Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
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DEMAND A STRONG ACADEMIC SCHEDULE, Delabian Rice-Thurston
COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT EDUCATION PLAN, Delabian Rice-Thurston
THE EDUCATION PLAN'S PARENT INVOLVEMENT PROCESS, Marlene Berlin
DEVELOPING A PARENT-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP CONTRACT, Marlene Berlin, Ad Hoc Parents' Coalition
Sumner School 17th and M Streets, NW
MEETING OF THE EMERGENCY BOARD OF TRUSTEES
The Emergency Board Of Trustees delayed the vote to approve the Education Plan so it could incorporate parents' comments on the Plan. To receive the plan, call Mildred Musgrove, the Chief Academic Officer, at 415 12th Street, NW Rm. 805 at 724-4099. Call 724-5454 for further information and for the date, time and location of the Board of Trustees' September meeting.
The School System's decision to start replacing roofs in late July rather than late June may make it impossible to open all schools on September 2nd. Judge Christian has ordered DCPS to provide a plan for alternative sites for all schools whose roofs will not be completed by August 26th. In response, the Superintendent, and Board of Trustees, and Control Board asked Parents United to withdraw the lawsuit.
Parents United worked to avoid this problem by meeting with Chief Operations Officer General Charles Williams and a school system attorney on March 24 to discuss creating a repair plan that would meet the judge's criteria for safety for children. We asked that the school system start replacing roofs as soon as students left school for the summer and we were assured that roof replacements would begin then.
On July 10, 1997 Judge Christian declared about two-thirds of our schools free of fire code violations ready to open on September 2nd, with Houston and Meyer to follow when inspected. However, when told that 49 schools would have their roofs replaced, Judge Christian refused to clear them to open on September 2nd if the roofs were not completed.
Judge Christian restated her position that roof construction creates fire code violations so students should not be in the building. She expressed this position earlier this school year when she closed Randle Highlands, Tyler, Sharpe Health, Brightwood, Jefferson JHS, Deal JHS and Noyes during roof repairs. The Judge has cause for concern because some roofs begun in late May were still not completed in late July.
At the March meeting, we asked General Williams to prepare for the Judge materials that would demonstrate that school roofs could be replaced safely with students in them. We urged him to seek clearance long before the Court's July review of schools so it would not be considered an effort to avoid compliance. Williams assured us that schools would be ready September 2nd.
But the school system decided that we did not need to create a joint plan because the Judge would be convinced by General William's assurances. Even though the Judge was not convinced, the school system decided to schedule additional roof replacements.
Replacing roofs should protect our children from fire code violations caused by water seeping into electrical fixtures, causing ceiling tiles to fall, and buildings to deteriorate. The following schools are scheduled to have roofs replaced this summer:
Adams, Aiton, Anacostia SHS, Bancroft, Barnard, Beers, Bell SHS, Benning, Birney, Browne JHS, Bruce- Monroe, Bunker Hill, Burrville, Cleveland, Cook J.F., Deal JHS, Dunbar SHS, Fletcher-Johnson, Francis JHS, Gage-Eckington, Garfield, Green, Jefferson, Ketcham, Lafayette, Lee, Ludlow-Taylor, MacFarland, Maury, Merritt, Nalle, Orr, Park View, Phelps CHS, Randle Highlands, Roosevelt SHS, Ross, Shadd, Shaed, Spingarn SHS, Stuart-Hobson, Truesdell, Tyler, MM Washington, Wilson SHS, Winston, Young.
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The CTBS scores for May 1996 are the latest city-wide test results available by school. The scores are organized by the percent of students in the bottom quarter, low-middle quarter, upper middle quarter and top quarter. Because every school should be working to get its students scoring in the top quarter, we sorted schools by the highest percent of high achievers -- highest achievers are in column four!!!
Go to the CTBS scores chart
We also show the amount of extra funds through Title 1 that go to schools when at least 71.4% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. If your school gets Title 1 funding, find out how the money is being used to improve learning. (It only takes 26% eligible students to qualify for Title 1 in Montgomery County.)
Use this information to upgrade your school's program. Pick out the schools in your area that have raised student test performance better than your school has. Next, tap the brains of their parent leaders, teachers and principal to see what they do that you can add to your school's program. Network! Get your LSRT's together and develop plans that work!
These data are imperfect. We cannot tell whether students in the top quarter are achieving at the 76th percentile or near the 99th percentile (or are all over the quartile. We show the distribution of students in the top half for additional information. Since the CTBS itself was a poor measure of achievement because as a test it was out of date, and measured low level skills, students who did poorly were worse off than they thought. Thank goodness we're using the Stanford 9 now. The results, however, will not be available until sometime this fall, so planning for next year's program must use CTBS results.
