Education Reform Now DC
Good morning Chairman Mendelson and members and staff of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Jessica Giles, and I am a ward 7 resident. I am the State Director of Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC). ERN DC is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in the District of Columbia. I am pleased to testify at this 2022 Performance Oversight Hearing.
It’s been a very difficult two years for our school communities to say the least. Having to adjust to the fact that the pandemic is not ending and there is no return to normal. Still, our students, parents, school leaders, educators, school staff, service providers, and community partners have, under extreme circumstances, adjusted and worked tirelessly to allow for schools to safely reopen and for learning to continue. Thank you. As we finish out the rest of this school year, I urge the District to strengthen its efforts to keep the mask mandate indoors as long as possible and to push for more children to be vaccinated. Only 36% of 5-11-year-olds are partially or fully vaccinated, and 78% 12-15-year-olds are partially or fully vaccinated.
OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY MAYOR FOR EDUCATION
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education has outlined, in its recovery roadmap, how its supporting our public education and workforce systems with local and federal recovery dollars but there needs to be more transparency of these dollars.
Recommendation #1: We urge the DME to provide greater transparency of federal investments by publishing online a detailed accounting of funding that is being used for academic recovery. Students, families, and school communities deserve to know where these funds are being invested, which organizations are receiving them to do work, the number of students who are being helped, and the outcome.
Recommendation #2: We urge the DME to conduct an adequacy study every five years to determine the appropriate UPSFF increases for all students and each student group. The UPSFF is the District’s single best tool for achieving funding equity. To get a picture of how to achieve funding equity, the DME commissioned the 2020 Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) Study and subsequently held a 2020-21 UPSFF Working Group, but we have not had an updated adequacy study of the UPSFF since 2014.
OFFICE OF THE STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION
We strongly support the current system of oversight of the Offiice of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), which allows for the top education agency to be managed and run by the Office of the Mayor, and by extension the voters and parents of the District of Columbia. We urge the DC Council not to weaken this agency, but to continue holding the Mayor and OSSE accountable for our education progress.
Recommendation #1: Education Reform Now published an analysis of OSSE’s ARP Plan assigning the District a “yellow” rating for “approaching equity,” which means there’s more work to be done to ensure federal funding is directed efficiently, effectively, transparently, and equitably to address unfinished learning and support student well-being. We encourage policymakers and advocates to follow our five recommendations. LEAs received $154,811,857.00 from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, $37,805,719.23 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act ESSER Fund, and $347,829,299.10 from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act (ESSR) Fund.Additionally, OSSE received $39,000,000 from ARP.
Recommendation #2: Ensure the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam is administered in the Spring. The District of Columbia uses statewide summative assessments, like the PARCC exam, to provide a baseline understanding of all D.C. students’ academic progress to drive programmatic changes and direct resources to schools that need them most. It has been two years since the District has administered the PARCC exam. Though these tests may not be perfect, we should fix them, not end them. Parents and guardians deserve a real view of what is working, what isn’t, and how we can make improvements to meet the needs of students.
Recommendation #3: Urgently reform the Dual Enrollment Opportunities in the District: expand access to all interested students, particularly students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities; make the application process more efficient; and ensure students receive maximum dual enrollment credit hours. Dual enrollment provides students the opportunity to earn college credit for free at area universities while still in high school. This greatly cuts down on student loan debt while giving students early exposure to rigorous collegiate courses. Unfortunately, OSSE canceled dual enrollment opportunities in the 2020-2021 school year, the program is underutilized, and there isn’t detailed information about plans for the 2021-2022 school year in the performance oversight responses. Other states are much further along in providing a wealth of opportunities for their students. For example, students in Minnesota’s Post Secondary Enrollment Option program can take up to 16 credits per semester, which is a marvelous opportunity. Why can’t we do more?
