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Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
1300 19th St., N.W. Suite 330, Washington. D.C. 20036 (202) 833-4766



Arlene Ackerman Named Chief Academic Officer

DCPS Inaugurates "Everybody Reads" Literacy Campaign Tutoring for 2nd Graders

What About High School Students' Reading Skills

Stanford 9 Test Results Suggest Many Students May Not Pass

Drew Elementary Seeks Books and Volunteers

Fire Code Lawsuit Settlement Helps Us All

Lawsuit Fines to Be Used to Promote Literacy

School Repairs Phase 2 -- The Parent Role

Parent Involvement in Construction Decisions

Special Permission October 1st -- December 30th for 1998/99 School Year

New Charter School Options Available to Students

Local School Restructuring Team Issues

Low Cost Health Insurance for Your Child

Becton & Ackerman Meetings with PTA/HSA Leaders: Parents Can Attend and Learn

DCPS Budget Overview

Advocacy Support -- The Parent Handbook


JANUARY 20, 1998
17th & M Sts., NW
7:00 - 8:45

Parents United has invited Donald Brown, the newly appointed facilities advisor to speak with parents. Mr. Brown is a retired developer and lawyer will answer your questions about what he sees his role to be, how the process will go forward, and other questions pertaining to the settlement of our law suit.


Arlene Ackerman has been selected by General Becton to be Chief Academic Officer for the DC public schools. Coming out of Seattle as Deputy Superintendent, Ackerman will have three years to create an exemplary system and bring about real progress in our children's academic achievement.

Ms. Ackerman has had numerous meetings with parents, including the board and staff of Parents United. She has our support and respect. Her commitment to parent involvement is reflected in the attention she pays to parents, and the hiring of Anu Greenlee, Coordinator of Parent Involvement and Elois Brooks, Deputy Chief Academic Officer.Both will work with parents to help them with their issues

Ackerman considers student achievement the most important measure of school, principal and teacher success. We are steeling ourselves for the crisis that her tough stance on student achievement and teacher/principal performance will create when it is implemented. Half of a principal's appraisal will be based on student achievement. Here is a breakdown of how a principal will be rated:

Ms. Ackerman has seen urban school systems show higher student performance with fewer resources, and she is determined to expand the pockets of excellence into system-wide excellence.

One of the many needs DCPS has is school-based data so that the status of each school is known and improvement strategies can be developed. DCPS needs to organize personnel and funding to promote student achievement. Too often we announce programs but do not provide staffing and funds. We do not integrate new programs with existing ones so programs fail. Teachers, parents and students need to know what the learning goals are and need better communication channels so we can all learn from each other.

Ms. Ackerman is also very concerned about teacher training. Our low achievement suggests class activities do not make good use of our relatively small class sizes. Teacher training needs to include frameworks so that teachers know the skills we expect them to have and to teach. Staff development in D.C. is often unfocused, brief and poorly done. It should include standards, content, practices, student assessments, and leadership that bangs parents into the education process.

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DCPS is calling upon the Washington, DC community to provide a tutor for every second grade student who needs one. "Everybody Reads" will focus on the earliest readers making sure they pass their first gateway -- the SAT 9 reading exam for third grade students.

The system seeks people who will commit to attending a two-hour training session, and reading with a second grade student for two 35-minute sessions each week for a minimum of 12 weeks. To volunteer contact Carolyn Smith at (202) 724-4400. The system will send you the information, a list of elementary schools, locations for training and regulations concerning volunteering. To assure the safety of our students, DCPS will ask you for references, proof of TB screening, authorization to release information, and liability waiver.

Many parents are concerned that DCPS has not publicized a strategy for older students. Their plight is more dire. Skills missed as a young child are harder to learn at 17 or 18, and students who have been shattered emotionally by constant school failure need special help to reconnect with literacy skills. (see article below)

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By Sheila Carr, Co-Chair

There has been a great thrust to ensure that the second graders and elementary school students be brought up to grade level in reading. That's good, but very little talk and/or action for the high school students has been said or done. The Stanford 9 tests show that 53% of 10th and 11th graders are below basic in reading and 89% of 10th graders are below basic in math. These are the students who will be leaving the school system in the next 1 - 3 years. We know that the system has not equipped them with what they will need to be a viable adult. We must speak up and insist that support is brought into the high school for these students this year. They cannot wait!