Right now the CTBS is all we have to tell us what works in DC schools. LET'S USE IT to upgrade our programs.
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DCPS and the parent-based 21st Century School Fund have produced competing 10 year Facilities Master Plans. A summary of the differences appear below. The D. C. Council did not submit the DCPS facilities plan to Congress because it had reservations about the plan and a desire to encourage incorporation of elements of the Alternative Plan and increased parental input.
The 21st Century School Fund, a parent-based organization, supported by the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and staffed by parents, former DCPS facilities staff members and consultants is an important resource. Their goal is getting schools repaired through public-private partnerships. Since DCPS has rejected the plan, Alternative Plan elements should be incorporated into the plan that the Council submits to Congress.
The DCPS Plan does not give a picture of the total needs of buildings because it groups schools by individual kinds of repairs (components) needed -- a roof, boiler, windows -- as opposed to a total facility repair program. The Alternative plan totals the cost of all needed repairs in each building to determine whether it costs less to replace individual parts or to modernize the whole building.
The Alternative Plan recommends 41 schools by name to evaluate for alternative uses -- community schools, leasing underutilized space in the building, or closing - and names 7 schools for expansion and modernization. The DCPS plan proposes one school per ward for renovation -- eight schools. It is otherwise, less specific. Renovation planning is an opportunity for community decision-making.
DCPS does not even state that the schools receiving roofs, boilers, chillers and other major investments will remain open in the next 10 years. In fact McKinley, Petworth, Kelly Miller, Logan, Giddings, Carver, Richardson and Weatherless which are closed to students are on the list for major roof repairs. (If opening schools on time is a priority, schools without students should not be a focus.) The Alternative plan names 15 schools that should be considered for boundary changes. We have heard that DCPS is in the process of reevaluating school boundaries but it has not given parents information or asked for input.
Parents United and The 21st Century School Fund are interested in your comments about the two plans. For copies of the DCPS plan, call Suzanne Conrad in the office of the Chief Operations Office, (202) 724- 4202; for the Alternative plan call The 21st Century School Fund (202) 745-3745.
|Facilities Plan Summary|
|Issues||DCPS Summary||Alternative Plan|
|Total cost||$2 billion||$1 billion|
|Primary focus||Component replacement||Whole school modernization|
|School closing||Central to plan, but not quantified||2% per year, to down to 142 schools in 10 years|
|Community participation||Not defined||Integral to plan|
|Real estate development||Central to plan financing||Subordinate to educational program needs|
|Number of schools modernized||Not defined||142|
|Project priorities||Physical condition and age||Condition, age, & educational need|
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On June 26th, CEO/Superintendent Julius Becton and staff held a far-ranging discussion of systemic education issues with representatives of most parent/educational advocacy organizations -- Parents United, the DCPTA, Capital Area Language Minority Advocates (CALMA), Indochinese Community Center, 21st Century School Fund, DC Pace, Washington Parent Group Fund, Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE special education advocacy) and the Howard University Research and Training Center.
Since two hours barely scratched the surface of our issues, we have requested more meetings. This is what we learned.
A role for parents selecting the new Chief Academic Officer. Parent participation is limited to Nate Howard, parent representative to the Board of Trustees, and Don Reeves, President of the Elected School Board.
Serving language minority students and increasing bilingual staff. DCPS is meeting student needs by using contract services. Jeff Meyers, new head of Special Ed is looking for 95 bilingual educators, counselors and speech therapists, etc. Meyers is seeking $100,000 to comply with Special Ed mandates and $350,000 to test Special Education students. Language minority parents are concerned that students are not progressing in subject courses and are not leaving ESL classes to enter regular classes. DCPS claimed they were testing students regularly to determine language proficiency.
Serving language minority parents. DCPS is producing important documents in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Amharic with some forms available in French and Rumanian.
Staffing based on population rather than school program leaves the academic academies and houses under staffed. The school system did not get the funding needed to pay for lower staffing ratios. Yes, there will not be enough teachers to have separate staffs for each of the houses that high schools are dividing into or for all of the focus programs. Yes some schools will have to reduce the courses offered or merge classes that have students at different levels. Of the 8,500 locally funded employees in the system, 7,800, counting custodians, etc., will be in schools.
Parents need to see math and reading grades every quarter in the early school years instead of every semester. DCPS will reconsider this grading system so parents have a clear idea of their child's weaknesses in time to get help.
