Public Education Vision-- History

The most recent citywide vision can be found from the Student Assignment Advisory Group. 
Vision for Public Schools The recommendations for student assignment policy, school boundaries, and feeder pathways set forth in this document were developed to support a vision for a core system of high quality neighborhood public schools of right complemented by a set of high quality public school options. The District of Columbia boasts some of the highest performing public schools in the nation and includes national models of highly successful and innovative schools. These success stories are found within DCPS zoned schools, selective DCPS schools, and the charter sector, but there are many communities that lack such high quality options. The overwhelming input from parents and District residents was that families want a citywide system of neighborhood public schools that is equitably invested in and that provides predictable and fair access to high quality schools in all of the city’s communities. Reaching this reality will require: • Improvements in neighborhood schools, particularly those serving low-income communities, so that every school offers comprehensive, rich, and challenging programs supported by a positive school culture; • Structures that support coordination, cooperation, and joint planning within DCPS and between DCPS and public charter schools; • An adequate number of seats in DCPS zoned schools to ensure equitable access to and utilization of schools of right; and • Reduced travel burdens for students, particularly for low-income families and communities.
In the spring of 2012, S.H.A.P.P.E., the 21st Century School Fund, DC VOICE,EMPOWER DC and WEACTRADIO held a series of community meetings termed a Fork in the Road, the notes and presentations are below.  
Deputy Mayor for Education DeShawn Wright engaged Public Agenda to conduct 4 Community Conversations in the areas of the city with the most challenges as identified by the IFF report.  Public Agenda works by engaging local groups to bring people together for a structured conversation.  Groups approached to help in this effort were wary of the short time frame during months when students are not in school. Everything had to be completed by September. After assurance from the DME and from Public Agenda they pulled together from 80 to 100 people at the 4 original meetings and one additional one called for wards 2, 3 and 6.  Below is a summary of the 5 priorities arrived at by the representative groups who worked with Public Agenda to provide the Deputy Mayor of Education with the input from the community on public education. 

All were promised that would have an impact on the school decisions to be made.  The full results would be publicly published.  We assumed this would be on the DME website. The promise of input into final recommendations and a public acknowledgement of this effort have not come.  There was a strong desire to ensure that we as a city invest in a strong DCPS – public education that remains in the public sector. 

1.       Coordinated Planning:

  • The District is a rapidly changing city, with pressures of gentrification and increasing diversity. We want to be one city.  We need a process for planning that is inclusive, open and transparent. A process that looks ahead to the needs of future generations.
  • As a city, we need a plan that addresses how  DCPS and the charter schools operate together; that takes into account school assignment, boundary and feeder patterns, population changes, facility utilization, adequacy and condition - - coordinated between charter and public.
  • The coordinated planning looks at the needs of neighborhoods and at practices that can support and improve schools. It is not a process that looks narrowly at student test scores and rates schools on a single measure for closing or turnaround as the IFF report does. 

2.       Neighborhood Schools:

  • Our neighborhood schools can be a home to many community services as enrollments fluctuate.  We want to see an investment in our schools and programs especially when we see the growth of young families in our neighborhoods.
  • Neighborhood schools support Washington DC as a walk-able city and anchor communities in a common future.

3.   Importance of Open Democratic Process and Public Voice in Public Schools:   

  • The District needs elected officials responsible and accountable to us specifically on public education.  This may mean an elected/appointed DCPS policy school board and an elected/appointed charter school board, coordinating together.  It is unacceptable that under current policy, the DCPS chancellor can close schools without any public process or criteria.
  • Transparency from the Deputy Mayor for Education, DC Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education and the Department of General Services (school construction/maintenance) about process, decisions, budgets and data is required.  
  • One element required by law but not adhered to is the input from our Advisory Neighborhood Commissions on decisions concerning schools in their jurisdiction. 
  • All public schools must be open, accessible, welcoming and responsive to parents.

  4. Equity: 

  • All schools, charter or DCPS which are serving our most challenged students should more have resources to address their needs. We should expand the number of Community Schools and Family Resource Centers in order to provide some of the supports needed. 
  • All students should have access to strong programs including multiple foreign language options, global education, the arts, outdoor physical activity, lab science, libraries/media centers, adequate technology and advanced classes.  This does not necessarily mean closing small enrollment schools but rather looking creatively at possibilities such as sharing staff and co-location. 
  • There should be equitable quality programming for special education, English language learners, secondary school electives and early childhood options.  

  5. Evaluation

  • Evaluation of the Public Reform Act of 2007 (Mayoral Control)  and the Charter Reform Act of 1996
  • Evaluation of DCPS reforms of the last 5 years
    • Bonuses and differentiated pay based on IMPACT evaluations
    • Standardized testing as sole measure of quality; frequency of testing of students – versus assessment
    • Policies that encourage high turnover for teachers, principals, and students
    • Impact of closing schools since Mayoral control on school quality and DCPS enrollment 
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