W6PSPO Meets Tuesday @ Payne

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet on Tuesday (June 18) at 6:30 pm at Payne Elementary (1445 C Street, SE). Jessica Sutter, the W6 State Board of Education representative will join us for a discussion on what makes a rich curriculum. We will also plan for the June 26 hearing on Councilmember Allen’s At Risk Funding bill and Councilmember Grosso’s School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act. We will also discuss organizing an annual tour of the schools in W6 which is one of the action items in our strategic plan.

Finally, please let me know who your school’s newly elected PTA/PTO officers and who your W6PSPO contact is, and I will update our roster. Thanks to those schools who have already let me know. If you want your name removed from this e-mail list, please let me know.

Suzanne Wells

Strategic Plan Action Items 2019.docx


W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, April 9 @ Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet this Tuesday, April 9, from 6:30 – 8 pm at Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan (215 G Street, NE). We’ll be joined by Theodora Brown with the Ward 5 Council on Education and Eboni-Rose Thompson with the Ward 7 Education Council. They will share their ward council’s education priorities, and we’ll discuss ways we can support each other’s work. We will also discuss city-wide impacts with the proposed SY19/20 budget.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells


Suzanne Wells Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Hearing

on the

District of Columbia Public Schools

Friday, March 29, 2019

            Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, and the parent of an 8th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

When the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released the school report cards in December 2018, Eliot-Hine, a Title 1 school, was rated as a one-star school, ranked in the bottom 5% of all schools in DC, and designated as a Comprehensive Support School.  We learned last night that Eliot-Hine was selected to be a Connected School which will allow the school to become connected with partners and city agencies to offer a range of supports to students, families and staff.  Because of its Comprehensive Support status, Eliot-Hine will be receiving some additional funding.  Is the funding Eliot-Hine will receive enough?  No.  However, because of the school’s low enrollment, it is hard to justify funding it more.

While I don’t feel Eliot-Hine has served the current students at the school well, I am hopeful for its future.  This summer the planned renovation will begin.  We anticipate Principal Magrino will be back next year, and bring much needed stability and leadership to the school.  Training will be provided to staff this summer to strengthen the IB program. The DCPS enrollment team is working to make in-bound families aware of opportunities within the Eastern feeder pattern, e.g., the January Eastern Feeder Fest.  I firmly believe as result of all of these efforts, we will start to see more and more in-bound families choosing Eliot-Hine in the coming years.

We must ensure the same investments are happening at the schools in Wards 7 and 8 that have seen multi-year enrollment declines, and broken feeder patterns.  Targeted efforts in Wards 7 and 8 to fix broken feeder patterns and provide course offerings, experiences and safe passage to and from school that students in other parts of the city have will ensure Ward 7 and 8 families have what they say they want, i.e., quality in-bound schools to choose from, and will be the fiscally responsible thing for the city to do as families are attracted back to DCPS.

To date, as a city, we have not confronted the staggeringly inefficient use of resources.  Why when almost 18% of our city’s budget or close to $2 billion is spent on education are there discrepancies in offerings among our schools, and many school needs going unaddressed?  Why is there going to be a cut in, e.g., school librarians or technology maintenance?  I believe a key reason is we are inefficiently using our education dollars.

No one really understands the inefficient use of resources inherent in our two-sector school system, DCPS and the charter sector, that operates without any coordination.  DC has truly been a leader in investing in capital improvements to our school buildings, and I commend the Council for its support for the renovations of our DCPS schools. Yet many of these renovated schools are under enrolled.  Across the city we have many small and under-enrolled schools that cost more to run on a per student basis than a fully-enrolled school.   There’s no better example of this than our high schools where we fund nineteen high schools (four DCPS and 15 charters) that enroll fewer than 400 students.  These schools cost more to operate on a per student basis, and they don’t offer the students the educational opportunities and experiences they deserve.

Operating small and under-enrolled schools isn’t the only area where we see inefficiencies.  Taxpayers pay over $3,300 for a facilities allocation for every student attending a charter school while we have thousands of empty seats in many of the beautiful DCPS school buildings our city has renovated. And, there are 11 applications before the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) this spring to open new charter schools to serve 4000 additional students while we have over 20,000 vacant seats across both sectors.