The education plan did not discuss facilities and the facilities plan did not discuss education. There was no education input into the facilities plan because the system was overwhelmed by crisis problems. The facilities plan is a living document that will be revised. Perhaps by 1999 we can think about school modernization.
Parents want better participation in the principal selection process by having more parents on the selection panel, asking our own questions with follow-up, discussions with the parent body and deliberating in selection. The school system visited schools, talked with staff and conducted interviews using professionals and one parent -- the PTA/HSA president. (There was no sense that the process would be revised.)
LSRTs need information that principals will not give them. In September, principals will not control LSRTs. Clarifying the LSRT relationship has been an important part of the principal review process.
Parent involvement efforts. This year 83 schools received $500 parent center grants and 1,800 parents participated in parent training. DCPS developed School Family compacts and a "Parent Involvement Policy" with clear parents' rights.
Future Meetings: If your organization was not included, tell Norma Brooks or Karen Bates of Becton's staff. Call them at 724-4222 to get on their list. Also, Becton has quarterly meetings with PTA/HSA presidents. Make sure your school is represented!
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General Becton received authority from the Board of Trustees to appoint principals for one-year terms. He believes this new structure will upgrade school leadership. We have some reservations.
Improving a school takes time. Principals have to assemble a staff, learn who is good and upgrade the skills of employees who have promise. New employees (teachers and principals) are often timid during their probationary period and wait until their position is secure to make daring decisions. With annual appointments, principals will have no security from which to make aggressive decisions.
Waiting out change seems to be a part of our DCPS culture -- "I'll be here long after you're gone." Long-term employees who have more job security and are less visible than newly hired supervisors can continue being barely competent. The Superintendent may replace the principal for failing to improve the school quickly while leaving truly incompetent staff members untouched.
Rumors that a large number of principals will not be retained in the system are, at the time of printing, only rumors. We are disappointed that the system will not announce its decisions until Becton returns from his vacation on August 8th. Planning for a strong 1997/98 school year is difficult without a feeling of stability at the top -- but it is possible.
If your school is to receive a new principal, remember that under School Board Rules, at least two parents sit on the selection panel. In addition, parent groups have invited applicants to informal activities for interviewees even if the school system discouraged non- standard communication with applicants. If you have questions about your rights and the process, contact Parents United.
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Because of a lack of funds, DCPS reduced the number of Comer schools so that only the schools that were most effective at Comer based parent involvement and the Targeted Assistance schools will continue to receive funding. The following schools will receive support to improve their school climate and student achievement: Birney, Bowen, Brightwood, Brown JHS, Burrville, JF Cook, Dunbar SHS, Emery, Francis JHS, Gage-Eckington, Hendley, Merritt, Miner, Nalle, Reed, Seaton, Slowe, Stanton, Thomas, Tyler, and Wheatley. (Richardson was a successful Comer school but was closed this summer. The program did not follow the students to Shadd or Drew.)
The Comer process developed by James Comer of Yale University brings consultants into a school system to create a climate that is open and parent/child friendly. A Comer school program includes:
The Rockefeller Foundation, which funded Comer services to DCPS, decided to stop funding Comer schools that were not operating on the Comer model. Schools received low evaluations when they had no parent programs, the school climate was not good, and the training programs were not used by enough of the school principals to make them worth continuing. The schools that are removed from the program are still able to receive the training that is offered but will not receive the intensive staff support from Yale.
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Cultivate a partnership like the Covington and Burling law firm's partnership with Cardozo High School!!! C&B reserves one third of its summer job slots for Cardozo students. For the last five years, each summer they hire around eight Cardozo students to work in areas like the library, telecommunications, space maintenance, mail messenger division, computer and accounting department. One Cardozo student learned to repair computers through the summer program and got a full time job there at graduation.
When the school system's budget data showed that DCPS had not encumbered (committed itself to pay for specific projects) all of the money in the 1996/97 Capital Budget for schools, the Congress refused to give DCPS the additional capital funds
this year. Capital money comes from bonds that are repaid over many years so the items purchased should last longer than the payment period - 10 years or more. DCPS must do a better job of justifying our needs and accounting for our monies.
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Students (and parents) must make sure their course schedules have the highest academic classes offered and that the teachers have high expectations for their work. In fact, all schools -- even those with poor reputations -- have teachers who can guide students to high achievement levels, if the students will do the work. Even when parents use " Special Permission" to get their children into a "School of Choice," they must focus on their children's courses and teachers.
