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DC State Board of Education FY 2012 Performance Oversight Hearing

Friday, March 15, 2013
Testimony of Laura Slover, President

Before the Council of the District of Columbia

Testimony of Laura Slover, President

Good morning, Chairman Catania and honorable members of the Council of the District of Columbia. My name is Laura McGiffert Slover and I am the President of the DC State Board of Education. On behalf of the entire Board, I wish to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you and share news about the exciting year we’ve had along with a vision for the State Board.

I am joined by my colleagues, Mark Jones, the Vice President of the State Board and Mary Lord, our At-Large member.

My testimony will focus on 1) the current role of the State Board of Education, 2) our current status and transition plans, and 3) a vision for the State Board moving forward.

The State Board’s Role in the District’s Education System

The State Board of Education is a critical piece in the District of Columbia’s ongoing education reform efforts. Prior to June 2007, the Board of Education existed as both a local and a state board of education, responsible for providing leadership and for monitoring the District of Columbia Public Schools, as well as for setting and monitoring state-level education policy. Today, the State Board’s focus and purpose are very different.

The enactment of the “Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007” (PERAA) gave the State Board responsibility for approving academic standards for students; high school graduation requirements; home school regulation; accountability metrics, including the definition of “adequate yearly progress,” and the rules for establishing residency. In collaboration with the State Superintendent and her staff, the State Board has made great strides in these areas, among others, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with OSSE in the upcoming next year. A complete list of the State Board’s responsibilities is included at the end of this testimony.

When PERAA established the State Board, it established not as an independent entity but rather as an entity within the OSSE. The State Board has lacked the autonomy to determine its organizational structure, staff, budget, operations, among other matters affecting our functions.

We are pleased that this is now set to change. We wish to thank this body for passing the “State Board of Education Personnel Authority Amendment Act of 2012” which will allow the State Board to hire its own staff and expend funds as it deems necessary.

Though the current governance structure remains imperfect, it is our hope that with the establishment of an independent State Board of Education, we will be able to foster conversation around education reform as well as be a catalyst for moving our system forward.

Current Status and Transition Planning

Current Status

The State Board of Education is composed of nine (9) elected members, with one from each ward and one elected at-large. The State Board also has two (2) student representatives. The members include:

•    Laura Slover, President, Ward 3
•    Mark Jones, Vice President, Ward 5
•    Mary Lord, At-Large
•    Patrick Mara, Ward 1
•    Jack Jacobson, Ward 2
•    D. Kamili Anderson, Ward 4
•    Monica Warren-Jones, Ward 6
•    Karen Williams, Ward 7
•    Trayon White, Ward 8

The State Board is supported by a very small staff comprised of two (2) FTEs (an Executive Director and a Staff Assistant) and one (1) detailed employee from OSSE. Notably, from June 2012 to November 2012, the State Board was without an Executive Director. In November 2012, the State Board hired Mr. Jesse B Rauch for this position.  I will discuss this later in my testimony, but I believe that we are under-staffed to fulfill the vision we will lay out.

In FY12 and FY13, the State Board has accomplished a number of important things. In the last year, the State Board approved a new State Accountability Plan for the District’s schools and approved revised Early Learning Standards. Within the next few months, we plan to approve revised high school graduation requirements, as well as revised rules regarding compulsory attendance.

In pursuit of solid policy, throughout our tenure, the State Board has worked to engage the community as often as possible. Since FY11, the State Board has held over 19 working sessions and 15 public meetings, all of them open to the public. At the same time, we are growing our online presence through the design of an email newsletter and use of social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter. In the next few months, we hope to expand our efforts by launching several “working groups” composed of representatives from key constituencies, such as principals, teachers, parents and students. We also are considering appointing a teacher or other representative stakeholders to the State Board as advisers to our work, much like we include student representatives on the State Board.

In regards to the Board’s agenda, we plan to pursue a number of policy initiatives, including:

•    Teacher Quality
•    Parental Involvement standards
•    State Supports for Struggling Schools
•    Moving Towards a Competency-Based System

The State Board will also spend time this year reviewing the status of the implementation of policies approved within the last five (5) years in an effort to measure the decisions made by the State Board.

