Public Education Candidate Forum to feature D.C. Parents, Students and Community members


Public Education Candidate Forum to feature D.C. Parents, Students and Community members

Local education organizations to co-host forum addressing parental engagement, community schools, student support services, English language supports, and other education issues 

Washington, DC— With the primaries drawing near, it’s time the community weighs in on what’s being said about education in the District. Education issues continue to be at the forefront of candidate’s speeches and on Wednesday, August 18th, D.C. parents, students and community members will be asking the questions.

DC VOICE, as part of Communities for Education Organizing (CEO), is co-hosting an education focused Candidate Forum on August 18th at 6:30pm at Charles Sumner School, 1201 17th St., NW and invites the public to come hear firsthand what the candidates are saying about education reform in the District.

Communities for Education Organizing (CEO) is a coalition of DC-based organizations that are working towards improving public education. The coalition is comprised of progressive nonprofit organizations including DC Language Access Coalition, DC VOICE, Empower DC, S.T.E.P. Up DC, and Youth Education Alliance. CEO is a non-partisan, non-endorsing collaborative that represents over 600 DC parents, students, and community members. Jointly CEO has mobilized thousands of DC residents to action around education issues and other issues that affect Washington, DC residents.

During this past budget season, CEO was successful in urging City Council to hold a Community Budget Hearing during non-traditional hours so that parents, students and the general public could be included in the budget process. CEO organized one hundred community members to attend the Saturday hearing and continues to ensure that community members are viewed as important stakeholders in the District.

Similarly, Wednesday’s Candidate Forum allows for community members to join the political realm and comment on issues that ultimately affect their everyday lives. The forum is also being co-hosted by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and will include Mayoral, Chairman, and At-large candidates as well as feature D.C. parents, students and community members.

For more information on the Improving Public Education Candidate Form, please send an email to or call 202-986-8535.


New DCPS standards for Family and Community Engagement


What follows is a brief summary of School Advisory Boards to replace the LSRT program:

A new proposal by DCPS aims to position family and community engagement as the focal point in the effort to raise student achievement.  The proposal, first drafted last month, reflects on the past and present state of family engagement vis-à-vis student achievement before outlining a new strategy for the future.

According to the proposal, under the current state of the Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT) program, there exist imperfect levels uniformity and cohesion across the board.  Though established eighteen years ago under the tenure of Superintendent Franklin Smith (1991-1996), and further codified in 2004 under Robert Rice, high levels of dysfunction, inconsistency, and a wide range of effectiveness subsist.  In some cases LSRTs are already in place, providing a high level of support. 

In Title I schools, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), School Improvement Teams are in place, advising the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM) on structural improvements and facility modernization.  Additionally, the proposal states that some Title I schools in the District have both LSRTs and SITs in place, while other (non Title I) schools in the District lack either.

Across the board, this high degree of variance leads to differing degrees of effectiveness among these nebulous entities.  Thus, DCPS has decided that it has become necessary to implement a new standard to arrive at the desired state of parental and community engagement throughout the District.  Under the new District-wide standardized system, each school will have an elected, well functioning School Advisory Board.  The composition, purpose, and scope of work of these bodies shall be consistent from school to school. 

Under the umbrella of the Office of Parent and Family Engagement (OPFE), these School Advisory Boards (SABs) will be comprised of parents, teachers, community members, and, on the high school level, students.  These teams, elected each spring by teachers and parents, will meet regularly (at least quarterly but more frequently as needed) with the school principal to prioritize specific areas of focus for the school year, with a concentration on the long term achievement of all students.  Special attention will be provided to the budgetary process, academics and the curriculum, and community engagement.  The board, working with the principal, will create a more open and collaborative environment for the entire school community.

SAB meetings will be open to the public and notes will be posted on the DCPS website.  In order to serve on SABs parents/guardians must have a child who is currently enrolled in the respective school, while teachers, non-instructional staff members, and the building representative must be currently employed at the respective school.   At the high school level, the student representatives are the elected student body president and a student appointed by the principal.  To find out more information on the new SAB program or to express interest, contact DCPS at

Will someone take my daughter, please?