In closing, I would like to ask the Council to explain why it makes sense to open up even one new school this year when there are vacant seats in both sectors.  I would also like to ask the Council to explain why it makes sense to open any new schools this spring instead of investing in strengthening the feeder patterns of our by-right school system.  And, I would like ask the Council to commission a budget study that identifies the inefficiencies in our City’s two sector/choice approach so we can reduce the inefficiencies, and put our tax dollars towards supporting students.




DC Council: Please Support Transparency, Stability and Success for All Public Schools, All Students

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Please Support Transparency, Stability and Success for
All Public Schools, All Students

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) is an all-volunteer collaboration of parents, educators and community members helping to strengthen and support public schools in Ward 6. Ward 6 schools serve a diverse student population, including students from across the city. Almost 40% of students attending Ward 6 DCPS schools live in Wards 5, 7, and 8.

We believe the DC Council can play a significant role in demanding and shaping a stronger education system that supports success for every student. We ask the Council to leverage every tool in its toolkit, including adjusting budgets, demanding action by DCPS in oversight, requesting a performance-based budget, amending the School Reform Act, stopping administrative actions that have not included robust public engagement and may negatively affect communities, to implement the following recommendations.

Ensure Transparency for All

Transparency for All Schools and LEAs. Parents and students must know that they are safe and supported. We support the Public School Transparency Act and urge the Council to take swift action to pass it.

Strong Oversight. We need strong oversight over both sectors and our education system as a whole to ensure transparency so that parents and the public are never kept in the dark about proposals, decisions or the impact of decisions on students, educators and school communities.

Stabilize School System and Supports

Invest in School Improvement and Stability. Having access to a predictable, high-quality elementary to high school feeder pattern is the most important predictor of in-boundary participation rates. We continue to see the opening of new schools that don’t take into account impacts on feeder patterns [1], pull students out of their in-boundary schools, and spread our precious education dollars thin. We see regular closures of schools causing great disruption and confusion to families. We need strategies for filling under-enrolled schools, particularly middle and high schools, and meeting the needs for middle schools that take into account what communities want. And, we need to continue to build on specialized programs such as language immersion programs by providing them a feeder path that continues those specialized programs.

Invest in Teacher and Principal Retention. Excessively high teacher and principal turnover creates tremendous instability throughout the school systems. An October 3, 2018, DCSBOE report on Teacher Turnover found that “teacher turnover is higher in DC than in other comparable American cities, including New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and higher than the national average. The yearly teacher turnover rate, averaged over three years, across both traditional public and public charter schools is about 25 percent, compared to a national average of approximately 16 percent and an average of 19% among a selection of urban districts. In both sectors, schools with the highest percentages of at-risk students tend to suffer from the highest rates of teacher turnover.” We recommend that the Council take action on the recommendations outlined in the report:

  • Create and maintain a single comprehensive and publicly available source of teacher and principal turnover data
  • Require the state to work with LEAs to ensure richer data collection on teacher and principal characteristics
  • Support a new, sustained research project exploring linkages between teacher and principal turnover and student success

In addition, as Chancellor Ferebee said at our recent W6PSPO meeting “Often people don’t leave jobs, they leave leaders.” We must ensure that the principal evaluation system includes effective processes for feedback from staff, students and parents. And we must be sure we are doing all we can to ensure our teachers and principals have the support they need to help all students succeed.

Develop and Follow a System-wide Master Facilities Plan. The master facilities planning by the Administration lacked authentic engagement and is unworkable as it only looks at planning for half of our students. We need a system-wide structure for planning and decision-making around school facilities for all public schools, both DCPS and Charter, including accurate projections for enrollment and vacant seats, strategies for filling under-enrolled schools, and community-responsive and community-engaged planning for new schools. System-wide plans should include coordination and strategy around opening, closing and changing the programmatic focus of schools.

Community-School Supported DC Research Collaborative: Kick off and fund the DC Research Collaborative, guided by a robust, diverse steering committee not comprised of majority mayoral appointees, that ensures safe and full sharing of data to support the work of the Collaborative, grounded in the needs of students and school improvement from the perspectives of those on the ground.

