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Children in Crisis, the full report of the DC Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, was released one year ago, on November 15, 1996. This report detailed the major failures of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and highlighted the unacceptable conditions that children faced every day. The report clearly concluded that "DCPS had failed in its mission to educate the children of the District of Columbia. . . . In virtually every area, and for every grade level, the system was unable to provide our children with a quality education and safe environment in which to learn."
One Year Toward an Exemplary System: A Report on the First Year 's Efforts to Reform D. C. 's Public Schools, responds to the major issues raised in the Children in Crisis report and details actions taken by the Becton Administration to end the crisis.
In response to the findings of Children in Crisis, a nine-member District of Columbia Public Schools Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees (the "Board of Trustees") was established until June 30, 2000. The Board of Trustees were granted all the powers and responsibilities of the District of Columbia Board of Education under Title 31 of the District of Columbia Code and any other provision of District of Columbia and federal law, except those which remain to be exercised by the Board of Education.
Under this act, Julius W. Becton, Jr., as Chief Executive Of ficer, was granted the powers and responsibilities of the Superintendent of Schools and such other powers and responsibilities as the Board of Trustees, in its discretion, delegates to the CEO. The CEO was vested with the responsibility to carry out all functions of DCPS consistent with the overall objectives and goals established by the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the CEO was designated to serve as the State Educational Officer.
Recognizing that the reform administration have been given only three years to bring about significant reform, the members of the Authority and the Trustees made the following commitment:
This report is intended to inform the public of the reform initiatives undertaken by the Becton administration during the past year to fulfill the commitments made one year ago today to the District's residents, taxpayers, parents, students, teachers, and administrators:.
"Education Outcomes are Inequitable and Weak1"
Academic improvement is a gradual process that cannot be improved quickly and easily. DCPS is combating low achievement by adopting high standards, providing professional development to improve instruction and adopting tough accountability standards for both students and staff.
Schoolchildren's test scores, the indicators of improvement, are unacceptably low. The Becton Administration has taken steps to begin monitoring student performance and so use this information to develop strategies to improve academic achievement. The Stanford-9, a nationally recognized achievement test, will serve as DCPS testing instrument. The Stanford-9 was first administered to approximately 43,000 DCPS students in Spring, 1997. The Spring preliminary test scores are shown below:
Percent of Students at Each Performance Level in Reading
Percent of Students at Each Performance Level in Math
(1) Below basic performance indicates or no mastery
of fundamental knowledge and skills for this grade level.
Results of the Spring 1997 tests indicate the following:
In 1997-98, DCPS began a twice yearly administration of the Stanford-9 all grade levels. All students took the test in Fall, 1997 to provide a performance baseline for accountability purposes.
In addition to the performance comparisons allowed by the Stanford-9, the test measures specific components of student progress as they advance both in reading and mathematics. For examples, teachers will have a diagnostic tool to gauge progress regarding phonetic analysis, reading comprehension, and critical analysis. Student-by-student, class-by-class and school-by-school, DCPS will be able to analyze progress and develop strategies for instructional improvement. In the Spring of 1998, exams will show the degree of student growth in subject area achievement and will be reported for accountability purposes.
To ensure that DCPS allocates resources equitably across the system, the Of fice of the Chief Financial Of ficer is now developing budgets based on a school-based staffing model. Formulas and staffing models are also being used to identify school custodian and maintenance personnel. DCPS can also now identify how funds are being used through a new budget structure.
The District of Columbia population is becoming more diverse each day. Therefore, the Office of Multicultural Education Affairs was created to analyze, improve and coordinate much needed services to multicultural and multilingual communities. Additionally, the Becton Administration created a Diversity Task Force with community and DCPS representatives to coordinate the delivery of services to the diverse DCPS community. Based on recommendations from the Diversity Task Force, DCPS recently appointed 79 new bilingual teachers to provide expanded services to specific language minority students.
