Public Meetings and Hearings on ESSA

Starting next week, on February 7, our DC superintendent of education (OSSE) is holding public meetings around the city to get feedback on how to implement the federal law known as ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), which is to replace No Child Left Behind.

OSSE’s proposal is here, and the OSSE website contains more information on ESSA here.

Public meetings on ESSA:

Wards 1 and 2: February 7, 7 pm, Cardozo High School, 1200 Clifton St. NW

Ward 3: February 8, 7 pm, Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake St. NW

Ward 4: February 16, 6:30 pm, Barnard Elementary, 430 Decatur St. NW

Ward 5: February 22, 6:30 pm, Brookland Middle School, 1150 Michigan Ave. NE

Ward 6: February 21, 6 pm, Capitol Hill Montessori, 215 G St. NE

Ward 6: February 27, 6 pm, CHAW, 545 7th St. SE

Ward 7: February 23, 6 pm, Dept, of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Ave. NE

Ward 8: February 28, 6 pm, Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Rd. SE

IN ADDITION:

The DC state board of education, our only directly elected school oversight body in DC, will hold a hearing on ESSA on February 15Sign-up is by sending an email to shoe@dc.gov by close of business on February 13. (More information on the board and ESSA is here.)

The state board must vote on what OSSE puts forth as an ESSA proposal on March 22. It is unclear what will happen if the board should reject OSSE’s proposal–but if you can weigh in on this, please do so.

Background: OSSE has until September to get its recommendations to the federal government. But OSSE is trying to fast-track this process, hoping to end it by April, which would limit not only public input, but negate the chance for the new DCPS chancellor (who literally started his job yesterday) to weigh in substantively.

In addition, despite public testimony against this, OSSE is currently using an 80% weight to test scores to judge elementary and middle schools, with a lower percentage for high schools–but without any accounting for growth at high schools. Thus, high schools with great growth and not great scores will suffer.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

Many public school advocates have proposed using the lowest weight allowable in ESSA for test scores–55%–and using other measures besides tests to judge schools, including proven school climate surveys.

But thus far, the state board has been getting plenty of phone calls and emails from charter school proponents in favor of the 80% test score weight–even when some charter advocates would prefer a lower weight.

This 80% weight is based on the DC public charter school board performance management framework (PMF), which is used to judge DC charter schools and, if test scores drop too low, close them. (The weight in the PMF is 70% for test scores.)

But when charter schools are closed on the basis of a neat and clean test score cut-off (and in DC, many have been), their students must go somewhere. That is where DCPS comes in. Simply put, DCPS is THE guarantor of public education in DC.

What this means on a practical level is not that DCPS struggles to take in students from closed charter schools or students encouraged to leave charter schools (although both may be a factor in school performance for some DCPS schools with high mobility).

Rather, because of its role as the by right school system in our city, DCPS is operating under fundamentally different rules than DC charter schools.

Thus, a high weight for test scores that may be neat and clean to judge charter school performance is inherently NOT going to be as neat or as clean for DCPS schools, which have different obligations and cannot close or retool their student bodies on the basis of a test score cut-off.

Indeed, as a civic institution, by right schools should never close profligately, because they are vital to every family in every neighborhood as the guarantors of the right to public education.

This does NOT mean that charter schools are not important to their families or to entire communities!

It does mean, however, that those schools are different from by right schools by their very nature. (Ironically, charter schools have been promoted on the basis of this difference—which makes forcing what is their testing standard on every public school in DC downright disturbing.)

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