New System for Public Hearings on School Closings


Dissatisfied by the outcome of the lengthy hearings on the DCPS school closing and consolidation plan, concerned citizens continue to fight to have their voices heard. Last Tuesday, they assembled at Savoy Elementary School to express their concerns to City Council Members David Catania, Muriel Bowser and Marion Barry. Unlike a standard town hall meeting, where individuals have free reign of the public platform, this event was structured as a series of small group discussions. A facilitator was provided to each group to takes notes that were later shared with the room. This format was intended to foster clear and equitable communication among all participants, but potentially squelched the passion that would be expressed through unregulated individual testimony.

Another forum that DCPS has provided for pubic input on school closings is the Idea Submission webpage, where the public is asked to share “creative and innovative ideas for improving our school consolidation and reorganization proposal.” The posts on this site are a mixture of small group notes from the Savoy meeting (“Ward 8 Meeting, Table Notes 1, Nancy Huvendick, Facilitator- NancyH13”), earnest commentary from parents (“Just doesn’t make any sense- Tiffany G”) and inspired suggestions from stakeholders (“Save Davis Elementary- Make it a pilot Japanese Immersion- Diona K”).

The Idea Submission Page offers unlimited space for citizen testimony, but is anyone actually listening to these online appeals? Does The Council see this site as a breeding ground for innovation, or a sound proof pen for disgruntled constituents? The actual impact of any advocacy is unknown until it takes effect, so for now, those with opinions on school closings should utilize all available mediums so we can figure out the best plan for DCPS.

What DCPS can Learn from KIPP Charters


Recently, KIPP charter schools announced that they are working with colleges across the nation to help recruit KIPP graduates. The Washington Post reports that, “KIPP will promote the 20 colleges among its 39,000 students nationwide, and in exchange, the colleges will identify and recruit top KIPP students, help those who have financial need and ensure those who enroll stay on track to graduate.” DC universities such as Georgetown University and Trinity University pledged to identify top recruits from KIPP charters in DC. These students will have merits of academic achievement with expressed financial need, help universities diversify socio-economically, and the university help support these students to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Programs like these offer successful charter schools more of a competitive advantage for parents looking to optimize school-choice. While all charter schools may not be as successful of a brand as KIPP, there are some takeaway points to the culture of college readiness and aptitude that District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) can learn from. Many, as the Washington Post also reports in the article, claim that KIPP benefits from having more invested parents. Realistically, KIPP has policies that demand parental involvement and attentiveness. Arguably, increasing parental engagement and community involvement in DCPS could be easily replicated.
There is much published evidence to suggest a positive relationship between increasing parental involvement and achieving better school outcomes. There are published guidelines for schools to promote parental involvement policies.
Given the research, maybe DCPS should start ranking or assessing schools based on community involvement. DCPS has several new staff members that seem interested in incorporating greater parental involvement to improve DCPS schools. Efforts of increasing family engagement within schools is seem unmeasured and largely undocumented on both the DCPS and Office of the State Superintendent of Education's website.  
As the KIPP charters show, parental involvement is one aspect of school success. Parents are excited about their children’s learning at KIPP because the charter provides students quality education with outcomes of measurable educational attainment. The charter’s environment of success and academic achievement is reflected in parental involvement and later student educational attainment. KIPP’s policies regarding parental involvement are something DCPS needs to take notes on.


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