Transition Planning

As a result of the “State Board of Education Personnel Authority Amendment Act of 2012,” on April 1, 2013, pending Congressional review, the State Board will receive personnel and budget autonomy. In preparation for this transition, Board staff have been working with the appropriate District agencies to ensure a smooth transition. While the State Board will submit a full report to the Council in regards to our transition, I wanted to take an opportunity to share what we have done thus far.

•    Human Resources

The State Board has initiated conversations with DCHR to ensure that proper support exists to support the State Board as an independent agency. By April 1, 2013, the State Board hopes to execute an MOU with DCHR to receive all of the appropriate services, inclusive of support for hiring, compensation, performance evaluation, professional development and PeopleSoft, among other critical areas.

As the State Board transitions to independence and is established with functions akin to a policy office, we will also redesigning the office’s organizational structure while engaging in a classification and compensation study to ensure our positions and responsibilities align themselves to the needs of the office. It is already evident that given the State Boards responsibilities, our current FTE authority may be insufficient.

•    Contracting and Procurement

Board staff have met with representatives from the Office of Contracting and Procurement to ensure that the office remains is compliant with the District’s procurement rules. The proper roles and responsibilities have already been assigned to ensure that the office can continue expend funds in advancing the State Board’s goals.

•    Office Space

Board staff have initiated conversations with the Department of General Services to review options about the State Board’s current office configuration. If the State Board’s staff were to grow, for example, with the addition of the Ombudsman’s office, the State Board’s offices will require the acquisition of new furniture to accommodate these new FTEs.

•    Information Technology

In preparation for the State Board’s transition, OCTO is assigning program staff to ensure that the State Board’s electronic files and email are successfully transferred to the new entity, phone services continue, and that a separate State Board website is established. In the future, an MOU may be required, but as the State Board remains such a small operation, the CTO has shared his commitment to help the State Board as required.

•    Office of the Chief Financial Officer

Board staff have requested a dedicated budget analyst to enable the State Board to have an ongoing ability to monitor its budget and facilitate contracting and procurement. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the OCFO.

•    Office of the Attorney General

At this time, the State Board lacks dedicated legal counsel. After the transition, the State Board will consult, on an as-needed basis, with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). However, it should be noted that the OAG recommends that the State Board acquire its own legal counsel so the State Board may receive advice on legal issues, receive opinions on various policy proposals, internally produce resolutions and rulemaking, counsel on ethical issues, guidance on contacting and procurement issues among other roles, as needed.

Finally, the office is in the process of identifying a Language Access Coordinator, pursuant to recommendations from the Office of Human Rights, to ensure that vital documents are translated appropriately and an Agency Risk Management Representative, as recommended by the Office of Risk Management, to manage and report on potential risks.

•    Office of the Ombudsman

An important element of the “State Board of Education Personnel Authority Amendment Act of 2012” is that it authorizes the transfer of the Office of the Ombudsman from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education to the State Board of Education. Already, our office receives numerous calls about concerns parents have about their students’ education. As a singular entity that works with all education entities in the District, establishing the Office of the Ombudsman within the State Board would provide the public with a clearinghouse for addressing concerns over all education entities, including DCPS, the public charters schools, and the University of the District of Columbia.

 A Vision for the State Board of Education

What I am most excited to share with the Committee is our vision for the State Board of Education. With personnel and budget autonomy, the State Board has an opportunity to be the District's. Succinctly, the State Board seeks to fill a critical niche in the education governance system – as an impartial thought leader and convener.

 In preparation, the State Board has drafted a new mission statement. It reads:

The mission of the District of Columbia State Board of Education is to monitor and provide policy leadership and recommendations to the District’s education system in support of all District residents acquiring the skills and knowledge to succeed in a competitive global economy and thrive as a 21st century citizen.

To accomplish this mission, the State Board will develop a strategic plan that is focused on facilitating conversations and providing recommendations on the direction the District's education system is taking. Thus, the State Board intends take on the following roles:

1)    As an office of policy, research and analysis.

The State Board will operate a state-level policy office that will provide comprehensive and objective research and analysis on state-level education issues. The State Board will delve into major topics, including state-wide analysis of teacher quality issues, methods of improving parent involvement, researching and supporting the transition to a competency-based education system and being an impartial body charged with establishing school rankings so parents are empowered in their decision-making.

