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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


APRIL 1998

New Promotion Policies and the Sat-9 Test: No Need to Panic
Summer School — Available to All: Required for Most Students Who Score “Below Basic”
School Opens September 1 — Before Labor Day
Parents to Participate in Principal Evaluation
An Open Letter to Parents with School-Age Children in Washington
Approved Charter Schools and How to Reach Them
Public Charter School Events and Information
Students Respond Positively to Tragic Violence
This Year’s and Next Year’s School Budgets — Before the Predicted Deficits
The Predicted Deficit in the DCPS This Year
Changes at the Top — DCPS in Flux
New Strategies to Raise Achievement
Thank You!
Parents United Needs You



6:30 PM TUESDAY, MAY 12, 1998
17th and Rhode Island Avenue (Farragut North Metro)

Parents, let's take stock of where we are going in the public schools. At the meetings on summer school and retention policies held in February and March, some parents were angry. Why wait until summer, why not now? The National Center for Education and the Economy will show you how they plan to transform our schools to better teach our children. They have been hired by DCPS to retrain teachers and principals arid to set new academic and performance standards. Also this Spring, we will be holding additional meetings on standards with the Education Trust. To receive notice of where and when, please call our office at 533-4766.


The DC public school system is working to raise standards for student performance. With the help of the National Center for Education and the Economy, teachers are being retrained so that their expectations will be higher, and so those expectations will be the same across the city. Only students who pass both their course work and the Stanford Achievement Test 9th Edition (SAT-9) examination at the Basic level will move forward automatically. Limited or non-English-speaking students and Special Education students will not be affected because their promotion is governed by their Individual Education or learning plans.

Parents United wants to set the record straight with information provided to parents during the meetings on Summer School and SAT-9 held throughout February and March by DCSPS. We believe children want to learn and can test well when they are taught well. They do not need to be terrified.

Advanced, Proficient, and Basic Pass the test. Though we want our children to be Advanced or Proficient, if your child achieves at the "Basic" level he or she will pass the exam. Those students whose performance is "Below Basic" most likely do not have the skills needed to perform work at grade level and should (in some cases, must, attend summer school.

Using the SAT-9 for retention affects only grade 1-5 students scoring at the bottom or Below Basic: Let's take the mystery out of retention and get a handle on how the school system will be applying these guidelines. When a student's class work and classroom test results suggest that retention is needed and that student scores at the bottom of "Below Basic" in both reading and mathematics, then the student is at risk of being retained. SAT-9 is one factor in determining whether a student will be promoted or retained, but classroom tests and class projects, as well as work for the year are also important in the decision to promote or retain a student. If a child must attend summer school, his or her progress there will also be taken into consideration. To understand how SAT-9 will play a role in retention, begin by thinking of Basic as 100 and everything below 100 is "Below Basic." Those students whose scores are the equivalent of 90-99 (90% of basic) can be promoted automatically if they pass their course work. Students who score the equivalent of 75-89 (75%+ of basic) can be promoted to the next grade if they attend and pass summer school. Students below 75% of Basic must attend summer school and repeat their grade. No student who will turn 13 in 5th grade will be retained.

Students in grades 6-12 will not be retained because of SAT-9, but may have to attend summer school: Only successful completion of course work, not the SAT-9 test results will determine whether a student goes to the next grade for students in grades 6-12. The test results will, however, determine whether a student should attend summer school to upgrade their skills so that they are at least at "Basic" when they take the test the following year.

Bilingual, special ed and over-aged students are not affected by SAT-9: A number of students will be promoted regardless of how they performed on the SAT-9, or may not have to take the test. Limited English and Non-English speaking students as well as Special Education students will be promoted if they meet their Individual Education Plan's (IEP) goals. Any elementary school student who is 13 years old next year can be promoted, and 8th graders who turn 16 next year will go on to the 9th grade. The class of 2002 must test at the "Basic" level to graduate: Beginning in 2002, every graduating student must either score at Basic on the SAT-9 or pass an alternative proficiency exam which the school system is now developing to test the skills of students who do not pass the SAT-9.