Recommendation #4: Provide sufficient funding so that all K-3 DCPS and public charter school educators can receive free and easy structured literacy training in three years. In 2019, 70% of DC students were not at or above proficient in reading in fourth grade, according to NAEP. A child’s ability to read directly impacts their future educational gains, attainment of a livable income, and overall quality of life. The passage of the District must ensure all K-3 grade students are proficient in reading by 3rd grade.
- Re-strategize and refocus outreach efforts to ensure that families in all eight wards know that the D.C. school report card and star framework is a tool that they can use to help them make decisions about schools.
- Get buy-in from families and D.C. residents in all eight wards, particularly those furthest from opportunity, to determine how best to use the D.C. School Report Card and Star Framework to serve their students better.
- Improve, but do not eliminate the single summative rating.
- Administer the district-wide annual assessment exam this spring.
- Get serious about innovation and school improvement.
In closing. I have included our FY 2023 budget priorities (below- in my written statement). Thank you for allowing me to testify. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
- Maintain the Mayor’s proposed 5.9% increase to the uniform per student funding formula (UPSFF), which equals $12,419 per student, so all schools have the resources needed to support students.
- Raise the at-risk weight of the UPSFF to .37 or higher as recommended by the 2014 adequacy study to provide more significant support to students designated as ‘at risk’—those who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are experiencing homelessness, are in the District’s foster care program or are one year or more older than expected for their grade in high school.
- Increase the public charter school facilities allotment by 3.1% beginning in FY 2023. The District government must ensure that all students have safe and educationally appropriate buildings.
- Conduct an adequacy study every five years to ensure the UPSFF increases at an adequate level for all students.
- Provide greater transparency of federal investments by publishing a detailed, online accounting of academic recovery interventions for students, families, and school communities.
Higher Education: Quality, Affordability & Opportunity.
- Study and reform our current dual enrollment opportunities to, at minimum: expand access to all interested students, particularly students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities; make the application process more efficient; and ensure students receive maximum dual enrollment credit hours for both high school and college classes.
High-Quality Teacher Prep and Support.
- Provide sufficient funding so that all DCPS and public charter school educators can receive free and easy structured literacy training in three years. In 2019, 70% of DC students were not proficient in reading in fourth grade, according to NAEP. The District must ensure all K-3 grade students are proficient in reading by 3rd grade.
- Support educators with paying their student loan debt by creating housing and tax incentives, implementing housing affordability programs, and ensuring eligible educators are connected with the existing programs that can reduce the cost of homeownership.
Invest in Safe, Stable, and Positive Learning Environments for All Students.
- Build on past year’s investments in the School-Based Behavioral Health Program (SBBH) by investing in the following:
- $300,000 for a cost study to determine what it truly costs to implement the SBBH program now and in the future;
- $2.4 million to stabilize community-based organization grant funding each year; and
- Adequately funding the Community of Practice, building a workforce pipeline, and expanding information-sharing and family engagement efforts.
- Maintain the current investment of $920,000 for SY 2020-21 supports restorative justice school-wide technical assistance and individual capacity building in DC schools.
 2020-21 Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) Working Group. https://osse.dc.gov/page/2020-21-uniform-student-funding-formula-upsff-working-group
 Education Reform Now. WASHINGTON, DC Approved State ARP Plan Analysis. https://edreformnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/DC-ARP-report-final.pdf
 LEA ESSER II-CRRSA Final Allocation. https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/ESSER%20II_%20CRRSA%20FinalAllocations_Website%20Upload.pdf
 LEEA ARP Final Allocation.
 OSSE Performance Oversight Responses. P. 306. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a9c91dqy6nmas9t/AADT8taC-3TC4lhjSapgVzKwa/3.3.22%20Performance%20(Education%20Government)/OSSE?dl=0&preview=2021+OSSE+Performance+Responses.pdf&subfolder_nav_tracking=1
 NAEP 2019 State Results – Fourth Grade Reading. https://osse.dc.gov/publication/naep-2019-state-results-fourth-grade-reading