DCPS is also working to address variances in educational outcomes across the city. The Year-One Academic Plan calls for a review of the process and procedures for out-of-boundary placements. The recommendations from this review will provide options whereby DCPS can ensure school choice equality among parents.
We must ensure students attend safe schools. Ensuring the physical safety of all DCPS students is an objective we must achieve. Children cannot concentrate on learning when they feel they are in jeopardy on school property. Therefore, DCPS is committed to improving security and safety at DCPS and the Becton Administration is undertaking efforts to deter drugs, crime, and violence on school property.
As a first step, DCPS conducted a complete security survey to assess weaknesses in the existing system. This survey has allowed security staff to prioritize actions and address the most severe deficiencies first. As a result, DCPS has:
Increased and improved staffing is another priority in security. In this area, DCPS has:
DCPS has undertaken significant efforts to improve the effectiveness of its security systems in response to the needs of schools. In a customer satisfaction survey administered to principals by DCPS administration, principals indicated that they are increasingly satisfied with the quality of security services.
Source: DCPS Customer Survey
As with student achievement, improving graduation and dropout rates takes time. This year the graduation rate was reported as 90.0%, a small decline from the previous year. While that figure may seem acceptable, it is not. It measures only the percentage of seniors in high school in June who go on to graduate the following June or August. DCPS must improve the holding power of DC schools.
DCPS' dropout rate -- 8.14% in school year 95-96 (the last year for which statistics are available) -- is too high, to be sure, and DCPS committed to bringing that rate down. However, the sad reality is that urban school districts across the nation suffer from similarly high, or even higher, dropout rates. In fact, during almost the same time period, the dropout rate in Atlanta was 14%, in Baltimore City it was 14.23%, and in Newark it was 8.4%. We acknowledge that we must do more to stem the flow of students dropping out of our schools, and we intend to do so.
While the annual dropout rate of 8.14% compares favorably with some other urban jurisdictions, DCPS loses more than 40% of its students between entering into high school and their expected graduation date.
The first step toward identifying and rectifying this issue is to thoroughly analyze trends and target solutions to the identified problems. The new Of fice of Educational Accountability was established to perform this analysis and is working to clean the student information system so that all information is reported accurately.
DCPS' average cost per student has dropped from a high of $7,816 in 1994. DCPS' current cost per student in FY98 of $7,271 per student, including both local and federal funds. In FY97, DCPS spent slightly less -- $7,230 per student. This expenditure level was below or on par with other jurisdictions around the region (see the chart below) . For FY97, approved spending in Montgomery County was $7,650 per student; in Alexandria City it was $8,999, and in Arlington County it was $9,305 per student (source: Metropolitan Area Boards of Education).
Per Public Spending
Source: Metropolitan Area Borad of Education, Produced by Fairfax Public Schools
Not only does DCPS currently budget an amount per student comparable to neighboring districts, but it also has significantly reduced its expenditures. At the same time, DCPS has increased its funding from non-local sources federal government grants, foundations and the District government -- so that DCPS relies less on District appropriations.
Source: DCPS Chief Financial Officer
Note that using averages masks the significant differences among types of DCPS students. DCPS currently averages about $6,000 per student for general education students, but more than $19,000 per student for special education students.
DCPS has taken steps to reduce the size of its central of fice administration. The graph below indicates the reduction in the percentage of central of fice employees from the Children in Crisis report to present.
Additionally, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has re-established a Position Management and Classification Division. Qualified Classification Specialists are to conduct a 100% audit of all positions and incumbents. Positions will be reviewed for pay accuracy. This effort was started in the latter part of September.
During the Becton Administration, the balance of DCPS staffing has shifted away from central administration to the school house. In 1997, 84.2% of DCPS employees were school based, while 15.8% were in the central office. In 1998, 89.2% will be school based with only 10.8% in the central office.
