Now that we are in July, it’s instructive to see how many issues of public education in DC in the last calendar year have simply, well, disappeared from public view.
Here are a few–feel free to chime in with others, since the darkness is expansive:
1. An independent entity to assess public education in DC. The legislation that set up mayoral control of schools in DC required a 5-year evaluation, which we got last year (and then some), courtesy of the National Research Council.
Among the many conclusions was that an independent entity ought to regularly assess the quality and provision of public education in DC.
We are not getting that.
The mayor did put into the FY17 budget $11 million in additional funds for OSSE to improve what data collection they do have, which the council approved.
But this is not a heart-warming exercise:
OSSE is the same agency that has promulgated test scores that are frankly misleading–and with which parents select schools and schools themselves are judged (and even closed).
There was also nothing that came out of the public education summit at the Urban Institute in March on this subject (and nothing available publicly, either, of the meeting itself).
(To be fair, that didn’t stop the Urban Institute from subsequently publishing this, which is pretty amazing given that it’s a complete misrepresentation of what happens in DC.)
2. A public education data warehouse. This was called for in the NRC report from last year, to be ready by the end of this calendar year. See #1 above.
3. A debate about public school preferences. During the March oversight hearing for the deputy mayor for education (DME), the chair of the council’s education committee, David Grosso, alluded to a coming “debate about preferences.”
Since then, crickets.
That same discussion at the hearing also featured the director of the DC public school lottery, Cat Peretti, talking about the “robust” feedback she got from parents participating in the lottery this year (a fraction of the total of DC public school parents). This was in response to Grosso asking about using lottery data for programming, location, and why parents choose certain schools.
That feedback–consisting of 3000 respondents and focus groups in each ward–was shared with the Urban Institute, but is still not publicly available, despite Grosso asking to see it.
Well, to be fair, Grosso very well might have seen that feedback–but the rest of us are still in the dark and have no way to know whether anyone in the government (as opposed to private individuals at the private Urban Institute) is actually using that feedback for the sake of the public–who has not merely paid to get that feedback, but whose schools and communities may very well depend on it.
One might consider going to a meeting of the lottery board and asking–but I cannot even figure out when the next meeting is, since the DME alluded to a meeting on July 25 on p. 33 of her written responses to council, but the lottery board website lists August 4 as the next meeting–and no time and no location.
(Never knew how little sunshine there was in July in DC.)
4. The DME’s district priority goals. To be fair, the DME may very well have released these, after extolling them in testimony before the council in the spring. After all, it’s not like everything education-related is always, um, heralded on the DME website, even when it is promised (and legally required).
But those of us with middle school kids are still waiting for the promise inherent in the DME’s statement back in March, which was that the district goals would include making “public middle schools the premier choice for all students and families.”
5. The Education Counsel’s final report for the cross sector task force on school collaboration in other cities. This was supposed to be released after April 18, but it’s nowhere to be found publicly.
That said, the earlier draft never really got into the stuff that we find ourselves dealing with here in DC, such as rundown DCPS schools and declines in enrollment in those schools (and lack of discernible action to reverse any of that).
That draft did, however, take pains to mention the struggles that charter operators have in their facilities. For those of us who have struggled with poor facilities that have been neglected far longer than any charter school has existed here in DC, that’s kind of, well, painful.
But par for this course, apparently, as that draft report also mentioned the political challenges to charter schools in a variety of areas—without any seeming recognition of the fact that charter schools are not equivalent to by right schools and that those political challenges may very well have arisen out of the inability of decision makers to understand (or accept) that fact.