Swifter, Higher, Stronger. The Olympic motto could well apply to the State Board’s main mission: Boost achievement by ensuring all students have an equal shot at a great public education that helps them reach their peak potential.
My top priorities for the next term:
- Raise student achievement across the board, especially in science
- Revise graduation requirements to strengthen arts education, civic engagement, and credit for competency
- Establish new science standards to prepare students for 21st century jobs
- Empower and respect families, students, and communities as partners in school reform
- Raise 4-year graduation rates from today’s 58 percent citywide average.
Here’s the longer version:
RAISE EVERY CHILD
- Close the preparation gap by expanding quality programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents.
- Close the achievement gap – one of the nation’s widest – by promoting well-rounded, relevant, and rigorous programs that let students demonstrate competency by doing art, science, sports, computer programming, history, theater, or other pursuit beyond reading and math. Click HERE for the 2012 DC CAS results.
RAISE EVERY HAND
Empower students, families, and communities as respected partners in the shared effort to transform public education. Studies show that learning improves when students feel ‘hopeful,’ challenged, and supported, and when families and community groups are involved. But parents have been cut adrift in the reform era. I am committed to working with my colleagues, our elected officials, and education, community, and parent leaders to:
- Restore the Public Education Ombudsman.
- Create policies that empower parents – including a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” that spells out both rights and responsibilities.
- Spotlight innovative practices, such as teacher home visits, which have had a positive impact on schools like Stanton Elementary, one of the pilot schools sponsored by the Flamboyan Foundation.
- Conduct annual “education consumer” satisfaction surveys of students and families — and make the results part of the state-level accountability plan, along with scores on the DC CAS assessment. This squares with D.C. Public Schools’ new five-year strategic plan, one goal of which is to have 90 percent of students liking the school they attend.
- Re-establish Parent Resource Centers in Wards 1, 7, and 8, and require districts to have a trained parent and/or community liaison in every school, as Massachusetts does.
Kids can’t aim high if adults don’t set clear, lofty targets and help them train to reach them. We now have much of the structures in place to support and promote excellent teaching and learning. The DC State Board has several major initiatives in the works that I want to see through to completion and accelerate the progress made so far:
- Revise Graduation Requirements. State boards don’t run schools. But we do determine the rules that all schools must follow–and reviewing the District’s graduation requirements has been a big part of our work this past year. The draft revisions reflect input from hundreds of public comments and latest research. Among the proposals: boost the number of credits required for art & music, so that students could pursue two years of a subject they like instead of half a year; reinstate the senior project or thesis requirement; and let varsity athletes get physical-education credit for practicing and playing. Ultimately, we want to move toward giving credit for competency and performance – and away from measuring credits by time spent in a classroom seat.
- Transform Science Education. The Washington area abounds in high-paying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs. Yet our kids get shut out because science is given short shrift in most schools. As the State Board’s “science guy,” I believe that must change. We took the first step: science scores now will “count” on state report cards, just like reading and math. The next step: considering whether to adopt game-changing Next Generation Science Standards now being written by teachers in 26 states, including four from the District of Columbia. These new standards not only ask students to do science rather than just study it, they include engineering, building, and design for the first time. It’s very exciting stuff but we need to make sure teachers and schools have the resources–including lab equipment and training–needed to be successful.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to push for expanded–and more equal–access to high quality early childhood education, visual and performing arts experiences, authentic science labs with hands-on activities, career-technical and vocational training, outdoor activities, sports, enrichment activities, and, of course, fun.
As Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas reminds us – never give up!