Comparison to local school districts shows that DCPS is in line with, or better than, neighboring school districts in its balance between school and non-school based personnel. One indication of DCPS determination to redirect resources to school is that the Chief Academic Officer recently redeployed 75 administrators with teaching credentials back to schools.
Percentage School v. Non-School Based Staff
Source: Metropolitan Area Boards of Education, Produced by Fairfax Public Schools
The Human Resources Office is reviewing several automated software systems that will provide up-to-date, accurate personnel accounting along with other functional processes. These will provide data on numbers, types, locations, salaries, and other reliable data on which management decisions can be made.
DCPS has taken steps to reduce the number of staff end continues to downsize its organization. The following graph illustrates the reductions made over the past several years.
DCPS has conducted and completed an of ficial head count of employees. Additionally, a review and clean up of all official personnel files was started in early September and continues. This review will result in the filing of all required documents in folders, the return to employees of official documents, and new official jackets for all files. DCPS Human Resources will soon undertake an initiative to convert hard copies to CD-ROM for easy storage and quick access and convert inactive files to microfiche.
A school-by-school review is currently being conducted to ensure all teachers have one of the four certification types. The Chief Executive Of ficer has established a deadline for teacher certification compliance of January 30, 1998. Teachers not in compliance will be terminated. All new teachers hired in 1997 have one of the four certifications.
On February 28, 1997, DCPS submitted a Long Range Facilities Master Plan to Congress. This plan, which has been revised and updated as conditions have changed, was the basis for the major capital initiative the Summer of 1997. The Plan will serve as the basis for all future capital improvement initiatives and provides a vehicle for all interested parties to participate the formulation of subsequent DCPS long term plans.
When the Becton Administration arrived in November, the new team inherited over 5,000 fire code violations. By May of 1997, this number had been reduced to 0. Monitoring and abating fire code violations is a high-priority, ongoing activity to ensure that DC school children can benefit from a safe and hazard free school environment.
The statement exposes a reality that DCPS continues to confront: the average age of a DCPS facility is 65 years (some are over 100 years old) and most of these buildings had not been properly maintained for many years.. Obviously, the initial focus of the administration was the stabilization the existing facilities inventory. The Long Range Facilities Plan lays out a three-phase process stabilization (to make existing buildings safe and free of hazards), functionality (to upgrade existing facilities) and modernization (to provide a state-of-the-art learning environment). At present DCPS has undertaken the following to address the crisis in facilities:
The chart below illustrates the poor planning and the sporadic expenditure of capital funds by DCPS' past administrations. The chart illustrates that DCPS will spend more money in 1997 and 1998 ($129.8 million) in capital improvements than it did in the previous 7 years combined ($129.7 million).
In order to address the problems caused by mismanagement in the past, as well as to prevent similar situations from arising in the future, the Becton Administration prepared the Capital Improvement Projects Budget with a detailed, school-by-school list of capital improvement dollars for the next three years.
A sound plan and reliable team have encouraged Congress, the DC Financial Authority and other funders to provide record amounts of resources to DCPS. DCPS will continue to seek additional funds to address our capital needs from all available sources.
The Becton Administration recognizes that there is a direct link between DCPS' problems of dilapidated facilities and its problem of excess capacity. By closing the most dilapidated properties, DCPS could effectively concentrate capital and operating dollars on a smaller number of schools.
However, closing schools is a sensitive matter involving many variables. During the development of the Long Range Facilities Master Plan, DCPS conducted an evaluation of the instructional space on hand, the current number of students using space and other criteria. Based on this assessment and data on file, 18 schools were identified for potential closure. After careful consideration of all factors surrounding the closing of schools, the Emergency Educational Board of Trustees voted to close 11 of those schools on April 28, 1997.
DCPS has acted to liquidate excess property, generating funds that can be re-invested in capital improvements to aging facilities. To date, DCPS has gathered or will gather the following amounts:
These are the first successful dispositions of excess DCPS buildings in many years and the firs; action on an inventory of more than 60 excess properties, many of which have stood empty and become eyesores in their communities.
