reading and math scores look somewhat better—51.4% in reading and 59.6% in math—than the city-wide average shown above.  But still, and especially with all the talk of charter school’s superiority and the charter school Board approving one charter after another, many of which go to people who don’t come from DC but are funded by DC taxpayers, these figures from the Evaluation are the “bottom line” of what mayoral control has added up to in its eight years.

This is a painfully telling finding especially to the honest who’ve been going along with it in a good faith effort to give it a try. And, perhaps, it’s a “bottom line” that those benefiting from mayoral control would rather not get much, if any, attention.

Town Hall Meetings on DC Public Schools by Ward

When our elected officials ask for our input, we should give it to them.  So if you have time, please join Councilmember Grosso for community town hall events between June 16 and July 11, 2015. The Councilmember will hold a meeting in each Ward to hear from residents, parents, students, and education stakeholders about public education in the District of Columbia. Below is the schedule for the upcoming town hall events:

Ward 1 Town Hall
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
Frank D. Reeves Center
1401 U St. NW
2nd Floor Community Room

Ward 8 Town Hall
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library
115 Atlantic St. SW
Main Meeting Room

Ward 4 Town Hall
Monday, June 29, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
Petworth Library
4200 Kansas Ave. NW
Meeting Room

Ward 2 Town Hall
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
The Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives
1201 17th St NW
Richard L. Hurlbut Memorial Hall

Ward 5 Town Hall
Thursday, June 18, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
Lamond-Riggs Library
5401 South Dakota Ave. NE
Meeting Room 1

Ward 6 Town Hall
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
Southwest Library
900 Wesley Place SW
Meeting Room

Ward 3 Town Hall
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
6:30-8:30 PM
Tenley-Friendship Library
4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Large Meeting Room

Ward 7 Town Hall
Saturday, July 11, 2015
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Francis A. Gregory Library
3660 Alabama Ave. SE
Meeting Room

In order to best prepare for the community meetings, we are asking that participants sign up  and let us know your concerns. The Councilmember is looking forward to hearing from the community and engaging in these discussions on education issues throughout the District of Columbia.