So, About That Letter to the State Board On ESSA (Golden Apple Edition)

[UPDATE: See link to petition below]

Yesterday, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) sent a letter, signed by 50 people, asking that the state board vote for OSSE’s draft plan for ESSA. The state board is slated to vote tomorrow night. Many parents have testified against OSSE’s draft plan, as its test-heavy emphasis (now only 70% of a school’s score!) overlooks many other factors important in a school and in learning.

According to DFER’s letter, the rationale for supporting OSSE’s draft plan is that it will “create a more transparent, equitable, and effective accountability system for the District’s children.” The letter mentions an “apples-to-apples comparison” that OSSE purports to achieve by using mainly test scores as its measurement metric of all schools.

OK, let’s take a bite of those apples:

Although the press release accompanying the DFER letter noted that the “vast majority of signers” are also parents as well as education experts and involved citizens, of the 50 signers, only 28 are explicitly identified as parents—which means 22 are probably not parents.

That’s not exactly a “vast majority.”

Moreover, of the 28 signers identified as parents, 16 have listed the DC public schools (both DCPS and charter) that their children attend. The other parents have not done so—which makes sense given privacy concerns, except that it muddies the picture a bit if those parents are not actually sending their children to the public schools that they so earnestly desire using test-heavy assessments for.

Many of the 50 signers are connected to charter schools in some way—as parents, board or staff members or as employees of charter advocacy organizations. That is not exactly surprising: the OSSE draft plan is closely modeled on DC’s charter school performance framework, and charter schools as schools of choice live and die by test scores promulgated for school choice via My School DC.

But there is another commonality between the signers of that DFER letter: Since the start of 2016, they have together donated more than $6000 to DC politicians—including state board of education members.

That works out to more than $100 per signer in 2016 alone.

And that doesn’t count the more than $500 some of the signers also contributed to DFER directly in the last two years.

Those are some fine apples.

If you want to have something more robust, rich, and varied than test scores used to judge your school, make a phone call today and tomorrow to the state board ahead of their vote tomorrow evening.

Here is their contact information:

At-large: Ashley Carter, ashley.carter@dc.gov
Ward 1: Laura Wilson Phelan, laura.wilson.phelan@dc.gov, (202) 421-4360
Ward 2: Jack Jacobson, jack.jacobson@dc.gov, (202) 251-7644
Ward 3: Ruth Wattenberg, ruth.wattenberg@dc.gov, (202) 320-7884
Ward 4: Lannette Woodruff, lannette.woodruff@dc.gov (202)-271-8507
Ward 5: Mark Jones, mark.jones@dc.gov, (202) 304-7294
Ward 6: Joe Weedon, joe.weedon@dc.gov, (202) 277-9410
Ward 7: Karen Williams, President of the Board, karen.williams5@dc.gov, (301) 641-1926
Ward 8: Markus Batchelor, markus.batchelor@dc.gov

On this tilted playing field, where 50 people representing a special interest can invest $6000 in city politicians, and DFER protects that investment by using a phone bank to cajole DC citizens to call the state board on DFER’s behalf, even one phone call representing your own child’s interest can help.

UPDATE: You can even sign a petition, to be presented to the state board on March 22, urging them to do better than OSSE’s draft plan.

(And if you need some words of inspiration from other parents who are sickened by the test-heavy emphasis of OSSE’s draft plan, see here. And here–scroll down at both to see testimony. Oh, and be sure to check out what some state board members themselves have just written about how impoverished a test-heavy accountability system is.)

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