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According to the Stanford 9 Assessment Test (SAT 9), most DCPS students perform at or below the basic level in reading and math. Arlene Ackerman, Chief Academic Officer, has stated that she will rely heavily but not exclusively on the SAT 9, and additional indicators of student performance to determine whether or not a student is retained in grade.

Thirty three percent of third graders who took the exams last May were found to be "Below Basic" in both Reading and Math, 34% of eighth graders were "Below Basic" in reading and 72% of eighth graders were "Below Basic" in math. The data for the system may not reflect the data for your individual school. We look forward to getting individual school results and printing them. We want parents to investigate the programs that are producing better results with children in their neighborhood. Parents United encourages LSRTs to foster these successful programs in their school.

The SAT 9 is a nationally recognized test of student achievement. DCPS plans to tie both student promotions and teacher/principal evaluation to student test results. The Spring tests showed that the portion of our students who are proficient or advanced in reading and math is very low. Indeed, at the highest grades, the percentage of students who are below basic (extremely weak) in reading and math is over 75%.

Percent of Students at Each Performance Level in Reading based on 43,445 students tested of whom 2,688 were special education students and 2,910 had limited English.

Grade Below Basic Basic Proficient Advanced
1 15 47 28 11
2 41 40 16 4
3 41 33 20 6
4 45 36 14 5
5 36 46 15 3
6 31 46 19 4
8 34 46 18 3
10 53 32 13 2
11 53 34 11 2

Percent of Students at Each Performance Level in Math

Grade Below basic Basic Proficient Advanced
3 37 39 19 5
6 55 30 12 3
8 72 19 7 2
10 89 8 2 1

Below basic - little or no mastery of fundamental knowledge and skills for this grade.
Basic - partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for satisfactory work at this grade level.
Proficient - students are prepared for this grade level and show solid academic performance.
Advanced - superior performance beyond grade level mastery

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Communities in Schools is looking for books and volunteers to support the D.C. Reads Project! Tawana Massenberg at Drew Elementary is collecting books. Send materials to 5600 Eads Street. NW 20019 or call 724-4922.

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In 1991 Parents United told the city we would drop our lawsuit against the city for not complying with the fire code if they would commit $150 million to repair schools. Everyone said that was an impossible request. Thanks to pro bono legal help from Alfred Mamlet, Barbara Kagan and Andrea Evans of the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson, parents got that and more when we did settle on November 3, 1997. Here are the terms of the settlement:

Why can parents feel pleased? Never has the city committed any portion of capital funds to school repairs. We've always grabbed what little we could. Yes, we need more, but at least we have a financial floor.

The Advisor will assure that the fire code is enforced and that every school is inspected annually. The agreement cites the school system's short-term repair plan as a reference point for commitments for money and results. As it is now, though, that plan (really, a list of projects) is not really acceptable to Parents United. A good facilities plan should guide repairs, establishing criteria for the kinds of schools needed, describing how and why they were selected for repair and developing funding strategies to pay for it.

Since DCPS has not revised its plan to incorporate other ideas, we hope the advisor will facilitate melding outside research and approaches into an improved plan. For example, the Parents United board is impressed by the approach the 21st Century School Fund has taken in assessing how we should evaluate which schools we need and how to determine which repairs to make. Yes, the power the advisor chooses to exercise is critical to the strength of the settlement. We trust that Donald Brown, selected as the advisor, will assure that repairs are done properly and safely with contracts that are economically sound.

Parents paid a heavy price to get the city to pay attention to funding school repairs. School opened late and schools have been barricaded or closed during the school year, disrupting learning. This year alone parents and students at Ballou SHS, Bell SHS, Emery, Garnet-Patterson MS, Langdon, Paul JHS, Tyler, Whittier and Young suffered even more disruption after the three week delayed opening when their schools were closed for roof repair or boiler replacement.

Our city owes a debt of gratitude to Judge Kaye Christian, a DCPS parent. Since 1994 she has forced our city government to acknowledge its responsibility for funding school repairs. Despite the disruptions and the pain, parents could say at some point every school year that all known fire code violations were "ABATED!"