She’s very friendly. Likes sports. Has “great” attention span.  Is fairly charismatic and eager to start school .
Currently, she has virtually no where to begin her school experience in the fall. Our current boundary school is Bruce-Monroe Elementary, whose fate is in limbo ever since it was moved to Park View while the new Bruce Monroe is being built. In 2008 Chancellor Rhee closed the school along with 22 others, citing under-enrollment or poor physical conditions as the reason. However, demolition of the old school building just finished last month. And instead of reopening in fall of 2011 as originally intended, it is expected that our neighborhood will not see another school for at least another 3 to 5years.
Not wanting to go far from our neighborhood on Georgia Avenue, my wife and I visited nearly a dozen schools in Wards 1 and 2. None of them blue ribbon or “west-of-the-park” schools as conventional wisdom would suggest, just places we thought our daughter would be physically safe and academically challenged.    
Through DCPS’ lottery system we were able to apply to a maximum of 6 schools outside our “boundary”. The result… we did not get into any of our choices and were no lower on the waiting list than the 25th spot.  The Out-of-Boundary Lottery allows parents to apply for kindergarten through 12th grade at a different DCPS school than their child's assigned school(s). As an advocate for DC Public Schools, I am thrilled that the demand for even moderately performing elementary schools is seemingly so high. Some schools like Bancroft and Thompson took no kids or less than four in the upcoming year’s new class of Pre-K students. However, where does this leave our child? Bruce-Monroe at Park View--while a very quaint school community--has struggled to meet AYP, sits in a 100 year old building, and is still transitioning aggressively to meet the needs of their 56% English Language Learner population. 
My wife and I cannot afford private school. And while, Ward 1 hosts some of this city’s best charter schools, the varying level of academic standards and quality of school facilities concerns us, considerably. More importantly, shouldn’t the public school system be relied upon to support local school communities?
We have less than 100 days until the new school year starts and she desperately needs a quality public school option in or near our own neighborhood.  

Jeff Smith
Executive Director, DC VOICE

What A New Contract for Washington's Teachers Could Signal for Professional Development


Although recent controversial news about DC Public Schools’ (DCPS) newfound budget surplus has overshadowed the release of Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU) and DCPS’ much awaited collective bargaining agreement on April 7th, there is still much to be celebrated. There has been an on-going negotiation between WTU and DCPS’ administration for the last two years, as teacher’s professional needs and student’s academic needs were seemingly coming into conflict. On the new agreement, the joint press release from both parties stated:

“We worked through our differences to come up with a plan for education that best serves the needs of D.C.’s schoolchildren. We never veered from the principle that we must raise academic and teaching standards while also treating teachers fairly and giving them the tools and conditions they need to be effective in the classroom.

“Our combined efforts at the bargaining table have produced an agreement that reflects the importance and value of great teachers in raising the academic achievement of students....the agreement offers a system of checks and balances that will ensure greater accountability from teachers and administrators.”

Specifically, DC VOICE is excited about new terms concerning Professional Development, as it coincides with the platform for our Equity Campaign. Included in Article 2 of the new contract are: 1) targeted Professional Development opportunities to help teachers improve their instructional practices based on DCPS’ Teaching and Learning Framework; 2) funding for three new “high functioning” teacher training centers, intended to organize school personnel into learning communities with clear goals and standards; 3) a city-wide support unit to be guided by a new "Teachers Center Policy Board;" and 4) agreement by WTU and DCPS to form a joint committee to develop and implement a comprehensive mentoring and induction program, intended to provide a continuum of Professional Development for all teachers and specific supports for new teachers during their first three years. To begin, both parties agreed to form the Full and Equal Partnership Committee (FEP). It will consist of the Chancellor and the President of the WTU and as many designees (an equal number from DCPS and the WTU) as they deem appropriate. The intention is that this board will be responsible for implementing the terms of the agreement and that they meet standards established by Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

As one of DC VOICE’s main priorities has been for every Local Education Agency to develop, fund, and publish a comprehensive professional development plan, this contract agreement proves that the voice of all stakeholders are being considered in decisions to bring better educational opportunities to DC Public Schools.

For more information and to read the entire agreement, click here.

Community Schools Report Release


In association with the Community Schools legislation, DC VOICE and the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership has written a Community Schools report to share with the community to further understand benefits a community school offers students and families.

Community Schools Report 2010                                                            

If you would like a hard copy of the Community Schools report, please send an email to

School Communities & Community Schools: A Teach-In


Involved communities and parents help increase student achievement. When a community is informed about what is going on and empowered to be active in the decision-making, the result is high quality teaching and learning in schools. 

Delays in the redevelopment processes at both Bruce-Monroe/Park View and Turner/Green provide case studies of what happens when promises to a community and its parents are not only broken, but when there is no communication about what will happen next. 

The pending coomunity schools legislation proposed to City Council by DC VOICE provides a picutre of what is possible if "traditional" schools become community schools, which stay open longer and offer multiple services availble to students, families, and the surrounding community. 

 Come to the Teach-In sessions this
Thursday, April 15th, to learn more.

Engage in small group discussions about the facts,
and make recommendations for taking action.

