ERN DC Testimony for March DC State Board of Education Meeting

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

March 15, 2023

March 15, 2023 Public Meeting

Jessica Giles
Executive Director
Education Reform Now D.C.

Greetings Executive Director Butler, Representatives, and staff of the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE), my name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN DC). ERN D.C. is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in Washington, D.C. I am submitting my testimony for the March 15 public meeting, as I strongly oppose this report and underlying resolution for many reasons and urge State Board members to vote NO.[1]

I. The Governance survey is not a representative sample of D.C.

According to the report, 1,132 community members completed the education governance survey, yet the respondents were not representative of the District’s population. The State Board of Education must always prioritize the voices of marginalized and underserved communities.

For example:

Survey ParticipantsD.C. Residents
73% of respondents represented DCPS54% of public students attend DCPS
29% of respondents live in Ward 3Ward 3 has 6% of public school enrollment
56% of respondents are white42% of DC residents are white

Ironically, takeaway #4 states that “students, educators, and parent/caregivers’ voices need a more streamlined approach to communication, more opportunities to give feedback, and greater transparency for how that feedback is utilized.” Yet, the State Board of Education missed an opportunity to accomplish this goal when targeting who filled out survey responses. It is unclear if the survey participants represented students, educators, and school-based leaders, as the report did not mention these demographics.

II. The feasibility scores fails to explicitly consider how education outcomes for students furthest from opportunity would be improved by the adoption or omission of each recommendation.

The State Board of Education’s adoption of an equity statement/framework is laudable. Still, it appears the agency neglected to utilize this framework in the “evaluating and filtering” of these proposals. I am concerned that the opportunity gaps that persist in public education will remain for Black/African American, English Learners, Hispanic/Latino, and students designated as “at risk” as it appears from this report that their outcomes were never really considered in the first place. A prime example is none of the recommendations explicitly relate back to takeaway #6, which includes “issues that need to be immediately addressed by the education system in D.C.” or fully relate to takeaway #8, outcomes-based areas that should be focused on.

III. Some recommendations and exploratory topics would be overly bureaucratic and ultimately unnecessary

  1. Authorizing the State Board to initiate and amend policies; affording the State Board with a “great weight” requirement in all government agency decisions that impact schools, students, and education stakeholders;
    1. While well-intentioned, I am concerned that these recommendations will slow down our public education system, making system-level change and innovation less likely to occur. I can imagine situations where the State Board and OSSE are at odds, subjecting every decision to a vote. With half the State Board members up for election every two years, and the Board holding a leadership election every year, its agenda and focus could change drastically. I am also concerned that the State Board’s recommendations would make our public education system process much more complicated, moving the District further away from takeaway #1 which is aimed at providing more clarity.
  2. The State Board approves the opening, closing, and siting of schools.
    1. The stated reason for including this recommendation is “There is currently no District-wide body that considers the implications of a school opening, closing, or siting on other school communities/dynamics, particularly across sectors.” The Deputy Mayor for Education currently has the EdScape tool[2] for the public, the Public Charter School Board is the sole authorizer of public charter schools, where that authority should remain, because it already has a rigorous process by which charters applications are considered, renewed, and/or discontinued.[3]
  3. Exploratory topics:
    1. Expansion of the State Board’s role to include appointing the State Superintendent of Education, with confirmation from the D.C. Council.
      1. The Mayor is best positioned to recruit qualified candidates to be the State Superintendent of Education. The Office of the Mayor has the power to open doors and to pay a good salary. How would making this change transform outcomes for students furthest from opportunity?
    1. Creating a structure independent of DCPS that would hear termination appeals from teachers and principals who believe they were terminated because of their views on school and system practices.
      1. This seems best suited for the grievance process and it appears to be outside of the scope of the State Board of Education.

One area that I enthusiastically support is creating one website where caretakers and families can find answers to all their questions and helpful resources to navigate care, education, and postgraduate career and college opportunities for youth 24 years old and younger. This website should connect all of the currently existing websites (DCPS, PCSB, OSSE, DME, Special Education Hub, My School DC, DC Report Card, etc.) and fold into the operations of the Ombudsman and Student Advocate.

