Performance Oversight Tidbits: DCPS and PCSB

So, here are my (of necessity, idiosyncratic) take-homes from performance oversight hearings by the council’s education committee for the charter board (PCSB; 3/3/16) and for government witnesses for DCPS (3/4/16). (An earlier blog post covered public witnesses for DCPS’s performance oversight hearing on February 18 here.)

Note: all agencies also submit written responses to questions posed by the council before the government witness portions of these hearings. Responses for DC public education agencies are available here and make for fascinating reading (if you have a few days to spare during spring break).

Charter Board Hearing:

1:20: Public witness Lanae Erickson, from Third Way, notes that the charter board has a good way of independently analyzing new applicants and overseeing current schools.

[Ed note: Each charter school applicant analyzes its own need for its own school, based upon promises and declarations. See the PCSB 2016 application and note needs assessments, starting on p. 21.]

1:35: David Grosso, education committee chair: “I don’t think people in the city realize how the public charter school board is a model for the rest of the country.”

[Ed note: See previous ed note.]

2:07: Scott Pearson, charter board executive, cites as an example of collaboration success the fact that after a “very large” charter closed, DCPS took over its campuses and students.

[Ed note: Cross sector task force, take note of collaboration!]

2:42: Scott Pearson: “When we have issues with schools, we don’t wait—we act right away.” Several minutes later: “We certainly don’t wait 5 years. We’ve had situations where we’ve seen real spikes [in problems], and it’s led to immediate school visits and board-to-board meetings . . . In the school that we closed this year [Potomac Prep], it was parent complaints two years ago that were really the canary in the coal mine that led to all sorts of other things, in addition to their poor academic results.”

[Ed note: This was the only time that I heard the imminent closure of Potomac Prep referred to in the entire PCSB oversight hearing. The school itself was never named. As far as I can see, Pearson is correct that the charter board did not wait 5 years to intervene once it knew about problems at the school. Rather, the publicly available documents show about 3 years, between 2011 and 2014, elapsing before the board attempted to address the school’s problems wholesale—by closing Potomac Prep.]

2:49: Scott Pearson talks about the prospect of “ready-made classroom libraries” made from DC public library collections targeting specific grades and study units, because “not all of our public charter schools have libraries. Some do, and some choose not to and spend their resources elsewhere.”

[Ed note: Cross sector task force (and deputy mayor for education) take note: Unequal charter facilities are apparently a choice that charters make.]

3:10: Scott Pearson mentions that there will be an end to all school nurses next year.

[Ed note: Why was this the only mention made about this during all those education hearings?]

DCPS Hearing

Minute 50 and following: after the remarkable tete a tete between Grosso and DCPS chancellor Kaya Henderson (available here), Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh—not a member of the education committee—steps in to speak about her pet peeves, which are, not coincidentally, all about Ward 3: Murch’s renovation; Stoddert’s need for another renovation (on the heels of its rather pricey one less than a decade ago); and the possibility of homeless kids attending Ward 3 schools.

[Ed note: Life is different in Ward 3.]

3:06: David Grosso raises the issue that no one seems to be clear on where at risk funds are going nor on what DCPS is doing to ensure every penny is going to at risk kids (as opposed to, say, toilet paper or to schools with small percentages of at risk students). But Grosso seems bully about the fact that in this third year of actually having specially designated at risk funds, for the most vulnerable DC kids who comprise about 40% of our public school students, DCPS is getting better at putting the funds where they are most needed.

[Ed (math) note: These kids have at most 12 years for us to get this right–we have burned through a quarter of that time already just discussing this. Take a look at one chart showing inequitable FY15 at risk allocations across DCPS (scroll down the link). Despite (or maybe because of) Grosso’s optimism, the council didn’t seem to think it worthwhile asking where the rest of DC’s at risk monies go–that would be to our charter schools. The closest the council got to inquiring on this subject was in the written questions about tracking homeless students—wherein the charter board noted it doesn’t do that nor do individual charter schools; rather, OSSE does it for them.]

3:38: David Grosso promises a hearing maybe possibly in June or July (had been May at an earlier hearing) on student athletics and its poor fiscal management. Nathaniel Beers, DCPS COO, promises that they are building capacity for “more robust audits” of the athletic program.

[Ed note: Along with those more robust audits, our kids could use some uniforms, practice schedules, scheduled games, equipment, and experienced coaches–oh, and accessible practice fields and facilities. How about it, Dr. Beers and council?]

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