Listen to the scuttle-butt about which classes are taught well and which teachers you should avoid. Remember, an "A" in a mediocre course in which a teacher asks very little of students is worth far less than a "B" or "C" in a rigorous course. Colleges look at the courses a student has taken as well as at the grade point average. High grades in low quality courses will not get a student into a good college or lead to high PSAT/SAT test scores the way high quality courses do. Every child needs and deserves a good education, not just those expecting to go to college. Poor quality, low-level courses will not give a work-bound graduate the skills needed to compete in the job market.
Remember, school is preparing your child to be his or her own child's K-12 teacher -- 21st Century parents need first rate educations.
Do not let teachers or principals tell you your child did not "qualify" to take a good academic course. Your child is entitled to get into a required class even if it is crowded.
When Banneker Academic High School did not have enough spaces for all students qualified to take Advanced Placement English, parents pushed to get an additional class offered. When my child was not recommended for an Intensive level course, I had it added to his schedule -- his grade was just fine! If some teachers are so inadequate that students avoid the class, prodding the principal to find a better teacher is a service to the school.
If you would like a copy of our recommended course lists for career or college and/or our reading lists, please send us a self-addressed stamped envelope and a note that says what you are requesting.
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The DCPS' Education Plan promises strong literacy skills, nationally competitive standards, high performing staff, assistance to schools that do not progress, and a commitment to graduate students that are competitive with their counterparts throughout the nation. Because our school system's average graduate has been well behind students across the nation, General Becton and the Board of Trustees will need true grit to accept the anger they will face when many students fail.
DCPS has taken the first step by adopting the nationally recognized Stanford 9 standardized test to tell us where our students are academically. The plan includes teacher and principal training, curriculum strengthening, interagency support for schools and many reasonable ideas. The plan does not tell me, a parent, what will happen in the classroom to assure academic rigor that was not happening before. I wanted to see this system commit itself to such things as:
I want to see a relationship between this plan and the school system's budget proposals. For example, the Education plan acknowledges that students need summer activities to raise their academic levels but the school system's 1998 budget does not reflect the proposal for summer programs, tutoring, mentoring and enrichment. The plan describes a need for alternative learning environments but no such school appears in the 1998 budget.
To implement the Education Plan the school system must circumvent all of the obstacles that have prevented it from carrying out almost all previous plans. Can it? With hundreds of "good ideas" in the plan, the school system must choose the few that are realistic and effective. DCPS must help parents feel a part of the process so that we stand behind the school system's high standards even as we feel our children's frustration trying to reach them after years of low expectations.
(DCPS released the Draft Education Plan for DCPS as prepared by the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) in May, 1997. In response to public comments, the CAO made the recommendations more concrete by concentrating on the First Year Implementation Plan.) The Board must adopt the plan.
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Parents are adding their unique perspective to the One Year Implementation Plan for the D.C. Draft Education Plan. The Emergency Board of Trustees presented the Draft Education Plan to the public for comments on June 28th at Cardozo High School. Parents asked for an opportunity to evaluate the plan and suggest improvements. The school system responded by inviting Marlene Berlin of the Ad Hoc Parents' Coalition to convene a parent task force to revise the one year Implementation Plan.
The task force of parents and school activists (no administrators) represents a variety of groups. It met on Thursdays in July at Sumner School. (Seldom has such intensive work been done without being dominated by DCPS administrators.)
Task force recommendations center on: accountability -- the central office, principals, teachers, parents; School restructuring, decentralization and parent choice; Charter schools. The task force plans to present the recommendations to CAO Musgrove on August 5th and discuss them with her staff in time for the ideas to be reflected in the implementation plan.
Task force participants are Mark Roberts, Mina Veazie, Alieze Stallworth, Millington Lockwood, Mike Tolbert, Frank Method, Delabian Rice-Thurston, Erica Tollett, Sherone Joiner, Dan Harrison, Gail Sonnenann, Nerissa Phillips, Curtis Banks, Brenda Artis, Marlene Berlin, Wayne Proctor Terry Bollech, Ida Chow, Eric Norman, Jamie Butler, Alieze Stallworth, Odie Johnson, Wanda Mathis, Carnie Hayes, and Leonard Green.
Suzanne Conrad, deputy to the Chief Operations Officer, reports that School Utilization Surveys, the basis for the school consolidation review, will begin in September 1997. Since the principal signs off on the survey, the information should be more accurate than last year when closings were based on 95/96 data.