Ensure Adequate Resources and School Budgets

Educational Technology, including IT Support and Teacher Training: The DCPS technology initiative in the Mayor’s budget focuses on computer hardware and is a good first step. However, schools also need adequate IT support and teacher training to ensure that technology is used effectively. A comprehensive, multi-year plan for DCPS technology, as called for by the DCPS Student Technology Equity Act of 2019, is needed. Additionally, Council should press DCPS and OCTO on how it will support school technology for the remainder of this school year, in advance of online PARCC testing.

Adequate and Equitable Education School Budgets: Each year, costs increase faster than increases to school budgets. As a result, many schools are faced with staffing cuts each year. Schools can’t close achievement gaps and ensure college and career readiness for all with fewer and fewer resources each year. We must provide enough resources so every school has a strong base budget that builds on the previous year’s budget. In addition, at-risk funding must supplement, not supplant, other funding. Solving this challenge will likely involve increasing DCPS’s budget allocation from the Mayor as well as “looking under the hood” in DCPS central office budgeting, and at citywide costs for operating both DCPS and a charter sector. We highly recommend that Council (1) require and fund the DC Auditor to conduct a DCPS and PCSB budget audit and (2) commission a school budget expert to investigate these issues and make recommendations to mitigate unstable school budgeting and continued reductions in school staffs in the years to come.

Adequate Capital Budget for School Facilities: We must ensure that our DCPS schools that have yet to be modernized see a fast track to modernization and that we have robust funding for ongoing maintenance, repair and stabilization needs. We must also ensure safe, healthy, and modern school buildings.

  • Ensure an Effective Partnership between DGS and DCPS: Currently, school buildings are not being maintained efficiently and effectively. School communities too often have to turn to Councilmembers, media and social media to turn work orders into action items. We need significant oversight that will lead to new policy or funding that will ensure DGS and DCPS can work together efficiently and effectively to quick-response action that ensures the safety and health of students and faculty at every school.
  • Ensure Healthy and Safe Schools: Significant attention needs to be paid to ensure agencies are adequately protecting the health and safety of students, educators and staff in schools. We need to ensure transparency and support for lead-free schools and water and keep schools safe from other environmental hazards. We need to ensure transparency and allow the public access to observe implementation of the Water Filtration and Testing Protocol.

Support and Demand Effective Public Engagement

Effective Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs): LSATs are a critical aspect of ensuring school budgets are implemented effectively and are responsive to educator, student, and school community needs. However, LSATs are implemented unevenly and with varying degrees of success across schools. There should be significant research and oversight to understand the current state of LSATs and solutions uncovered to ensure robust engagement of LSATs across all schools.

Agency Support for Authentic Community Engagement: We need a robust conversation about how to improve community engagement in education issues involving the Mayor’s office, DME, DCPS, OSSE and the PCSB. From the lack of engagement in the Chancellor search to lack of regular engagement with communities about how to problem-solve together, DC has generally failed in engaging parents and communities in productive solutions. We believe that authentic engagement can be a critical lever in accelerating progress for students. Oversight is needed to uncover how engagement can be improved and systems put in place to ensure its effective use. Specific examples include major disconnects between agencies and those on the ground (e.g., educators and parents) on issues such as modernization, stabilization, school budgeting, school openings, strengthening feeder systems, school technology needs, etc.

[1] DCPS will open a new selective high school this year, Bard High School Early College and plans to double the capacity of  Banneker Academic High School, and the PCSB is considering 11 new applications this spring that include six stand-alone middle or high schools.


CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, March 19 @ Payne ES

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C St., SE).  Chancellor Ferebee and W6 SBOE representative Jessica Sutter will join us at our meeting.  We’ll also be deciding on CHPSPO’s new name!  I hope you can join us.

Suzanne Wells


Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

March 19, 2019

Payne Elementary School

1445 C Street, SE

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Mission Statement – To promote cooperation among the parent organizations of the public schools on Capitol Hill in order to improve the education received by all children attending our schools.