Where do we go from here: Parents United believes SAT-9 prep classes should not be our school's focus. Strong English, history, science and math instruction with lots of reading during the regular academic day is the best "test prep" program. These strong programs should start in kindergarten. One school proposed having no science fair because the principal felt the students needed to work on their math skills. Fortunately, parents had begun to help students with their projects and insisted that science is important too. Parents have complained that all real academic course work has stopped, and students spend most of the day in test prep activities. According to Superintendent Ackerman, the work the school system has undertaken in collaboration with the National Commission on Education and the Economy will help schools better understand how to teach the normal daily curriculum in ways that assure that students are well prepared for the SAT-9 exam next year.

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There will be room for 20,000 students in DCPS' summer school this summer. This special new approach to summer school, called STARS (Students and Teachers Achieving Results and Success), will focus on reading and math skills. Superintendent Ackerman says this program will give students the time and skills to become academically successful in their future school careers. For those students who rely on summer school to make up courses they have failed during the year, only students in 8th/9th or 12th grade who need one subject to be promoted will be able to take an academic subject for credit during this summer. Other students must repeat the course during the next school year.

The STARS program will offer small classes with pupil/teacher ratios of 15 to 1 in math classes and 15 to 1 plus an aide in reading classes. The program will require approximately 1,300 teachers if all predicted 20,000 students do indeed enroll. To attract excellent teachers, DCPS is offering salaries of $30 per hour (5 hours per day guaranteed) and is screening teachers for their ability to teach (more than just credentials.) In addition, the system is training teachers to use "scripted lessons" — a process that helps teachers prepare lessons that include every learning style. As of mid-April, DCPS has already received 1300 teacher applications. They expect to hire 1,000 teachers by May 7th.

Eighty schools throughout the city have been set aside for the Summer STARS program — 60 elementary schools and 20 secondary schools. They will all offer breakfast and lunch. Young children will be able to attend a school within walking distance and they are hoping to provide some child care. All materials will be provided by the school system and there will be plenty of juice and water for thirsty children!

Registration for Summer STARS begins in May. You may register at your home school during the week and at Logan School (3rd & G Sts., NE — near Union Station) during the week and on Saturday from 10–2. You must have three proofs of DC residence with you — one or more or the following: personal DC income tax document; proof of financial assistance from DC government; or DC tax withholding statement not more than 45 days old. Secondary proofs (two or more): vehicle registration; title to residential property or lease receipt less than two months old; DC drivers license or non-driver ID; DC voter registration; one or more utility bills and receipts no more than two months old.

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You might need to change your summer plans, because school will be opening for students on September 1, 1998 (for teachers, August 27th)— before Labor Day. The last day of school this year is June 19th for students and June 22nd for teachers. The administration says the date was in the five year plan — even though most parents probably forgot. Next year, we hope they will give us earlier warning of any changes in the school calendar.

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Parents will have a role in this year's principal appraisals. Thirteen teams consisting of specialists in curriculum and instruction, facilities people and parents, and led by recently retired principals will go out to the schools and interview students, parents and teachers to help in evaluating the job the principal is doing. These site visits will take place between May 4 and June 1, 1998. There is no clear selection process for the students and parents who will be interviewed by the teams, but this much we do know. There will be 6–10 students selected who will be representative of the school in grade level and educational ability. It is unclear how the 6–10 parents will be selected, but if you are interested you should discuss the process with your principal and PTA. If you are not selected, perhaps you can let those who are, know how you feel about some of the issues at your school. These interviews will be a small part of the principal's evaluation. Fifty percent of the job evaluation will be based on the SAT-9 test scores. Included in other 50% will be school climate, parental involvement, fiscal management, human resources management, and enrollment (how it relates to capacity). This new approach to appraising principals gives parents and students an opportunity to have an impact on the future of their schools.

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from Ken Campbell, Executive Director, D.C. Committee on Public Education

Public Charter Schools are coming to Washington. They are schools of choice that will provide new educational opportunities for children and new responsibilities for parents to choose the right schools for their children. Each charter school will have its own philosophy, goals, objectives and educational program. As a parent you should not choose a public charter school simply because it is new and different. Instead, take the time to explore the many different offerings available and choose one that you feel is best equipped to foster educational growth in your child. Following are a few thoughts on how to proceed.