The Long Range Facilities Master Plan was issued with 5 volumes of backup documentation data" including demographic data, a Real Estate Disposition Strategy and both internal and external assessments of building needs.
The CFO has taken numerous steps to improve financial management. A complete new management structure has been developed, all key managers in the finance and budget offices were replaced and higher skill managers have been installed. Key budget and financial processes have been reformed.
In the budget area, DCPS' previous budget structures did not match the organizational structures; budgets could not be provided to program mangers, and program managers could not be held accountable.
Other financial functions have been reformed. Greater flexibility has been given to principals to purchase and pay for critical items needed at the school level. Principals now have direct control of up to 85% of their school's non-personnel funds through increased authority over school-based Direct Activity Purchasing System (DAPS) accounts. All schools have been provided with Quickenx software to manage these accounts and are required to submit monthly reports and bank reconciliations. Not only does the increased use of DAPS accounts give principals the ability to obtain supplies and other critical school items quickly, but it reduces the number of small purchases processed through the regular procurement and accounts payable processes. (District CFO officials have estimated that the cost to produce a check in the District's antiquated FMS system is $250 per transaction). Thus the greater use of DAPS reduces District and DCPS costs.
In the accounts payable area, a new manager and staff have restructured the accounts payable process and are moving to timely payment of vouchers while ensuring greater financial integrity.
Several actions have been taken to address the identified weaknesses in the procurement operation. Several procurement officials have been removed, new procedures have been established, and greater efforts to improve planning have been made. In particular, DCPS coordinated procurements of textbooks in April to ensure all students had textbooks for school opening this fall. Although some problems were incurred because of summer school building closings and vendors who refused to fill orders because they had not been paid by previous administrations, 97% of all textbooks ordered were received by school opening. Additional steps will be taken in the future to further improve procurement operations.
Arlene Ackerman, DCPS new Chief Academic Of ficer and Deputy Superintendent has clearly articulated her vision and mission to all employees of the District of Columbia Public Schools:
Vision: To make Washington, DC school system exemplary by the year 2000
Mission: To make dramatic improvement in the achievement of all students today in preparation for their world tomorrow.
To achieve this vision and mission, the Chief Academic Officer has prepared an Academic Plan. This plan defines the key goals of DCPS as follows:
Three themes have been laid out by the Chief Academic Officer supporting the effort to achieve these goals: Standards, Accountability and Professional Development. Unique components related to each goal can be found in the Year One Academic Plan. In addition to the Year One Academic Plan serving as the guiding plan for DCPS, strategic plans have been developed by the Chief Operating Of ficer, Chief Financial Of ficer and Chief Human Resources Officer to layout specific departmental goals and objectives consistent with the plan.
In order to ensure that goals are met and that all departments perform to high standards, DCPS has developed performance measures which will establish direct, quantifiable indicators to ensure accountability, help better define organizational outcomes and serve as the basis for continuous improvement. The primary objective of this initiative is to provide the senior management, DCPS personnel and the Board of Trustees with a critical management tool for monitoring and improving organizational performance.
Additionally, quarterly surveys are distributed to principals to rate the performance of central office the following major areas:
The survey results are shared with top management to ensure that support is effectively focused on the schoolhouse.
The official count will reflect enrollment on October 30, 1997, which DCPS expects will be below last year's count of 78,648. DCPS staff are currently auditing the information provided by schools and shown in the automated database. The result will be a number "cleaned" of duplicates and inactive students and show the number of students for which no residency verification form was obtained. In addition, DCPS has prepared a proposed rule that will require proof of residency as a condition for admission and permit exclusion of currently enrolled students for failure to provide requested enrollment information.
The new procedures used by DCPS will produce an accurate count that can be audited. The new procedures feature:
1. Children in Crisis: A Report on the Failure of D.C.'s Public Schools, November 1996
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