6:30 – 6:40 Welcome and Introductions

6:40 – 6:50 At-Risk Funding Overview – Betsy Wolf, Amidon-Bowen parent

6:50 – 7:30 Open discussion with Chancellor Ferebee

7:30 – 7:45 Open discussion with Jessica Sutter, SBOE W6

7:45 – 7:50 Wilson Building Visits – Danica Petroshius

7:50 – 8:00 CHPSPO’s new name

Next CHPSPO Meeting: April 23, 2019 (Note: 4th Thursday due to spring break)

Upcoming Events

Budget Oversight Hearings

March 27 State Board of Education, Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education, and the Office of the Student Advocate

March 29 DCPS (Public Witnesses Only)

April 4 Public Charter School Board

April 9 Office of the State Superintendent of Education

April 25 Deputy Mayor for Education

March 25 Capitol Hill Community Foundation Spring Grants deadline

March 29 Ferebee Friday, Pretzel Bakery, 8 – 9:30 am

Visit CHPSPO on the web at

Signe Nelson Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia

Committee of the Whole & Education Roundtable 0 PR 23-0061

The Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019, February 12, 2019

Submitted by Signe Nelson


Good afternoon, Chair-Persons and Members.

My name is Signe Nelson, 19 years an ESL teacher, currently serving in Ward 4 where I also reside.  I also sit on the WTU Executive Board. I am here to voice my own objection to the Mayor’s choice for DCPS Chancellor, Dr. Lewis Ferebee

I do not know Dr. Ferebee personally. I won’t comment on his lapse of judgement as a mandated reporter – I can’t say whether it is more or less serious than the lapse of judgement that cost Antwan Wilson his job.

Nor do I object to the nation-wide search for the best available talent and relevant track record.  In fact, in my opinion, complicity in the failed policies and practices of the Rhee/Henderson era, and the lack of demonstrated will or ability to move DCPS in a new direction, effectively disqualify the leading internal candidates.

My real concern is privatization of public education.  Funding for education is the first or second line in every state budget, including the District of Columbia.  That’s a lot of money.  We have charter schools thanks to Congress, through the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995, not because our citizens EVER voted to use Washington, D.C. as a laboratory for a charter school experiment.  Charter expansion got a big boost during the Rhee-Henderson years with the closure of over 40 neighborhood schools of right.  At the same time, DCPS turned over key functions to outside contractors closely allied with the charter world, and funded by pro-charter philanthropists. And we are under relentless attack by charter expansion interests masquerading as democratic, grass-roots activism, also funded by pro-charter philanthropists.  It should not really come as a surprise that the expansion of the charter sector to nearly 50% of enrollment, and the ill-conceived “reforms” of the last 12 years have led to little appreciable improvement in the educational experiences and outcomes for the overwhelming majority of our children in both sectors. On the deepest level, I believe it is all about the money.

What I am seeing here right now disturbs me, and it should disturb you, too. The Mayor hires (and the Council confirms) a deputy mayor, whose premier expertise is in charter conversion.  She backs charter advocates in SBOE elections.  Now she offers us a chancellor, who rather than turning schools around, turns them over to private operators.  It looks to me like the plan is to continue to privatize at the expense of public education, by setting the foxes to guard the hen house.  This is the same strategy the President uses to weaken Federal departments and agencies by placing them in the hands of individuals hostile to their missions.   Whose plan is this?  Who is making education policy behind the scenes? In Indianapolis it is the Mind Trust.  In L.A., it is Eli Broad’s plan. In Washington DC, is it City Bridge Education? Education Forward DC? DC Public Education Fund?  The City Fund? Walton Family Foundation?  As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.”

So now it is on you.  If you confirm Dr. Ferebee, it will be your responsibility to monitor him closely.  Require transparency and accountability.  Defend against unelected, private interests making education policy to suit their own agenda.  Maybe he will surprise me.  Like Dr. Ferebee and Mr. Kihn,  Antwan Wilson was a Broad Fellow,  but he surprised many of us by not following a Broad agenda.  Some folks think that’s the real reason he is no longer with us.

As we go forward, keep in mind the fable of the frog and the scorpion: A scorpion asks a frog to ferry him across a swollen river.  Familiar with the scorpion’s deadly reputation, the frog refuses, but the scorpion reassures him with soothing words and an appeal to logic: “It would be against my own interests to sting you,” he reasons, “for it would bring about my own demise.” Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. “Why?” gasps the frog with his last breath. “Because it is what I do.” sighs the scorpion with his.


Betsy Wolf Testimony – OSSE Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2019

There are few issues in education in DC right now that are as clearly problematic at the new OSSE school report cards and 5-star school ratings. For some background, I am a parent at Amidon-Bowen, but I am also an educational researcher who cleans and analyzes student achievement data as part of my day job.