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Last summer, Judge Kaye Christian fined the city $1,000 per day per school for each school that did not meet the fire code on the date the school system stated they would. The fines accumulated to $61,000. Judge Christian asked both Parents United and DCPS to develop plans for utilizing the fines to benefit DCPS students. The Court approved their plan to share the $61,000 in fines to promote literacy while strengthening school- level involvement by parents. The National Capital Foundation will manage the money for the Court. Since the City has appealed to get the fines removed, the money will not be available until the appeals process is completed.

Half of the funds will support Parents United's plan to give small grants for literacy activities to Local School Restructuring Teams and parent organizations in low-income schools and/or schools with low levels of reading achievement. The other half of the funds, will be used as seed money for a network of school-based parent literacy initiatives anchored by Parent Literacy Centers at two key locations in the District.

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We need your help to sustain the school repair progress. Donald Brown, Advisor to the Board of Trustees and Parents United under the Fire Code Lawsuit settlement, will track the status of school repair needs and repairs underway. Parents United will pass information we receive on to him.

Brown is operating with minimal staff and significant authority. By collecting the information for him, we relieve him of the "intake" function so that he can do what he does most effectively, verify the actions the school system is taking to remedy the problems and assure that their actions fit into the work done to implement the Facilities Plan.

We need the name of your school, the problem, the specific location if applicable and your name and phone number (your information is taken most seriously when you give a name and phone number). We prefer receiving your information in writing because we are more likely to get your message correctly.

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Mary Filardo 21st Century School Fund

General Charles F. Williams, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Facilities for DCPS announced at a Council hearing on Thursday, November 12, 1997 that he has instituted a new "execution protocol." No, it is not about firing squads, but an important procedure, the "Pre- Construction Conference" which is typical in other school systems, but new to DCPS. This Conference is a meeting between the DCPS project manager, the principal, PTA and LSRT representatives, the construction contractor and other interested persons held to review school construction work that will be undertaken at your school.

At this Pre-Construction Conference the local school should learn:

If you would like technical assistance at your Pre-Construction Conference, or in reviewing documents from this Conference, you may call the 21st Century School Fund at (202) 745-3745 or (202) 832-3970.

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For various reasons, many parents prefer to send their children to schools outside their neighborhood. The D.C. Public Schools offer a variety of school programs in which you may want your child enrolled. If they are not in your neighborhood school, you must apply at the school that has the program for "Special to attend that school. The application process began on October 1st and ends on December 30th. There are six acceptable criteria for granting special permission to attend an out of boundary school. Make sure you gear your reasons to them:

If you want to hedge your bets you will have to go to each school you are considering to apply because application forms are individualized. Know the programs in schools. Students rejected for special permission to attend a school "in general" have been admitted to the same school when they applied through its special program admissions system. Conversely, parents have called our office shocked that their child got into the building but not the special program since that was the reason they gave for applying to the school in the first place. To remain in a school when you are out of boundary you simply reapply every year at that school.

Yes, the decision is up to the principal. Yes, you may feel that your child was excluded for arbitrary reasons. However, in years past when the special permission process was centralized, principals were often the ones who made the decision after the system said "No!" You will be notified in February whether or not your child can attend. Parents United is pleased that parents will be notified of admission early enough so that DCPS can compete with private schools for students.

Finally, think ahead. Find out when your child is in junior high/middle school what the requirements are for the many high school programs. For example, Latin in the 9th grade is required at Banneker; a child who enters in 10th grade must make it up. Algebra 1 is required before 9th grade to get into Dunbar's pre-engineering program. A student must have at least one year of a foreign language before 9th grade to be accepted into the Wilson International Studies Program. Finally, most special academic programs require a "C" average for admission.

For a list of the programs please call our office, 8334766. Or, if you have internet access log on to for this and other interesting items.

Special Education -- Special Education placement or change in placement is handled at the home school for levels 1,2, and 3. Only level 4 and above are handled at Goding School, 9th and F Sts., NE. If you have other problems, call the Special Education Branch 72 4800.

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The D.C. Public Charter School Board has established three additional public charter schools to join The Options School, Marcus Garvey Academy, and The Studio School. They are:

For further information on any of these programs call the board (202) 887-5011. The application procedures are determined by each school. More charters are likely since eight applicants were asked to revise their applications; 15 were denied outright.

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Only forty-seven schools have so far submitted information documenting that they have a Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT) that was elected and functioning. The Governance Committee that oversees LSRTs is evaluating its shortcomings as a monitor of and advisor to LSRTs, and will be developing strategies to get to LSRTs the information members say they need to be effective and to encourage the Becton administration to increase principals' collaboration with LSRTs.

