Starting January 10, the deputy mayor for education (DME) and the cross sector task force (which the DME runs) will hold three public meetings to discuss the task force’s first policy proposal, on student mobility.
For nearly a year now, the cross sector task force has discussed issues of coordination and cooperation between the two sectors of public education in DC: charter schools and DCPS. This is the task force’s first foray to the public with a proposed policy.
Here are the dates and locations to discuss it; all meetings are from 6-7:30 pm:
Tuesday, January 10, Bellevue (Lockridge) library, 115 Atlantic St. SW, register here;
Tuesday, January 17, Mt. Pleasant library, 3160 16th St. NW, register here;
Wednesday, January 18, Northeast library, 330 7th St. NE, register here.
Quoted below is what the DME staff has written concerning the proposed policy (related information is here and here as well as on the cross sector task force website–just scroll down on the website to access the links and files):
“The proposal focuses on centralizing the process for students entering DCPS and charter schools after the October 5 audited enrollment date with the main goals of 1) better understanding why students enter, exit and transfer mid-year, 2) more equitably distributing mid-year students to schools across both sectors so as to reduce the concentration of mid-year transfer students in high-churn schools, and 3) supporting schools to get the information and potentially resources to better serve these new mid-year students.”
Well, sounds good–theoretically.
Yet, despite starting out with a clearly stated desire to reduce mid-year mobility, the task force has created a policy that might actually increase it–at the expense of enrollment in DCPS schools and without any proof whatsoever that it will actually help any student.
The proposal creates a centralized system to sprinkle students who leave one school in the middle of the school year to any school, rather than returning students to their by right (DCPS) schools, as is the practice now when the lottery is over for the school year.
The idea is to share these mobile students across schools and sectors, rather than one sector (DCPS) taking in students through the school year.
The solution this appears to be, however, is for a problem that might not actually exist.
We know, for instance, that public schools with high churn (many of which are DCPS schools in wards 7 and 8) have students with generally poorer academic outcomes. We also know, from the little data available, that our most mobile students tend to have the most barriers to academic achievement, whether poverty or emotional issues.
But the task force has never once explored the reasons that students become mobile nor the supports that they need to ensure better success in school.
This may be because the city officials in charge of education (and the task force itself) have very little information on mobile students, including the reasons for their mobility. The proposed centralized system would, theoretically, track those students and thus provide at least some of that data.
But weirdly, that data would be after the fact of the first purpose of such a centralized tracking system, which is stopping the flow of students to their by right schools mid-year. In this proposed scheme, those mobile students would end up somewhere–just not necessarily (or even at all) at their by right schools.
As laudable as the goal may be of relieving DCPS of some (or even all) of the most challenging students who happen to be mobile, there is utterly no data to show that doing this would improve the experiences of those students at all–or ensure their mobility would be reduced over time. Indeed, mobility could actually increase with this plan, as the proposed centralized system would allow students to more easily move between schools at any time.
Perhaps worse, the proposal provides no supports for students at their new schools. As in no resources, no funding, no staff–and no recognition of the potential need for any of those. There also was apparently no discussion by the task force of what supports current high churn schools need to do better with those mobile students.
And that’s when you get to the real kicker:
For all any of us know, including the entirety of the task force, the problems that highly mobile students and their schools face may be solvable right now–without any of this proposed policy.
So why propose this policy?
Ah, there’s the rub.
Both this proposal and one for by right charter schools were introduced by the DME for the task force to consider—not vice versa. The idea behind both proposals was first and foremost to ensure enrollment stability—not mobility reduction, even though reducing mobility was a stated goal for the task force.
In both proposals, moreover, any enrollment stability appears to come at the expense of enrollment in DCPS schools, while ensuring that charter schools lose less students during the school year. And both proposals lack any data to show that any of what they would effect would actually help students or schools.
Interestingly, the task force has experienced a bit of churn of its own, with several members leaving and new ones replacing them over the year that the group has been meeting.
But since August 2016, when Rod Boggs of the Washington Lawyers Committee resigned from the task force, his position has remained unfilled.
It’s not that there is no one who wants it: Almost three months have passed since a coalition of public school advocates from around the city sent the DME a letter asking that Mary Filardo, the director of the 21st Century School Fund, be appointed in Boggs’ place.
Given the composition of the task force–with 13 of its 25 members having either current or past ties to charter schools and only 7 members with sole DCPS connections–there appears to be little room for the middle ground that would be represented by Filardo and her decades of public education planning.
Not to mention that there is plenty of urgency for collaboration and coordination, given neighborhoods and feeder patterns devastated by DCPS closures and the complete lack of coordination with creating and siting new schools. Indeed, it’s downright amazing to see how much the task force has not discussed, including long-festering problems resulting from the 5th and 6th grade mismatch between charter and DCPS middle schools.
But thanks to the work of a diligent citizen in ensuring that task force meetings are open to the public, you can find out in person just how much isn’t said at the next meeting of the cross sector task force on Tuesday January 24, starting at 6 pm at the Department of For-Hire Vehicles at 2235 Shannon Place SE.