Ward 4 Education Alliance​​

Ward 4 in Washington DC
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The Ward 4 Education Alliance uses letters and public testimony to communicate and advocate for the positions of our community.  With the formation of a State Board of Education task force, the full testimony on that subject is below.  This community came together to advocate strongly for the modernization of West and Raymond which are listed as high in need and have been pushed back.  The schedule for West has been adjusted.  The advocacy for the modernization of the schools remaining or in the process of being modernized will continue. 






This the testimony submitted by Ward 4 
Re: Every Student Succeeds Act
Date; March 3, 2017

We are pleased to offer input on the Accountability system that will be used for all public schools in DC with the Every Student Succeeds Act.  We believe it is an opportunity to encourage and support improvement for all schools and students in a fair and transparent way. We appreciate that under ESSA states can use multiple measures taking the extreme weight off of one test and two subjects. 
While we feel the current draft provides a start in looking at the measures of accountability, it is our hope that you will make some changes before submitting it.  Following are the areas we are most concerned with:

In Ward 4 a number of our schools serve large populations of English Language Learners and students with special needs. We are also fortunate to have a dual language elementary school.   Our schools serve a wide range of students.  They have strengths that do not show up in an accountability tool.  To that end we strongly recommend that OSSE use a dashboard instead of the current system that reduces a school to a single number essentially represented by 1 to 4 stars.  Each measure has challenges; at least with a dashboard we can give a fuller picture.  It is our feeling that the current system is unfairly biased toward students who arrive fully prepared with families able to ensure that they are healthy and present. It makes it a system of comparison without acknowledging the different challenges of different schools.  This furthers the divide as parents seek to enroll their children in schools with high performing students. This does not mean it is a high performing school.  It also discourages a diversity of learners. 

We want our schools to be held accountable for far more than how their students perform on a test. 
Because we serve a large number of ELL students, we would like to see the Access test given more weight, at least moving it to 10% instead of the current 5%. It is a far better measure of the performance of these students and their growth.

Further with regard to the PARCC we would like to see the District take advantage of the federal waiver for up to 3 years for students arriving with limited English.  The PARCC has many challenges for these students. Giving the test in Spanish has not solved the issues.  It would seem to require the child to go through a double process: first, the child retrieves information learned in English; next, the child finds that information among the choices in the home language. Also, the child gets no confirming "click" from his or her brain, because the brain has never previously received the information in the home language. 

Knowing how to use a print (paper) dictionary requires a fairly complex set of skills. Children need instruction to understand how to find the new word in the dictionary. For English-language dictionaries, that means instruction so that children learn to sort first by initial letter and then learn to sort alphabetically within the group of all words with the same initial letter. But instruction in how to use a print dictionary has been either completely or nearly completely phased out with the adoption and mass use of digital dictionaries and digital translation sites.
Using a print dictionary takes time and may well add to the frustration and anxiety of the child taking the test, especially if it doesn't clarify much for her or him.


Switching from one language to another takes up brain “bandwidth,” especially when the child’s development in one language has progressed significantly farther than in the other language. That leaves less “bandwidth” to tackle the test content.
We welcome academic measures.  We applaud providing a weight for growth especially a measure that gives credit for any movement toward proficiency.   We believe the proficiency percentage should be reduced significantly to 20% and the growth measure should be at least 30%. .  Attached please see a proposal on offering a well- rounded education that will address many of the concerns regarding social studies, the arts and science at the elementary and middle school levels.  This could count for 10% under academic achievement.  It is comparable to the high school measures of AP participation etc.  Proficiency is in many ways a measure of the population that school serves. Growth is a closer but not perfect representation of what the school has been able to do. 

This would put the academic measures at 60% leaving room for additional measures under School Environment. 
While the in seat attendance is a low weight:  we disagree with the message that students should attend school when they are sick. 
We would like to consider a measure for staff turnover of effective and highly effective employees
We would like to consider measures for discipline with positive reinforcement for restorative justice and other similar measures
We believe there can be a measure for a school climate survey.

Dual Language Schools:  Dual language schools should be consulted on the measures that would be fair for students learning two languages simultaneously in elementary school. While this is an enormous advantage later on, at the beginning their literacy skills and the complexity of the programs may not be reflected fairly.

High Schools: there has to be a measure for growth at the high school level. The District will have the data for 3 years after the testing this spring.  The ELA from 8th to 10th grade should be fairly straight forward.  We would like to see some proposals on how growth in math could be measured. 

We applaud the inclusion of the 5 year graduation rate.  Massachusetts proposes to use a rate that is equal to the sum of the percentage of student that have graduated within 5 years plus the percentage of student that are still enrolled after 5 years.  This would incentivize students staying in school to get their education.   Perhaps this should be considered for ELL and Special Education students who may need that extra time. 

We do not support the in- seat attendance at 6.25% - if we need to revise what an excused absence is that is another discussion.  Students should not be in school who are ill. 


There is no measure for schools granting certificates in Career and Technical Education
Staff turnover should be measured. 
Discipline and restorative justice factors should be included


There should be a school climate survey.  While there are questions, many of these measures present issues.  

We would like to see measures similar to ACCESS for the students with special needs and an evaluation as to whether the PARCC scores of all students with special needs should be included in the schools rating.  It is our understanding that the MCAA is administered to only 1% of students with special needs.  We have a larger percentage who might be eligible for a test that was more appropriate.  We would like this issue flagged for the future.  It is a strong impediment to schools admitting these students.  Those that are required to, do and do the best they can but it contributes to an overall sense that this is not a fair system. It is also almost cruel to be administering a test when a child cannot answer any of the questions posed.  Our understanding is that the accommodations are limited.
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2017 Letter to Council on Modernzations
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Letter on Ward 4 HS Planning