When we fully establish this policy, research and analysis function, the State Board will help advance the public interest by generating, articulating, and advocating creative and influential policies and programs around children, youth and their families. The State Board could contribute this knowledge to the DC City Council, among other agencies, resulting in enhanced policy creation and development.
 
2)     As a convener.

The State Board will act as an impartial convener of education stakeholders, inclusive of students, teachers, parents, school leaders, universities, research organizations, and youth service providers, among other pertinent stakeholder organizations. By expanding communication among these stakeholder groups, the State Board can support the search for solutions to the problems of school reform. In this way, the State Board will provide robust and diverse platform of understanding on education issues in the District.

3)    As a public advocate.

As an elected State Board, we will advocate that quality education opportunities be available for all children and youth in the District. As such, the State Board will promote excellence in the education of all students and will advocate equality of access to educational opportunity. As the other elements of our vision come to fruition, our advocacy will include disseminating our recommendations and then encouraging pertinent stakeholders to adopt policies, as recommended by the State Board.

Needs of the State Board

Nevertheless, to meet this vision, the State Board seeks support from the Mayor and the Council in a few critical areas.

Staff

 As stated previously, the State Board will fill a critical niche in the education governance system, performing as an impartial thought leader and convener. In order to accomplish this, the State Board requires additional capacity. We would like the Council to consider adding authority and funding for two (2) additional FTEs to the State Board’s budget. With this authority, we would hire an additional policy analyst and legal counsel.

As we approach budget and personnel autonomy, we would like to request the Council’s assistance in acquiring these personnel in FY13.

This request is already contained within the State Board’s FY14 enhancement request, in addition to the 4.0 FTEs required of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Authority

With the establishment of the State Board, PERAA provided that State Board with several advisory and approval roles. However, PERAA also stated that the State Board may only “consider matters for policy approval upon the submission of a request for policy action by the State Superintendent of Education.”  We find that this constriction could have a negative effect on the State Board’s ability to move a policy agenda. The impact of this statement is that, technically, State Board cannot approve parental involvement standards, even if they are fully developed, without a request from OSSE to do so. If the State Board is to have authority over its own budget and personnel, and have approval authority, it should follow that the State Board can advance a policy agenda and move on policy in the absence of a request from OSSE.

Conclusion

On behalf of the State Board, I wish to express our gratitude at the opportunity to share our testimony before the Council. We are already appreciate of the efforts of the Committee to reach out to us and we hope that we will continue to work together to ensure that every student in the District of Columbia has the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

 


Appendix
PERAA reestablished the Board of Education as the State Board of Education with specific advisory and approval authority. The State Board is responsible for advising the State Superintendent of Education on educational matters, including: state standards; state policies, including those governing special, academic, vocational, charter and other schools; state objectives; and state regulations proposed by the Mayor or the State Superintendent of Education. The State Board also became responsible for approving the following state-level policies:

•    State academic standards and ensure that standards meet the following qualifications: specify what children are expected to know and be able to do; contain coherent and rigorous content, encourage the teaching of advanced skills; and are updated on a regular basis;
•    High school graduation requirements;
•    Standards for high school equivalence credentials;
•    State definitions of “adequate yearly progress” and “proficiency” that will be applied consistently to all local education agencies;
•    State definition and standards for “highly qualified teachers,” pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001;
•    Standards for accreditation and certification of teacher preparation programs of colleges and universities;
•    The state accountability plan for the District of Columbia developed by the Chief State School Officer, pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 ensuring that: (A) the plan includes a single statewide accountability system that will ensure all local education agencies make adequate yearly progress; and (B) the statewide accountability system included in the plan is based on academic standards, academic assessments, a standardized system of accountability across all local education agencies, and a system of sanctions and rewards that will be used to hold local education agencies accountable for student achievement;
•    State policies for parental involvement;
•    State policies for supplemental education service providers operating in the District to ensure that providers have a demonstrated record of effectiveness and offer services that promote challenging academic achievement standards and that improve student achievement;
•    The rules for residency verification;
•    The list of charter school accreditation organizations;
•    The categories and format of the annual report card, pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001;
•    The list of private placement accreditation organizations, pursuant to Uniform Per Student Funding Formula for Public Schools and Public Charter Schools and Tax Conformity Clarification Amendment Act of 1998;
•    Approve state rules for enforcing school attendance requirements; and
•    Approve state standards for home schooling.