The OSSE 5-star school ratings supposedly measure school quality, or how well schools are serving their students. But my analysis – and others’ – have shown that the 5-star school ratings are more strongly determined by which kids are in the schools than what the schools actually do to help students learn. Specifically, 64% of the variation in OSSE school ratings can be explained by student demographics alone. Let that sink in for a minute. We are rating schools on the basis of student demographics more so than school effectiveness.

If pressed, OSSE would respond (as they did in their report) by saying that once you control for the various STAR metrics, there is no relationship between student poverty and the school ratings. But that is a flawed argument because the school ratings are determined on the basis of the metrics. Metrics are ratings, they are one and the same. So if metrics are biased against high-poverty schools, then so are the ratings. This is not a matter of me, a member of the public, not understanding what OSSE is doing. This is a matter of OSSE leads not understanding the statistics behind the OSSE star ratings or the methodological implications of their decisions.

What are the implications of the star ratings? First, we’re giving low ratings to schools that serve predominantly at-risk and special education children, and we’re giving high ratings to schools that serve predominantly affluent children. Even though growth factors into a school’s overall score, we are still rating schools more so on student demographics than any other factors.

Second, with these school ratings, we’re telling principals and teachers whether they are doing a good job or not on, again, which students they serve. My advice to effective teachers in high-poverty schools shouldn’t be you’re doing a great job, ignore your state agency. OSSE should be on the front lines of identifying schools that are really moving the needle and making a difference for kids.

Third, we’re telling parents to steer away from the “bad” schools, you know the schools with too many at-risk and special education students. Better stick to the schools serving affluent children by moving into an expensive neighborhood or winning the lottery for a spot in one of the most sought-after charters serving more affluent students.

Fourth, and perhaps most problematic, is that schools with consistently low ratings will be threatened with take-over or closure, without any regard for to what extent these schools are helping kids learn or how students in these schools will fare in other places.

Let’s talk about the growth metrics that OSSE uses. The median growth percentile essentially compares achievement for students who start with the same score. But whose growth are we comparing against whose each year, and does that make sense? Median growth percentiles are also problematic because they may (a) fluctuate wildly from one year to the next and (b) are also correlated with student characteristics. It gets better – the creator of median growth percentiles specifically warned that median growth percentiles should not be used to determine school quality. So why are we going against the recommendations of the statistician who created the indicator in the first place?

How should school performance be gauged instead? We have to find valid measures that capture what schools actually do. Valid measures of growth, academic offerings and enrichment, and school climate. There are plenty of experts in this field who could help us get it right. And if the federal requirements are too restrictive, we can do what many states have already done and create an independent state accountability system instead.

This is really an exasperating issue if you understand the methodological problems. If you understand the stats behind this, and you are not speaking out either internally or externally, you are complicit in propping up a school system that further disadvantages our most disadvantaged children. Let’s not wait several years to fix it or discuss the unintended negative consequences of the new star ratings.

I’ll close by sharing several quotes from the feedback sessions that OSSE hosted about the new school report cards.

– “Do we have to use the stars? Do the stars simply reflect the economic status of students? Does this concern you?”

– “The proficiency and attendance measures reward schools with fewer students in poverty. This is not fair.”

– “At-risk demographics are a strong predictor of proficiency. We should do more to desegregate schools. The accountability system needs more growth, especially for low-proficiency schools.”

– “Proficiency is weighted too highly in the accountability system. Include higher weight on growth. Otherwise, schools have an incentive to push students out of the school.”

– “80% on PARCC proficiency and growth is too high. Add measures of social and emotional learning.”

– “Can growth be weighted higher than proficiency? Especially since we know that scores are strongly correlated to income?”

– “Have you tested the model on existing schools? Why not? That would enable us to see how this correlates to poverty.”

– “Think we should measure school environment/teacher quality/other things that are important.”

– “We should back map from what data we need to provide well-rounded measure of school quality. Don’t be scared about collecting new data if it’s the right data.”

– “Where is the focus on curriculum? How is a school supposed to know it’s important if you don’t even mention it?”

– “Why don’t you have a classroom observation measure for higher grades?”

– “We should use school climate surveys from students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Why was this measure rejected?”

– “There are more than 20 school climate surveys that the federal government have deemed valid. This is available.”

– “How is attendance a measure of school environment? I think that’s insufficient.”

