Committee of the Whole Hearing:
PR 24-393, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant Confirmation
Resolution of 2021
Education Reform Now DC
Good morning, Chairman Mendelson, members, and staff of the Committee of the Whole; my name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the State Director of Education Reform Now DC, a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all D.C. students. I am pleased to provide testimony in support of the appointment of Dr. Christina Grant as State Superintendent.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) was formed in 2007. It is an essential education agency that is key to helping spur innovation and progress in public education in the District of Columbia. OSSE is charged with: ensuring public schools receive federal funding, providing access to high-quality child care, developing state-level standards aligned with school, college, and workforce readiness expectations; administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College (PARCC) exam; and providing special education transportation – just to name a few of its responsibilities. Under the steady leadership of former Superintendent Hanseul Kang, OSSE has improved. Now, with the appointment of Dr. Christina Grant, OSSE has an opportunity to build upon this strong foundation. Dr. Grant’s experience, first as a teacher and most recently as a senior executive leader at The School District of Philadelphia, makes her a strong candidate for this position. I feel confident that she can lead OSSE to new heights.
We’re at a critical inflection point in D.C.’s history. Over and over again, I hear D.C. parents saying they want to know that their child is attending a safe and high-quality school. And while most parents and guardians are relieved that students are finally learning in -person, they are frustrated that our education system does not always feel accountable to them. We hope that under the leadership of Dr. Grant, OSSE will, at a minimum:
- Pass a policy requiring elementary school teachers to be trained in the science of reading, so we can finally have all students proficient in reading.
- Ensure federal COVID-19 recovery funding is transparently and equitably spent on students who need the most support.
- Ensure the DC School Report Card continues to have objective measures of academic outcomes and the Star rating system is equitable. This means providing a stronger weight to schools providing high-quality education to at-risk students and students with special needs.
- Improve the statewide annual assessment and implement in spring 2022. It’s been two years since we’ve had a baseline understanding of how all students are performing in math and English Language Arts. Make the exam shorter, turn-around results quickly, and deliver results to parents in an easy to understand way.
- Improve support for students with special needs, and teachers.
- Strengthen and expand dual enrollment opportunities in D.C. to lower the cost of higher education, particularly for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.
In closing, now more than ever, it is important that OSSE have stability in its leadership. Acting Superintendent Grant is the third person in this position in the last year and half. As we emerge from the pandemic, OSSE must remain stable for all our students, teachers, school leaders, and staff. I hope the DC Council will confirm this appointment quickly. Thank you for allowing me to testify regarding PR 24-393, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant Confirmation Resolution of 2021. I am happy to answer any questions.
 Only 30 percent of fourth-graders in D.C. scored at or above proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2019.
 The 74 Million. “Giles: Schools in Washington, D.C. Are Facing a Reading Crisis. The District’s New Literacy Initiatives Could Change That.” Source: https://www.the74million.org/article/giles-schools-in-washington-d-c-are-facing-a-reading-crisis-the-districts-new-literacy-initiatives-could-change-that/
 On December 10, 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which updated the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, was signed into law by President Obama. Under the strong guidance of the DC State Board, and through many countless hours of stakeholder input and buy-in, the DC School Report Card and STAR Framework was launched in December 2018 to give parents, communities, and policymakers a tool that provides important information about school performance. It includes metrics like PARCC data that can be reliably and validly measured, information on student subgroups — which is incredibly important for assessing equity, measures academic growth, and provides additional funding to schools with a one star rating.