Suzanne Wells Testimony – Special Committee COVID-19 Recovery and COW Hearing: DC Ed After the COVID-19 – May 26, 2021

Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery

and the

Committee of the Whole

Joint Public Oversight Hearing

The District’s Public Education System After the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 26, 2021

         Thank you for holding today’s hearing on the important topic of our city’s public education system after the COVID-19 pandemic.    My name is Suzanne Wells, and I’m the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.

         The COVID-19 pandemic did not strike equitably.   This inequity tells us we must focus our education recovery efforts on the students who lost the most whether it was learning, emotional, or other losses. 

Our city funds along with the American Rescue Plan Act relief dollars provide us unprecedented opportunities to close achievement gaps.  We must use these funds responsibly and wisely.   In my written testimony, I’ve included a link to five questions to ask school districts about how they will use the new federal funds to support students developed by the Education Trust.  These questions seek to understand:

  • what meaningful efforts are used to gather data on student needs;
  • what data will be used to identify individual student needs and how will their progress be monitored;
  • how we will ensure funds are targeted to students with the most needs;
  • how safe and equitable learning environments for the most vulnerable students will be created; and
  • how will evidence-based strategies to address unfinished instruction, accelerate learning, and respond to student’s academic, social and emotional needs be used.

I encourage our city’s education leaders to be guided by these five questions as plans to use the relief funds are put in place.

At the heart of all the efforts, it will take trained, qualified staff to provide the supports and instruction students need.  The initial budget allocations resulted in too many schools losing critical staff.  The Mayor, Council and DCPS must ensure no school loses staff this coming year, and that many schools increase their staff so they will be able to provide the tutoring and other support students will need.  We continue to hear reports that schools particularly in Wards 7 and 8 are not able to retain their school librarians; that is not how we achieve equity in education.  It is imperative we adequately staff our schools with a well-prepared and diverse workforce.

If this past year taught us anything, it is that technology plays a critical role in education. This means ensuring all schools have devices for students and teachers, and teachers and families receive appropriate training on the technology.  We encourage the Council to pass the DCPS Technology Equity Act of 2021, which would require that DCPS develop a multi-year technology plan.  We also encourage the Council to pass the Internet Equity Amendment Act of 2021, which would require development of a Master Internet Plan to ensure all residents are connected.

Our federal relief dollars should not be used to do more of the same, and our goal should not be to get back to where we were pre-COVID.  We must use this opportunity to bring about significant changes and improvements in our education efforts so we can best support all students and their families.

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