50 D.C. Education and Civil Rights Leaders Urge State Board to Approve ESSA Plan

March 20, 2017

To the D.C. State Board of Education:

We are a group of fifty education and civil rights leaders across the District of Columbia who write to share our views on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s draft plan for school accountability, in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In addition to fighting for our own children’s educational futures in DC’s public schools, all of us have worked tirelessly for many years for equity-based education and civil rights policies that benefit our most vulnerable kids both at the national and local level. Now, we believe it is critically important that we achieve effective, equity-based implementation of the ESSA law in our home state of D.C.

We believe the District’s plan, on the whole, will create a more transparent, equitable, and effective accountability system for the District’s children. The plan will create an apples-to-apples comparison of all public schools in the district, primarily based on how much students are learning and growing on research-based measures of college readiness. As education and civil rights leaders, we have seen time and again the importance of transparency around public school performance in order to hold our city leaders accountable for serving our highest-need student populations.

We urge the State Board to vote in favor of the plan on March 22nd, given that the final plan:

  • Ensures that academic, outcomes-based measures of student achievement comprise 75% of each school’s rating (including 5% growth for English Language Learners)
  • Heavily weights the foundational academic subjects of English/Language Arts (ELA) and math proficiency in school ratings, in order to signal to parents whether students will be on track for college and career
  • Weights student growth at 40% and student proficiency at 30% in elementary and middle school, in order to ensure that high-growth schools are recognized and rewarded
  • Commits to add a growth measure for high school once multi-year growth data is available
  • Incorporates a measure of language acquisition for English Learners
  • Ensures that every school receives a single, summative “star” rating that is communicated to the public and clearly signals when any one demographic group of students is underperforming
  • Ensures that consistent underperformance of each subgroup – students of color, low-income students, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students with disabilities – is reflected in a school’s summative rating
  • Does not obscure the picture of school quality by including too many non-academic measures
  • Does not reduce transparency or accessibility for parents by replacing a summative school rating with a dashboard
  • Does not adopt accountability indicators that cannot be disaggregated by subgroup or cannot bear the weight of accountability (i.e. might become biased or gamed)

No policy is perfect: the plan will require effective implementation on the ground, as well as monitoring and adjustment, in order for the benefits of the accountability framework to be fully realized. However, we believe it is in the best interest of students, families, and educators to approve and begin implementation of a new accountability framework before school begins in September.

We urge the State Board of Education to approve the final state plan for ESSA implementation at their vote on March 22, allowing for April submission to the U.S. Department of Education. Our children, and our schools, cannot afford further delay.


Signatories are alphabetical by last name:

Jason Andrean, Ward 1
Board Chair, Achievement Prep PCS

Seth Andrew, Ward 6
Founder, Democracy Prep & WLA, Former Obama Administration Senior Advisor, 2013-2016
Ward 6 parent

Mashea Ashton, Ward 7
Founder, Digital Pioneers Academy (Ward 7)
Board Vice Chair, National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)

Tanzi West Barbour, Ward 5
Native Washingtonian, education advocate, and graduate of DCPS
Ward 5 parent

Sara Batterton, Ward 6
Education advocate
Ward 6 parent

Catharine Bellinger, Ward 1
Founding State Director, Democrats for Education Reform-DC
Co-founder, Students for Education Reform

Sekou Biddle, Ward 4
Vice President of Advocacy, UNCF
Former At-Large Councilmember, D.C. Council
Former elected School Board member, Ward 3 and Ward 4
DCPS parent

Tomeika Bowden, Ward 7
Former Press Secretary, US Senator John Kerry

Jean-Claude Brizard, Ward 3
Former CEO Chicago Schools. Former Superintendent Rochester City, NY Public Schools
Ward 3 DCPS parent

James A. Cadogan, Ward 6
Former Counselor to the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Obama Administration, 2015-2017
Former Director of Policy & Planning, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 2014-2015

Christopher Chambers, Ward 1
Professor, Georgetown University
Ward 1 parent

Kevin Clinton, Ward 3
Chief Operating Officer, Federal City Council
Ward 3 parent

Lea Crusey, Ward 6
Former Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Education, Obama Administration, 2016-2017
Ward 6 parent

Aaron Cuny, Ward 8
Founder and Executive Director, Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School

Michael Dannenberg, Ward 3
Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy, Democrats for Education Reform
Murch ES parent