1:30pm @ Bruce-Monroe/Park View ES
3560 Warder St. NW

TO RSVP, PLEAE CALL 202-986-8535 or EMAIL

(Refreshments will be served.)

Demand Reform. Demand Equity.

Our VOICE: The Importance of Cultural Competency in Professional Development


Recently, DC VOICE representatives attended a meeting with the State Board of Education to discuss important issues that our constituents have brought to our attention. In our Campaign for Equity, we have made professional development a crucial component of model for education reform. Outlined in our Supports for Quality Teaching (SQT) framework are seven areas which the public school system and local schools themselves should focus on to not only increase quality teaching but also promote learning. When we asked high school students who participated in past “Youth Voices Front and Center” interview series which items they found most beneficial in the Supports to Quality Teaching framework, they stated 1) Teaching and Learning Conditions, 2) Professional Development, and 3) School-based Administration. However, most students insisted that all seven target areas outlined in the framework were crucial in promoting quality teaching and learning. DC VOICE believes that students’ voices must be included in reform efforts, as they are the main benefactors of the public education system. Not only students but teachers as well have insisted that professional development and supports are an important component of creating an effective learning environment.

Included in DC VOICE’s platform for professional development are courses and workshops, professional networks, extra time, and school-based instructional support and leadership. From the feedback of students, we have augmented this list to incorporate cultural competency, which is the ability to understand, respect and effectively work with persons/groups with various cultural backgrounds including age and gender. Multicultural education provides empowerment to children who are members of oppressed racial groups, lower class, and female. Multicultural Education grew out of the civil rights movements in the 1960s. While protest movements are not as visible today, many issues of inequity within the public school system still exist and have continued to affect communities of color for generations. Cultural competency, while not being a requirement for teachers, would enhance teacher’s abilities to educate and subsequently further equity in public education. Specifically in the classroom, a teacher can better accommodate student’s needs when he or she is familiar with their cultural and familial backgrounds. Again, during the “Youth Voices Front and Center” interviews students made it very clear that this would enhance their learning experience. For instance, one male student stated, “give examples, put in everyday living…connect times tables to a paycheck or paying the rent.” And thus, our final recommendation, for professional development and supports, is that multicultural education strategies be incorporated into the DC government’s plans for effective instruction practices.

As a representative of various stakeholders in the education system, this month DC VOICE has submitted a resolution to the State Board of Education requesting that they develop, fund, and publish a comprehensive professional development plan for all schools that is driven by academic performance and local school needs. We and other community stakeholders would like to know exactly how schools receive supports that will directly increase quality teaching. By adopting DC VOICE’s “Resolution Supporting the Amendment to DC Municipal Regulations”, the State Department of Education would be: upholding the state accountability plan for the District of Columbia developed by the Chief State School Officer, supporting goals to increase achievement among students and, most importantly, responding to the voice of the people.

Demand Reform. Demand Equity


Blueprint for Success: Elementary and Secondary Education Act 2010


Today, the Federal Department of Education published President Obama’s blueprint for an reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most famously known as the “No Child Left Behind Act” after an amendment by President Bush in 2001. Bush’s legislation was intended to close the achievement gap between white and ethnic minority students by requiring all children to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The pillar of that amendment was a two-tier, pass/fail system for evaluating schools. To receive federal funds to improve, a school is required to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), based on data from state standardized tests. Many believe this process resulted in lower standards for “failing” schools and the wide-spread practice of “teaching to the test,” as there were no national standards and little support to help schools reach AYP.
In his revision of ESEA, Obama hopes to create a system of accountability in which teachers and administration have continued professional development that ensures students will be “college- and career- ready” by the time they graduate high school. The goals of Obama’s blueprint, as stated are to:

“(1) Improv[e] teacher and principal effectiveness to ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school has a great leader; (2) Provid[e] information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children’s schools, and to educators to help them improve their students’ learning; (3) Implement[sic] college- and career-ready standards and developing improved assessments aligned with those standards; and (4) Improv[e] student learning and achievement in America’s lowest-performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions.”

By 2014 schools are expected to adopt higher standards based on a Common Core Standards model drafted by the National Governors Association , which has been well received by many state education boards. To do this, the President’s blueprint calls for improved data systems throughout school districts that measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which he starts. In addition, schools will be allowed to submit data from test scores other than math and reading for annual ratings. As far as accountability for faculty effectiveness, Obama proposes to use "value-added" indicators (i.e. tracking how much students learn throughout the school year under a given teacher) through analyzing principals' classroom observations and reviews of lesson plans. Thus far, the only discord surrounding the proposed amendment is based on the lowest 5% of schools — about 5,000 — Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan says “he'll require them to take drastic steps to improve, including firing their principal and, in some cases, at least half of their staff…” In response to this teaching unions have raised some concerns. While the full bill isn't available online yet, after Congress reviews it, it is widely expected to pass.