First find out what new charter schools will be opening. Meet the founders and attend parent information sessions to find out about the school's mission, philosophy, goals, target student population, as well as what they will expect from parents, and why they believe they will be academically successful. Talk openly and honestly about your child's strengths and weaknesses and your expectations of the school. You should expect a greater level of interest from the school towards your child's individual achievement — teachers who communicate frequently about your child' progress and a feeling that you are welcome at all times. However, you must maintain realistic expectations about the school and what it will be able to do. Although public charter schools are accountable for student achievement, parents should not expect overnight success. Rather, expect steady growth and progress over time in your child and in the school.

Public charter schools are start-up organizations that will experience a variety of growing pains. Expect changes in school leadership, policies and procedures. However, unlike traditional public schools, they will seek and value your input to proposed changes. Remember, public charter schools empower parents — make your voice heard. Because public charter schools are schools of choice, you may move your child to another school if you are not happy where he or she is. However, moving a student can be disruptive and delay educational development. Take the time to get to know the school, actively participate in your child's and school's progress and maintain realistic expectations. A public charter school can be a rewarding experience for you and your child.

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See Forever — Job training and tutoring focus for adjudicated youth, Grades 9–11, David Domenici 202-518-3800.

Friendship House/Edison Partnership — Comprehensive education, Grades ps-5, Donald Hense 202-675-9050.

Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School — Education for high school and adult immigrants, Ages 16-60, Sonia Gutierrez 202-347-3870.

Greater Hospitality Association — Four year program in hospitality, Grades 9-12, Emily Vetter, 289-8849.

Associates for Renewal in Education — High school for adjudicated youth, Ages 14-22, Brenda Strong Nixon 202-483-9424.

Robert L. Johnson Arts and Technology Academy — Academics and technology focus, Grades prek-6, Michelle Harvey 301-925-6360.

School for Arts In Learning — Focused on learning disabilities with education through the arts, Grades prek-2, Katie Eisenhower 202-884-9040.

Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School — Education through public policy themes, Grade 9 for first year, Irasema Salcido 301-213-5753.

DC Aerospace Academy Public Charter School — Program based on the Civil Air Patrol program, Grades 7 & 8, F.D.R. Fox 202-889-2244.

The SEED Public Charter School — Residential college prep program for disruptive children, Grade 6, Rajiv Vinnakota 202 712-9134.

Washington MST Public Charter High School — Math science technology based program, Grades 9-12, Mary Johnson 202-445-3365.

Urban Family Institute — Education of children and families, Grades prek-2,6,7,9, 1O. Kent Amos 202-234-5437.

Techworld Public Charter School — College prep math, science and computer program, Grade 9, Daanen Strachan 202-832-4846.

IDEA Academy — Electronics, engineering, drafting focused high school, Grade 9, Norman Johnson 202-388-5101.

The Hyde Public Charter School — Program based on the Hyde family and college prep curriculum, Grades unknown, Joe Gauld 207443-5584.

Richard Milburn Public Charter High School — Non-traditional high school diploma with apprenticeships, Grades 9-12, William Stephens 703-221-4089.

World Public Charter School of Washington — Founder of Washington International School's liberal education through bilingual instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese. Ages 4-18, Dorothy Goodman 202-362-2946.

Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School — Liberal arts and science with community service and multicultural emphasis, Grades k-S, Linda Moore 202-882-2102.

The Village Learning Center — Rigorous school emphasizing reading, writing, math and sciences, Grades pre-k-8, Imani Abdullah 202-396-7585.

Young Technocrats — Science math technology and entrepreneurship program with science partnerships, Grade prek-12, Myesha Washington, 410-451-5835.

*Children's Studio Public Charter School — Arts as education, Grades pre-school-5, Marcia McDonnell 202-387-5880.

*The Options Public Charter School — Alternative school for potential dropouts, Grades 5-8, Cathy Martens 202-675-4140.

*The Next Step Public Charter School — Program for teen parents and drop-outs, Grades GED, Lori Kaplan 202-483-1140.

*Marcus Garvey Public Charter School - Highly structured Afro-centric program, Grades not given, Richard Duckett 202-518-4051.

