Prediction: Erecting Roadblocks To Educating Our Kids Will Not End Well

As with the revelation last week that DCPS is not providing required science and social studies at some of its middle schools, yesterday’s City Paper investigation about generally unregulated interim education providers was met with a lot of silence from city education leaders.

The City Paper report detailed how a 5th grade child with special needs, suspended 10 times in as many weeks from Monument Academy, was referred to an interim education provider (operating out of a house on Minnesota Avenue) until a private placement for special education services was made. Our office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) apparently doesn’t regulate much about the places where children from our charter schools are sent for education services in the 45-day period during which private placement is determined.

The City Paper report showed that children in the care of that provider were apparently not given age-appropriate materials for instruction, and the child in question appeared to fall behind educationally as a result of this placement. In addition, Monument Academy staff apparently never visited the provider to determine what was done with its students who landed there. (It’s not clear what the physical circumstances of the building were, either–since DC government didn’t have any licensing information.)

Ironically, while making a big deal about investigating parent-led play groups (yeah), OSSE omitted oversight of this and other providers of interim education services for some of the most vulnerable kids in our city; Monument focuses on children with experience in foster care.

Both the DCPS and Monument Academy matters appear to be handled internally, with OSSE and the charter board reportedly investigating the Monument Academy incident.

So, this is where we stand:

Just months after our city passed a law to reduce suspensions, an elementary-age child was subjected to extraordinary suspensions without red flags going up everywhere, then shuttled off to an unregulated education provider who did not apparently give adequate instruction, while after a graduation scandal earlier this year, no one expressed concern that children at DCPS middle schools without required course work might be placed at an extreme disadvantage educationally.

Oh, while city education agencies self-investigate.

To be sure, it cannot be surprising that of the four DCPS middle schools that lacked the required hours for science and social studies, three have the lowest STAR rating, which is based largely on math and English test scores—prompting two natural questions:

–Was the shortfall in science and social studies instruction at those middle schools an attempt to increase instruction in tested subjects?

and/or

–Was the shortfall in instruction the cause of the low test scores?

Sadly, legislation for the education research collaborative that could provide answers without political interference (or self-investigation!) was passed without assurance of the political independence it originally had. (Still has some—but could have been so much better.) And legislation to make OSSE more politically independent of mayoral control (and thus possibly less likely to self-investigate away political difficulties like, say, unregulated interim education providers!) was tabled.

Such prioritizing of the needs of adults versus those of kids is not happening in a vacuum:

Recall that DCPS was (is?) being investigated by the FBI with respect to its oversight of Ballou.

Recall that OSSE refused to have an independent investigation of all publicly funded high schools after Ballou, doing so only for DCPS high schools.

Recall that the executive director of the charter board said that the charter board was purposely not following the law regarding suspensions.

Recall that OSSE was sued by parents at Ellington after accusing them of fraud (and after having appeared to target that school).

Recall that the charter board appeared to pressure charter operators to hire a private company.

And recall that despite all of that, both the head of OSSE (appointed by the mayor) and the charter board head (ditto) are still around.

One can only wish that all the silence from DC leaders about this is because they are too busy figuring out how many schools, and kids, are involved with unregulated education providers; how to immediately regulate such providers; how to ensure all our kids get all the coursework they are entitled to; and how to never let city agencies responsible for our children self-investigate anything.

‘Tis the season of hope.

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