Hilary Darilek, Ward 1
Chief Executive Officer, E.L. Haynes PCS
Former Deputy Chief, Principal Effectiveness, DC Public Schools

Jacquelyn Davis, Ward 2
Co-founder, Thurgood Marshall Academy
Founding Executive Director, New Leaders
Co-founder, Education Forward DC
Ward 2 parent

Josh Edelman, Ward 6
Civil rights and education advocate
Board member:  EL Haynes PCS, City Year DC, DC Scholars, and Maya Angelou PCS
Washington Latin PCS and Wilson HS parent

Heather Edelman, Ward 6
ANC Commissioner, 6C06
Washington Latin PCS and Wilson HS parent

Michela English, Ward 2
Board Member: DC Public Education Fund, DC Prep PCS, and Fight For Children

Dominique Fortune, Ward 5
Board Chair, Lee Montessori PCS

Vanessa Gonzalez, Ward 2
Vice President, Operations & Strategy, Education Forward DC

Julie Green, Ward 4
Executive Director, New Futures DC
EL Haynes PCS parent

Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Ward 5
Vice President for Social Policy & Politics, Third Way

Irene Holtzman
Executive Director, FOCUS

Melissa Kim
Chief Academic Officer, KIPP DC
Former principal, Alice Deal Middle School: 2005-2012

Emily Lawson, Ward 3
Founder & Executive Director, DC Prep Public Charter School

Joshua Mandell, Ward 4
Senior Adviser for Innovation and Competitiveness, US Department of Commerce
Program Officer, World Bank Group
Parent, E.L. Haynes PCS and Alice Deal Middle School

Carolyn Reynolds Mandell, Ward 4
Parent, Alice Deal Middle School and EL Haynes PCS

Maura Marino, Ward 2
Chief Executive Officer, Education Forward DC

Maya Martin, Ward 6
Founder and Executive Director, Parents Amplifying Voices in Education

Jacque Patterson, Ward 8
Regional Director, Rocketship Education
Ludlow-Taylor ES parent

Chris Pencikowski, Ward 5
Executive Director, Lee Montessori PCS
Lee Montessori parent

Ben Persett, Ward 2
D.C. Director, Education Pioneers

Dianne M. Piché
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights, Obama Administration, 2009-10
Executive Director, National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools

Victor Reinoso, Ward 4
Former elected School Board member (Ward 3 & Ward 4)
Former Deputy Mayor for Education, 2007-2010
DCPS parent

Massie Ritsch, Ward 5
Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications & Outreach, Department of Education (2012-2014)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs & Outreach, Department of Education (2009-2012)
Inspired Teaching PCS parent

Simon Rodberg, Ward 1
Principal, DC International PCS
Public school parent

Colin Rogister, Ward 1
Former Special Advisor, National Economic Council, The Obama White House, 2014-2017

Shanti Sale, Ward 2
Former Deputy Chief of Data Systems at DC Public Schools 2009-2010
Parent, Ross Elementary

Mary Shaffner, Ward 1
Executive Director, DC International PCS
Public school parent

Shalini Shybut, Ward 4
Senior Schools Manager, Education Forward DC
Former Senior Director, EL Haynes PCS
Ward 4 parent

Abigail Smith, Ward 1
Abigail Smith, DC Deputy Mayor for Education 2012-14
DCPS and Public Charter School Parent

Jessica Sutter, Ward 6
President, EdPro Consulting
Board Member, Center City PCS

Tammy Tuck, Ward 4
Educator, 14 years in DCPS and public charter schools

Raymond Weeden, Ward 7
Senior Director of Policy, DC Prep PCS
Tyler ES and Washington Latin PCS parent

Joanne Weiss, Ward 1
Former Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Obama Administration, 2009-2013

Takirra Winfield-Dixon
Former Director of Strategic Media Initiatives, U.S. Department of Education, Obama administration
Former Vice President, National Communications, Teach For America

Jessica Wodatch, Ward 6
Founder and Executive Director, Two Rivers PCS
Ward 6 parent

Shantelle Wright, Ward 8
Founder and Executive Director, Achievement Prep PCS
Ward 8 parent

UPDATE 3/21:

Kati Haycock, Ward 3
Founder and CEO, The Education Trust

Felecia Irick
Mid-Atlantic Executive Director, New Leaders

Richard Pohlman, Ward 5
Executive Director, Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS
Public school parent

Naomi Shelton, Ward 6
Director of K-12 Advocacy, UNCF