*Schools chartered in 1996/97

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Many new public charter schools will be opening this year or next — Here are some events that can inform you if you are interested in sending your child to one or if you are interested in starting a charter school.

May 16, 8:30-noon, COPE Public Charter School Job Fair, Howard University, Blackburn Center (Hilltop Lounge)
May 16, 1:30-4:00 pm, Parent and Community Public Charter School Information Fair, Howard University, Blackburn Center (Hilltop Lounge)

COPE Public Charter School Planning Workshops
May 9, 8:30-3:00; Public charter school operations, administration and staffing; business planning and school budgeting
May 30, 8:30-3:00; Legal issues and certifications; charter school facilities
June 13, 8:30-11:30; Walking through the application process

1998/99 Charter School Application Deadlines:
Public Charter School Board — July 6
D.C. Board of Education - May 29 (prospectus due)

DC Public Charter School Board Public Information Meetings; To answer your questions about the DC Public Charter School Board's 1998 Application Guidelines and application review process.
May 7, 7-9 pm Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter 3319 Alabama Ave., SE
May 12, 7 - 9 pm All Souls Unitarian Church, 16th & Harvard Sts., NW

For information on these or other public charter school events or activities, contact the D.C. Committee on Public Education (COPE) — Public Charter School Resource Center at 202-835-9011; Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) at 202-387-4405; the DC Public Charter School Board 202-887-5011; the Board of Education 202-7244289.

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Parents United salutes student initiatives that have developed in response to violence near schools. Spingarn HS students held a forum on violence in response to a murder of one of their own. Public officials were encouraged to explore solutions to issues of school security. The students of Wilson HS initiated Peace Week with a daily effort to foster communication among students in their ethnically and economically diverse school. Those violent acts near our schools show clearly that the larger community is key to having strong schools. Police support in the areas surrounding our schools is critical. Helping our students build self esteem without intimidating each other is important.

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Support for Special Needs Students and Families
10th Annual Conference And Workshops
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM Saturday, June 6, 1998
Days Inn Premier Hotel 1201 K Street. NW
For further information contact Jennifer Asher 202-508-5517

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Donald Brown, the court appointed facilities advisor/monitor resigned in March. Mr. Brown provided Parents United with a great deal of information about what was going on in the facilities branch of the school system and we are sorry to see him leave. After discussions our Board held with Mr. Brown, we are hoping to get the position redefined as a full-time job and are in the process of finding a replacement.

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Total DCPS Funding peaked in FY 1994 and has been decreasing ever since:

Total dollars in millions (excluding teacher retirement, carry-over federal funds)

Source FY 1994 Expend’s (peak year) FY 1998 Approved budget FY 1999 DCPS request
Local $545.7 $460.2 $546.7
Federal/other $84.3 $79.6 ??
Total $629.9 $531.9 ??

Dollars per pupil

Enrollment 80,678` 77,111 $7,090
Local $6,763 $5,968 $7,090
Federal/other $1,045 $1,032 ??
Total $7,808 $7,000 ??

Spending Comparisons: By excluding food service, adult ed and summer school and including federal grants and teacher retirement we make DC and suburban spending equal and can compare them. The DCPS per student budget this year is substantially lower than per pupil budgets were in surrounding suburbs (except Prince George's County) last year.

Per Pupil Funding Formula: A new, Congressionally mandated method of funding DCPS and public charter schools ties funding directly to enrollment. The DC Council has passed a temporary formula but it will not apply to DCPS until the school system's enrollment of DC residents is verified The "foundation" amount per pupil for basic education and overhead is $5,500. Certain categories of students receive more money as percentage increases.

However: the bill lets the Council reduce the foundation amount, thereby reducing all per pupil allotments accordingly, if necessary to achieve a balanced budget.

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Amount: No one really knows yet. Reliable information is hard to come by, and the amount is, in any event, a prediction based on what people think current spending patterns are. Current estimates are $35-$62 million. DCPS budget data and planning are now controlled by DC Chief Financial Officer Anthony Williams and the CFO he appoints for the school system.