DC VOICE is a proponent of Obama’s blueprint, and looks forward to future expansion of the legislation with specific data and plans for implementation. From the beginning, DC VOICE has been an advocate for systemic, needs-based reform through engagement. Obama’s plan to improve data collection nationally among schools, as well as, allow schools to inform their own process of rejuvenation is in accordance with our own mission and plans for equity. As best stated by Obama, in his introduction:

“Instead of labeling failures, we will reward success. Instead of a single snapshot, we will recognize progress and growth. And instead of investing in the status quo, we must reform our schools to accelerate student achievement, close achievement gaps, inspire our children to excel, and turn around those schools that for too many young Americans aren’t providing them with the education they need to succeed in college and a career.”

With Obama’s mentality transforming the way our nation views the school system and reform; hopefully, quality teaching and learning outcomes in public education will come to be viewed, not only as more attainable, but most important for the future of our country and its children.

(Check out Secretary of Education, Arned Duncan, at our Ward 5 townhall meeting as he shows how DC VOICE reform efforts are in accordance with that of the federal government. Click Here.)

Demand Reform. Demand Equity.


Reform with Engagement


Michelle Rhee came out of the starting gate full speed ahead when she began as Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS). Within her first year she closed 23 schools, fired almost half of DCPS’ principals, over 250 teachers and 500 teaching aides, allocated $200 million for school revitalization, and quadrupled funds for professional development. While her efforts have proven to bring about some change in schools operations, many stakeholders criticize Rhee for acting unilaterally.
Considering the wide ranging reforms that are supposed to take place, the budget for the upcoming school year is currently at the top of DCPS’ agenda. Since the District is facing a financial deficit, city officials intend to use money from the federal stimulus package for schools to free up local funds. In addition to that package, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education recently submitted an application to receive the federal government’s Race to the Top grant for states. Shortly, the government will open the application to districts. The Race to the Top fund is under section 14006 of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, totaling $4.3 billion. DC could receive between $20 to $75 million of that money . DCPS’ central office can and should use the application process as an opportunity to engage community stakeholders by considering their opinions on schools’ improvement. The Washington Post recently published an article stating that according to their polls, "Rhee's performance was viewed favorably by 59 percent of residents in January 2008, with 29 percent disapproving. Now, there is a near-even split: 43 percent approve of what she's doing, and 44 percent are dissatisfied. Those with children in D.C. public schools have nearly reversed their opinion of Rhee. Two years ago, 54 percent of those parents approved of her; now, 54 percent disapprove." 
From the beginning, DC VOICE has emphasized the power of public engagement when making decisions for DCPS, and we have maintained our commitment to involve all community members and stakeholders in the reform process. We make a point to share data collected in schools from teachers, students, principals, and staff, and we base our decisions to take action based on community responses. At town hall meetings parents, residents, faith and nonprofit organizations, administrators, teachers, and public officials are encouraged to participate in Q&As, small group discussions, and open forums.  Coming up in March, DC VOICE is holding a press conference in partnership with City Council to announce the introduction of the community schools legislation authored by DC VOICE. The legislation was created in response to our 2008 and 2009 Ready Schools and Ready Classrooms project data as well as 13 town hall meetings we held across the city as part of this initiative. DC VOICE anticipates that by the end of this month, DC City Council will have introduced legislation establishing a non-lapsing, segregated community schools investment fund with an initial investment of  between $1 and $1.5 million, based on DC VOICE data and DC VOICE staff and member drafted legislative recommendations.   
While established reforms have increased some aspects of school success in the last two years, change brought about recently has failed to incorporate the voices of all stakeholders. Reform that is not informed by community opinions undermines community authority, and is counterproductive to its empowerment. By borrowing the five rules of community engagement from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and fusing it with our own practices, DC VOICE hopes to influence change in stakeholder communication, for more positive interactions and outcomes in DC public schools.

Rule #1:   A public hearing is not a community conversation
Rule #2:  Talk with or share, do not “talk to” or tell
Rule #3:  “Releasing” information is not getting the word out; disseminate info.
Rule #4:  Seeking and finding common ground is not the same as seeking to protect political turf.
Rule #5:  Taking responsibility does not always mean asserting authority.
Rule #6:  Instead of influencing those who are not like-minded, understand.
Rule #7:  Change should not be influenced from the bottom up, but not the top down.
Rule #8:  Power over decision-making should not be based on establishing a hierarchy, but building a network of
Rule #9:  Supportive communication emphasizes the process not the products.
Rule #10: Engagement is the most significant component of public relations.