We have received many calls that indicate misunderstandings about how LSRTs are supposed to operate. Here are some basics.

The principal does not appoint any member of the LSRT. The LSRT has up to 15 members. Parents elect four members in an election conducted by the parent organization in which every parent/guardian is encouraged to vote for four parents whose children attend the school. Teachers elect four teachers in an election run by the teachers' union. The school staff elects one member. The principal and the WTU Building Representative have automatic seats on the LSRT. (At this time, the PTA/HSA president does not have an automatic seat on the LSRT but may run for election as a parent or community representative.) The elected members select, by consensus, one community representative. One student is required on the high school LSRT and is optional in the lower grades. The LSRT may choose to add up to three additional members (15 total members) by appointing them through consensus decision- making. (Rules 4-7) Vacancies are filled by consensus.

Every LSRT meeting is open to the public for observation. (Rule 19) The LSRT may meet as often as they feel they need to but is required to have four meetings a year open to input from the school community and advertised fairly. (Rule 20) LSRTs may not have closed meetings no matter what they are discussing if they are to stay within the guidelines. No organization that is to design a plan and monitor its progress at raising student achievement can afford to meet less often than monthly.

FLASH!!! During a meeting with parents, CAO Ackerman reported that she has told principals that every school must have a personnel committee that will help the principal select and evaluate staff. She says the committee must include at least one parent, preferably two, and teachers -- a sign that Ackerman finds parent decision-making an important part of academic reform. We hope the LSRT will be part of this.

The LSRT is the vehicle through which parents, teachers, staff and community have the mandate to advise the principal about ways to raise academic quality in the school. If the school system could raise our children's achievement without parent input, they would have done so. They have had years to try. Parents must keep their LSRTs vigorous. Your PTA/HSA may be excellent, but in matters of school policy, the principal is not required to meet with the parent group. The principal is required to meet with the LSRT and take their ideas into account.

Call our office to receive our LSRT briefing paper or call Brenda Dunson of DCPS at 541-5931 to receive the DCPS LSRT Handbook.

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The Alliance for Medical Care and Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States offers health insurance for 500 D.C. children whose low-income parents are ineligible for Medicaid. IF YOU CAN AFFORD $10 PER MONTH FOR ONE OR $20 PER MONTH FOR ALL CHILDREN, KAISER KIDS PROGRAM MAY BE FOR YOU. Call Abbie Miller (202) 898-5173.

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Monday, February 2-3rd 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM site TBA
Monday, May 18th 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM site TBA

Put these meetings on your calendar!!! At the November 24th Meeting, parents received the Benchmark expectations for students' performance in mathematics, reading and writing. This shows what progress students should be making during their school career. These meetings should be a great source of information for parents and a chance to express your concerns in small groups to system administrators. Public Board of Trustee meetings, on the other hand, are not scheduled far in advance. When we hear about them we will let the PTA presidents know about it and we hope they will share that information with their communities.

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The Council, Control Board and Congress have appropriated $461 million in local funds for the school system's operations this school year (FY 1998). This is $8 million less than we had last year. The school system's only published budget is its request of January 1997, for $526 million, $65 million more than DCPS is receiving. Although the year is well underway, we do not know whether school officials have yet decided how the $461 will be spent, and if so, how. Meanwhile, the process for setting next year's budget request has started. No public hearings have been set.

Meanwhile the City Council is working on a per pupil funding formula that is supposed to be used starting next year to determine how much the school system and public charter schools will receive. The formula has to provide a "uniform" amount for all students but exceptions are permitted (though not required) for students at different grade levels (e.g., pre-K or high school can be more than elementary, etc.) and students who are handicapped, have limited or no English proficiency, or perform below minimum literacy standards. The formula will only determine how much money the school system receives per pupil, not how it allocates the money among schools or students, a decision that is up to the CEO/Superintendent and the Trustees.

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The Parents United Handbook for advocacy in the 1997/98 school year is now available with the people and phone numbers you will need to pursue your child's issues. We have included the important offices in the school system, Special Education organizations, media contacts, and the phone number for the Inspector General when parents are concerned about the way monies are accounted for. To obtain a copy, send us $5 with your return address. Those making contributions of $25 or more to Parents United will receive a complementary handbook.


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