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Parents are laying out a blueprint of what the school system should do to include parents as partners in reforming education and raising educational quality in our schools. The Ad Hoc Parents' Coalition convened activists from Parents United, DC Congress of PTA's, Washington Parent Group Fund, 21st Century School Fund to draft a parent initiated Parent-School Partnership Contract. But, we need your input. These are proposal highlights.
DCPS must provide:
1. High standards for all students with assessments tied to standards.
2. Curriculum Objectives by grade and subject tied to standards.
3. Principals with proven leadership and management skills held accountable for school's performance.
4. Teachers qualified in their subject area and held accountable for teaching success.
5. Adequate materials delivered on time to the classroom.
6. Adequate and timely services provided to children with special needs and their families.
7. Constructive options for dealing with disruptive students.
Parent-School Partnership Obligations:
1. Encourages parent input on education program and facilities plans.
2. Produces and distributes: a) An Informational Directory of Schools; b) Assessment of each school's performance; c) Budget for each school and each central administration department.
3. Adopts appeal procedures for problems and deploys to schools including parent activated principal review processes initiated for just cause. Emergency Management Teams, when parents' petition for intervention.
4. Fosters stronger parent roles on the school governance team (LSRT) by: a) Increasing the number of parent members to equal school personnel; b) Giving all members management training; c) Requiring that meetings be when there is a majority of members.
6. Encourages schools to publish newsletters and parent directories.
7. Gives parents equal representation on principal screening and contract renewal committees.
1. Treats parents respectfully and responds to concerns promptly.
2. Communicates and consults with the PTA/HSA, Title One Parent Group, other groups and the school governance team (LSRT) about any policy changes in curriculum, personnel, budget, facility, etc.
3. Cooperates with the school governance team and parent groups to publish a school newsletter, parent directory, Handbook which describes the school's policies on communication, discipline, homework, dress, and grievances.
4. Communicates with parents through a newsletter and scheduled meetings.
5. Evaluates teachers using class academic performance and parent satisfaction.
1. Treats parents respectfully and responds to concerns promptly.
2. Communicates with parents at the beginning of the year to describe: a) The curriculum with course objectives and schedule of projects; b) Homework policy; c) Communication procedures; d) Tests and expectations; e) Parent involvement in the classroom.
3. Sends class work packet home regularly to be signed by the parent and communicates with parents when there is a drop-off in student's work.
1. Gets the child to school on time, rested and ready to learn.
2. Treats principal, teachers, and other school staff respectfully.
3. Participates in yearly evaluation of school conducted by school governance team (LSRT).
4. Participates in, supports and attends school activities.
5. Supports teacher's efforts in dealing with disruptive students.
School Governance Team (LSRT):
1. Develops a school plan for improved academic performance, assesses how goals are met, assess all participants' satisfaction with school, and reports the results to the community.
2. Develops a parent school compact with input from school community and biannual reviews.
3. Produces a parent handbook on school policies.
School Support Group (PTA, HSA, Title One Parent Group, or other):
1. Produces a parent directory and school newsletter
2. Holds social events for entire school community.
3. Raises funds to support the school's educational program.
4. Accounts for money collected and spent.
Education Advocacy Organizations:
1. Gives parents a forum for raising school-based issues to system-wide concerns.
2. Collects and disseminates information among organizations and to parent community.
3. Communicate with each other through regularly scheduled meetings to set common agendas.
Please contact Marlene Berlin at 202-362-8866, MBerlin@Baller.com, or 202-244-4983(fax)
to relay comments or request copy of full document.
In addition, Marlene Berlin is collecting E-mail addresses for starting up a electronic newsletter and establishing a web site for parents. Please send your E-mail addresses to MBerlin@Baller.com.
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The editor of UPDATE is Delabian L. Rice-Thurston, Executive Director of Parents United for the D. C. Public Schools and the editorial assistant is Loraine Wilson. The Parents United Board consists of Co-Chairs: Janice Autrey and Sheila Carr; Recording Secretary. Robert Handloff; Treasurer: Elder Wellborn; and Members At-Large: Alvita Byers, John Pfeiffer, Gary Rucker and Ron Stroman. Parents United is grateful for the financial financial support of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The Cafritz Foundation, the Freddie Mac Foundation and numerous D. C. Public School parent organizations and individuals.
Thanks to the volunteers who help us get the newsletter to you: Blanche Bradley, Vera Carley, Ethel McCrae, Jeanette Hill, Helen McCard, Harry Travis, Blanche McLeod, Lanita Proctor, Sarah Austin, Jill Murphy, Marian Howard, Linda Reese. Without them we could never get 8,000 newsletters mailed.
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