 - Excerpt from the Annenberg Institute on Public Engagement for Public Education, "Reasons for Hope Voices for Change." 

Join the Coalition for Community Schools at their 2010 National Forum


( Visit to learn more about the community schools model that DC VOICE is advocating.) 

Innovation is the word of the day in education reform, as the U.S. Department of Education rolls out its new education reform strategy. Community schools are an innovation that is turning around student performance as it builds on a fundamental American principle: schools are inextricably connected to their communities and they educate students best when they function as centers of community. Student success is the result that everyone is seeking for young people...enabling them to graduate from high school ready for careers, college, and citizenship. Attaining this goal is vital to the future for our nation.

On April 7-9, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA the Coalition for Community Schools is hosting a national forum, "Building Innovative Partnerships for Student Success: The Key to America's Future."

Join  U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius as she delivers the keynote address, sharing how community schools are critical for nurturing healthy students, families, and communities.
Additional featured speakers include:
- Assistant Secretary Jim Shelton, Office of Innovation & Improvement, U.S. Department of Education
- Representative Chaka Fattah, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association
- Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
- Secretary of Education Gerald L. Zahorchak, State of Pennsylvania

This year the coalition celebrates partnerships because they are at the heart of the community schools approach—bringing schools, families, community residents, higher education and an array of other community partners together around a common result—student success. 

All are invited to attend: local and national government leaders, teachers, community-based organization leaders, local policymakers, parents and youth.

To join the discussion, REGISTER HERE now! 

Community Schools Lead to Better Quality Teaching in the Classroom


Recently, DC VOICE had a long conversation with a DCPS elementary school teacher, who by all indicators is a high quality teacher. It was a very interesting conversation, and it got us thinking. We started by asking our usual questions concerning how reform has affected schools’ operations and quality of instruction. This time here’s how the answers came back:

Did you get your books and supplies on time? Check.

Class size manageable? Check.

Building repaired? Check.

Administrative and instructional support? Yes.

Sooo…what do you need to improve the quality of your instruction?

Answer: Teachers need a range of supports for the non-academic needs of children: health care, mental health counseling, family supports. High teacher quality will not result in highly effective learning in the classroom, if these other needs are not met.

The solution to the problems that can’t be fixed with more books, spackle, and infinite professional development: community schools. How do community schools improve the quality of teaching? These are schools that have extended their hours and offer multiple services, not just to their students but to families as well. A well implemented community school model directly supports the learning process and helps make classrooms a high quality environment for both students and teachers. By partnering with one or more organizations and agencies that provide medical or social services, the community school can nurture a student’s development holistically. That can mean scheduling an eye exam for a student having trouble seeing the blackboard or a dental appointment for the student whose toothache keeps him or her from concentrating; and, providing counseling for the student who has been traumatized by neighborhood violence and is distracted in the classroom. While tutoring services are provided to help students who are behind in their academic achievement, community schools offer this, in addition to, various kinds of family support services that help families and community members participate more fully in the education of their children. Serving as a neighborhood hub, community schools can offer access to recreational facilities such as basketball courts and pools for neighborhood residents. Also, it is a free meeting space for residents to discuss community issues and for local organizations. Beyond the obvious benefits for children, the result of utilizing community partners to assist students with academic and personal challenges is the freedom for teachers to focus solely on instruction.

DC VOICE has drafted community schools legislation, which we expect to be introduced by the City Council in the next few weeks. It proposes setting up an Investment Fund to award multi-year grants to local schools on a competitive basis. By consolidating public resources in schools, the city can save money, preserve jobs, and make social services more accessible. This work needs to begin now. Contact your ward representative and encourage them to introduce this legislation at their next meeting. Our teachers and students deserve more. And, our community depends on it.

Demand Reform. Demand Equity.


DC VOICE City-Wide Reform Campaign Action Briefing


On Thursday, January 28th at 12:30 pm DC VOICE is hosting a city-wide conference call and webinar to update the community about the status of the Demand Reform Demand Equality Campaign focused on Community Schools, Parent/Community Resource Coordinators, and Professional Development. Community members have demanded that community schools be a priority for education reform in the District, and DC VOICE intends to make sure we keep it a priority for policymakers during budget season.

Call toll free: 1-866-415-4341

Conference code: 634019443

Webinar: DC VOICE City-Wide Reform Campaign Action Briefing

Please join us in this movement to coordinate community partnerships within schools so we can offer our children and families the best education and comprehensive services possible. This city-wide action call and webinar will also give you a chance to ask questions and learn how you can get involved.


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