– “Concern about how we will ensure kids are getting a well-rounded education when there’s such a strong focus on PARCC.”

– “Has there been consideration of including measures to encourage a well-rounded education?”

– “What about sports, arts, other subjects outside math/reading? Research shows enrichment, other offerings add to success of students academically.”

– “You should consider a rating in each different component of the school’s rating – not just one set of stars.”

– “We need to address core problems affecting students (hunger, suicide, poverty, trauma), not just make minor changes in accountability system.”

– “Why doesn’t high school system include growth?”

– “Why is there no growth metric in high school?”

– “Do you have mathematicians on your staff?”

Valerie Jablow Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Public Roundtable on the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I am Valerie Jablow. As a parent of teenage DCPS students who started with DCPS in preK, I would like to connect that experience to this moment as you consider the chancellor nominee:

Hardly any of my kids’ teachers are still left in their elementary and middle schools. Most left because they were treated poorly or refused to teach test prep. We have had at least 10 principals leave in that time. All my kids’ schools have annual budget shortfalls that result in programming uncertainty or cuts. When we parents plead for something for our schools, no matter how basic (i.e., windows that don’t leak), we are told it means another school will go without. I have never heard this zero sum game invoked when a new school is approved or expanded. And when I speak to DC leaders about schools of right as vital civic assets that ensure rights are upheld–not just another choice–I hear silence.

Despite the public’s consistent demand for equitable neighborhood schools of right[1], our schools of right have had wildly inequitable funding, offerings, and support that appears to track with socioeconomic capital[2]. As test scores also track with socioeconomics[3], some schools of right will soon likely face closure[4]. And our relative school ratings ensure we will always have low-rated schools[5], thus providing a steady market for privatizers.

Since I became a DCPS parent in 2005, many of our city’s public schools have been closed[6]. Some neighborhoods now lack any school of right[7]. As charter growth here has no ceiling[8], DCPS has continued to lose school share everywhere except in wealthy areas[9], while our supply of school seats has greatly outstripped our student population[10]. Yet, we have made little progress closing our achievement gap, improving attendance, or involving the public meaningfully in school decision making[11].

Because of all that, here are some questions I would like you to get answers on from this nominee:

  1. Will you commit to closing no DCPS schools and commit to privatizing none? If not, why not?
  2. Under what circumstances will you be willing to publicly go against the executive and what she or her staff recommend or want?
  3. What did you learn from the school sex abuse scandal in Indianapolis and what are you doing to ensure nothing like that happens in DCPS? Will you put into place rules that will require the first action to be reporting to law enforcement? If not, why not?
  4. How will you address disparities in offerings at DCPS schools of right, particularly at the middle and high school level, as an Alice Deal for All is more remote than ever?[12]

These questions are at the heart of the pain I and tens of thousands of other public school parents have experienced for the better part of two decades here. If you, as members of our only statutorily meaningful elected oversight body for public schools, are not willing to ask these questions of this nominee, please let us know why.

Thank you.

[1] This has been articulated loudly and clearly at nearly every hearing held by the council education committee in the last 5 years by my recollection. It was also codified within the boundaries commission report of 2014. See here:

[2] This too has been articulated loudly and clearly at nearly every hearing held by the council education committee in the last 5 years. To see what it looks like in terms of at risk money, school libraries, teachers, and modernizations (to name just a few documented areas), see the following, respectively: and;, and Regarding inequitable programmatic offerings in DCPS high schools, our new deputy mayor for education had nothing to say when I noted how my high school of right offers 1 foreign language, while one across town offers FIVE. See here: Unbelievably, the inequity even goes into snow removal:

[3] See here for an analysis by researcher Betsy Wolf:

[4] Melissa Kim at DCPS said as much during the December 4, 2018 meeting of SHAPPE, noting that the writing is on the wall regarding DCPS closures next school year. In addition, on p. 35 of our ESSA plan (see here, it notes that after a few years of low test scores a school is subject to takeover by another operator.

[5] I discuss this toward the end of this blog post here: The relativity of the star rating, along with the fact that the number of 5 star schools is capped, came up at an LSAT meeting at one of my children’s schools. Oddly, for a system based on so-called “market” principles, it would seem that the only incentive involved here is punishment.