Thank you for allowing me to testify. I have included at the bottom a list of ways the State Board of Education can help improve student outcomes.


Our Vision:
All students reading at grade level by third grade regardless of where in the city they live, what school they attend, and their ability or language-learning status.

4th grade reading: The percentage of students in District of Columbia who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 26 percent in 2022. This percentage was smaller than that in 2019 (30 percent) and was greater than that in 1998 (10 percent). Black and Hispanic students are 69 and 60 points lower than white students, respectively.

8th grade reading: The percentage of students in District of Columbia who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 22 percent in 2022. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2019 (23 percent) and was greater than that in 1998 (11 percent).

Require all elementary educators to receive free & accessible structured literacy training with incentives to strengthen how educators teach reading.


Our Vision:
Every student graduates from high school and receives a high-quality, affordable college education and the work-based experience and credentials necessary to immediately earn a livable wage.

Graduation: 75% of students graduated from high school within four years. 58% of students with disabilities, 54% of ELL, 63% of students designated as At-Risk.[4]

College Enrollment: 51% of students enroll into a two or four-year college. 35% of students with disabilities, 33% of ELL, 35% of students designated as At-Risk.[5][6]

College Completion: 8 out of 100 9th-grade students will complete postsecondary education with six years.[7] OSSE has not disaggregated this information.[8]

Deepen and expand dual enrollment opportunities for students furthest from opportunity.[9] The State Board can put pressure on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Deputy Mayor for Education to change graduation requirements so more students can take advantage of these opportunities.


Our Vision:
Equip all families with timely, relevant, easily understandable, and actionable information about assessments.[10]

Many LEAs do not consistently provide assessment results and grades to families. Families must be treated as a valuable partner in ensuring accountability in public education. For the last two election cycles, the D.C. Board of Elections ensured every registered D.C. voter received their ballot before the election, and provided detailed instructions on how to vote by mail, drop box, or in person. There is no reason why we can’t apply this same strategy and practice in public education to all assessments, including PARCC, MAP, iReady, and DIBELS.

Require sharing of student assessments with families in a way that is accessible, comprehensible, and actionable for all families.


Our Vision:
All students receive training on how to become financially literate.

D.C. does not require students to learn personal financial literacy skills.[11] Personal financial literacy teaches essential concepts like saving, investing, debt, budgeting, setting short- and long-term financial goals, and money management. These are integral to the financial well-being of students. The Colorado Department of Education summarizes personal financial literacy as the following “[it] applies the economic way of thinking to help individuals understand how to manage their scarce resources using a logical decision-making process of prioritization based on analysis of the costs and benefits of every choice.”[12] Currently, ten states[13] offer financial literacy as a part of the social studies standards, and the District should do the same at every appropriate grade level. It’s a shame that students will learn about the Global Economy but not how to manage their budget, which is a vital life skill.

Put pressure on OSSE to create financial literacy standards.

[1] .pdf?dl=0



[4] Empower K12 Recovery Dashboard:

[5] High School & College Milestones:

[6] DC School Report Card. Academic Performance.


[8] Require OSSE to release disaggregated data on college completion. All data needs to  be disaggregated so we know how well we are educating student groups. The National Student Clearinghouse cannot provide data to an organization without the consent of the agency.

[9] Here is a list of recommendations for changing: Cluster%20(Public)%20Performance?dl=0&preview=Giles+Testimony.pdf&subfolder_nav_tracking=1

[10] For my full testimony on ways to improve PARCC testing and sharing of assessment results view here: 024/2022%20Past%20Hearings/12.7.22%20Hearing%20on%20Literacy%20and%20the%20NAEP%20%26%20PARCC%20Assessments?dl=0&preview=Giles+Testimony.pdf&subfolder_nav_tracking=1

[11] Seven schools currently offer financial literacy as a course, and 10 city schools offer an Algebra class that includes similar concepts. Source: ool-curricula/

[12] Pg 6  Colorado Department of Education. Social Studies Standards

[13] Civics Alliance.,stand%2Dalone%20personal%20finance%20course.&text=States%20with%20stand%2Dalone%20personal,appr oach%20to%20financial%20literacy%20education.