Where did the deficit come from? DCPS does not have reliable information. Principally, there are more employees on the payroll receiving more money than there is funding to pay. But there is no solid information yet on how many, or who they are, or where they work, or why budget revisions last fall did not produce a realistic budget plan. Our analysis of payroll data shows DCPS having only slightly more people on the payroll than permitted by the Congressionally mandated personnel ceiling. (Not $35M more.) Additional factors: higher than budgeted special education costs for private placements and transportation; pay raise for teachers and principals; new programs instituted by incoming Superintendent Ackerman to try to reduce the number of students not promoted under new standards; pay raise for custodians and other workers, to which they were legally entitled; excessive overtime; school-based staff inadvertently left out of the budget.

How will we close the gap? No one really knows yet because they lack reliable information. Proposals from school and city financial officials so far: $35 million from the anticipated DC government surplus; $3 million from furloughing allegedly non-school based staff two days per month through September; $14 million from non-payroll and allegedly non-local school accounts; and purchasing equipment through capital budget sources instead of the operating budget. Some of these may not work.

What can parents do to protect their schools? We urge that you write, fax or call the "committee" that seems to be running the school system: Control Board 504-3400, DC Chief Financial Officer Anthony Williams (controls budget and finance), DC Chief Management Officer Camille Barnett 727-3432 (controls Procurement and Information), the Emergency Trustees 724-5454 and the Superintendent of the DC Public Schools 724-4226 plus the DC Council 724-8000, the Mayor 727-2980 and the elected Board of Education 724-4289, and tell them:

DC public senior high schools across the city have united to work against violence in and around our schools and to advocate for educational improvement. The group is called SHAPPE (Senior High Alliance of Principals, Presidents [PTA & LSRT] and Educators). The purpose of the alliance is to provide a strong clear, united voice for the needs of the 17 public senior high schools. Currently the members of SHAPPE are focusing on building a more effective working relationship between the new DCPS administration and the Metropolitan Police Department. There is energy and excitement in this alliance. For more information, please contact Cathy Reilly at 723-3310.

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Leadership positions in DCPS are turning over at a disconcerting rate. At a time when students, teachers and principals are being held accountable for raising academic achievement, the public is confronting the exodus of Julius Becton, CEO/Superintendent; Charles Williams, Chief Operations Officer and Director of Facilities; Rich, Wenning, Office of Educational Accountability; and Cecilia Wirtz, legal counsel for the system. Most of the permanent replacements have not yet been made public. In addition, since Arlene Ackerman is now Superintendent, we need to have a Chief Academic Officer; a strong leader to devote his/her time just to the education of our children.

We also need some successes in our system. Gen. Becton never recovered from the delayed school opening. Ms. Ackerman needs a successful summer school from the first day or major snafus will limit her credibility. We look forward to learning who she will put into these positions and hope she and they will be responsive to parental concerns.

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Parents, if you are concerned about your facilities, if you would like to get information about how you can upgrade your school, or other questions you might have about school buildings, call the 21st Century School Fund at 202-745-3745. They are professionals who know what they are talking about and will come to your PTA meeting if you would like.

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In order to improve the academic performance of our worst performing schools, 45 Targeted Assistance Schools were required to adopt a school improvement model. Parents United is anxious to learn how these models are working in the selected schools. Do you notice an improved academic climate in your school through these models? Check with your principal to find out which model (if any) your school is using.

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We have come fairly close to raising the $10,000 needed to meet the challenge we received from an anonymous donor. To all who contributed, we extend our heartfelt gratitude. Your donations are the backbone of our funding. Without these contributions, we would have great difficulty getting foundation support. We are also grateful to the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and the Freddie Mac Foundation for having supported our efforts over the past several years.

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Volunteers can help Parents United expand our organizing network and information available to D.C. parents. We can use your Word Perfect skills, particularly in your home office; make phone calls; organize fundraising activities; attend meetings during the day or evening. We are also looking for committed and determined people to be our eyes and ears in their wards. These "Ward Coordinators" represent us and bring to us information from schools in their neighborhoods. This is a real commitment of time and we hope a very rewarding one. We are also looking for people who can help us mail out our newsletter, do some work in the office (this is tricky because of space) and perhaps photograph some events. Please call our office (202-833-4766) if you would like to help out.

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