[6] Again, thanks to researcher Betsy Wolf for tracking this, since no one in our city government appears to be doing so OR tracking the public money lost when, say, a charter school pours millions of dollars of public money in its privately owned facility, only to close and the facility is then unavailable for public use despite the massive expenditure of those funds. See here:

[7] Some examples off the top of my head: Woodridge (Taft and Woodridge closures; both are charter schools); Mayfair (River Terrace was closed as a neighborhood school); Eastland Gardens (Kenilworth was closed and was offered to a charter outside the process mandated by DC code); Fort Lincoln (Marshall was closed—which ironically had been the receiving school for when Woodridge was closed). All of these neighborhoods are surrounded by high volume commuter roads, such that getting in and out is not easy for children younger than teens on foot. Moreover, each neighborhood has a fair amount of land and housing devoted to them, such that a critical mass of kids could be available—even if all do not elect to attend their neighborhood school. But when you destroy that network of publicly owned schools—arising out of the symbiotic relationship between the city, peoples’ living patterns, and the need to ensure rights in education in every quarter–then you are precluding rights. It’s not exactly a surprise that the in boundary schools for kids in those areas are not well-attended. Our city has thusly not only precluded the possibility of a school of right in every neighborhood, but also ensured a steady supply of kids to charters that moved in. We have never had a conversation about this as a city—it’s been done by fiat, without the public’s direct consent.

[8] The SRA calls for only 10 new charter schools a year—but there is no ceiling on the expansion of already existing charters. As a result, even a conservative forecast for sector growth, from the recent master facilities plan, calls for DCPS to become a minority school system. See here:

Gotta ask: are you prepared for the ramifications for DC education rights? Because that 2027 scenario in that link means a whole lot of kids will be forced to give up rights they enjoy now in DCPS.

[9] This is mainly Ward 3, whose plans for school expansion are outlined in two recent documents: and

In both documents, the idea of limiting out of bounds enrollment in Ward 3 schools was not desired due to issues of diversity (i.e., Ward 3 schools without OOB kids are not diverse). As laudable as diversity in Ward 3 schools is, as a policy matter effected by accepting kids out of bounds (OOB), it inevitably makes capacity an issue in that ward.

This is not without consequence: Building extra DCPS capacity in a ward with relatively few resident kids will inevitably mean that outside of Ward 3, the crunch of low enrollment at DCPS schools will accelerate, such that the “trend” in the footnote above (showing essentially the massive shrinking of DCPS) will look quaint.

Curiously, there was no mention of busing Ward 3 kids to other schools such that the diversity of *those* schools is increased.

In the end, the diversity of Ward 3 schools with selected OOBs slots at young ages comes with a price that in Ward 3 presents itself solely as overcrowding–while the price in other wards is continuing severe underenrollment of DCPS neighborhood schools. One can argue this is a chicken/egg thing (those schools were bad or not resourced enough, ergo everyone left who could get to Ward 3), but regardless, the pattern is clear and, from my perspective on the east side of rock creek park, very damaging.

Again, I must ask: are you prepared for the denial of rights that the massive shrinkage of DCPS everywhere but in Ward 3 represents?

It doesn’t have to be this way: the city could do the slow and steady work of provisioning those schools outside Ward 3 adequately such that parents would not feel that they have no choice. Right now, there is nothing in place to ensure that this happens. It’s not rocket science—it’s slow, steady hard work that takes years of effort and commitment.

What are you willing to do?

[10] The 21st Century School Fund in 2017 created one of the most grotesque documentations I have ever seen of this oversupply of school seats here: Even if half of this is disputed, it’s still a large number. Growth of our student population under any forecast shown in our current master facilities plan can almost entirely be accommodated with existing seats.

[11] All of these have been documented exhaustively in council and state board of education hearings, the latter especially regarding how our ESSA plan—with a 70% test weight—doesn’t follow what the public relentlessly said it wanted. The test weight, however, was what DFER wanted—and phone banked its way to. And of course, we know the public had NO input into Bard and Banneker, all the while the plans themselves did not follow the PACE act nor were accounted for in terms of where that money will come from:

[12] At a recent SHAPPE meeting, on January 22, 2019, the chart below was handed out, which is a handy, if incomplete, look at just how inequitable offerings in our high schools are. Ron Brown, for instance, was founded to provide young African American men opportunities they would not get in other high schools. It has the fewest programs here. I would wager that if Banneker and School Without Walls had been included, the shame encoded on this chart would be much greater.




CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, February 12, at the Wilson Building

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization Members,

We’re doing things a little differently this month. CHPSPO is meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of the month (this Tuesday, February 12), and we’re going to have our meeting in hearing room 120 at the Wilson building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW). The meeting will run from 6:30 – 8 pm.

We’ll be joined at our meeting by Betsy Wolf, an Amidon-Bowen parent, who is going to share research she’s done on how at-risk funds are distributed and used across schools in DC, and interventions that appear most promising for increasing the achievement of at-risk students.

We are meeting at the Wilson building because on February 12 there is a public roundtable on the confirmation of Dr. Ferebee as DCPS Chancellor, and a number of CHPSPO members are testifying. The hearing starts at 2 pm, and is in hearing room 412. If the roundtable ends before our meeting is over, Dr. Ferebee plans to attend the CHPSPO meeting.

Hope to see you on Tuesday at the public roundtable and the CHPSPO meeting!

Suzanne Wells

Agenda    At-Risk Funding and the Achievement Gap (1)


Jessica Sutter Testimony – Roundtable on At-Risk Funding – February 1, 2019

February 1, 2019

Jessica Sutter

Testimony at Council Oversight Roundtable on At Risk Funding Transparency

Thank you Chairman Mendelson and Members of the DC Council for inviting public testimony today. My name is Jessica Sutter and I have the honor of representing Ward 6 on the DC State Board of Education. I am testifying here today as an individual, and not on behalf of the SBOE.

I support the goal of this bill: to help guarantee that the original purpose of the at-risk funding mechanism—promoting equity of opportunity in education—is fully realized. Increasing equity of opportunity for all young people is why so many educators decided to work in or with public schools. But we have not yet realized the goal of providing all DC children with equitable opportunities to succeed and I believe that some modifications to the bill can help us get a bit closer than we are today.

I have three requests to modify the bill as currently written.

First – there is simply a need for more funding to serve students who are identified as “at-risk.” We know this. The 2014 Adequacy Study from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education recommended for $3906 per student identified as “at-risk.” Our current funding is nowhere near that. In order to best serve the diverse needs of our diverse student body in Ward 6, and all across the city, we need the UPSFF to be adjusted to weight “at-risk” funding at the recommended level. This will benefit early childhood students at Amidon-Bowen ES and AppleTree PCS, it will benefit middle school students at Eliot-Hine and it will benefit young people in the alternative education programming at Kingsman Academy. All Ward 6 students – and all students District-wide – who meet the definition of being “at risk” deserve these funds as a matter of educational equity. I ask that you increase the funding to the recommended level and ensure that school leaders have the power to spend it in ways that can best serve the needs of children in their care.

Second, I’d recommend streamlining the reporting on how at-risk funds are spent. As written, the bill would require LEAs to provide reports to the Council each year that explain how each school used its at-risk funds. Rather than create an additional report, it would be great to see this information reported as part of the DC School Report Card, allowing students and families a chance to gain an understanding of schools’ budgeting priorities and spending histories. This would increase school budget and funding transparency – a matter for which parents and teachers across the city are currently advocating. DC PAVE has selected school funding and budget transparency as one of their key advocacy issues for 2019.

The ESSA Task Force of the SBOE is working with OSSE to establish how data on per pupil expenditures will be displayed on the School Report Card (starting in December 2019), the at-risk funding expenditures could, perhaps be displayed in the same section. This would streamline information for the public, especially families, and it could reduce the administrative burden on schools that are saddled with many reporting requirements to their LEA, to OSSE, the federal government, and other external partners and grantors.

Finally, adding a standardized set of terms and definitions—like a common set of expenditure categories—to the language of this bill would ensure all LEAs are reporting the same data points and pieces of information. It would also allow for easier at-a-glance understanding of how schools use these funds to promote both well-being and improved achievement among at-risk students, and better (if still limited) comparisons across schools. Common categories would allow for public transparency in considering how schools spend these funds, while also acknowledging that the kinds of expenditures that benefit students classified as “at risk” are often hard to tie directly to immediate (i.e. – within year) academic outcomes.

I thank you for your consideration of these recommendations and for allowing me time to speak today.