D.C. mayor-elect wants to ‘accelerate’ public school reform

SCHOOL REFORM: Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser plans to continue public school reform in Washington, D.C., but what that means for students and charter schools remains unclear.

By Moriah Costa | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser wants to increase public school reform and focus on accountability and results, according to a 56-page transition plan.

Bowser wants to evaluate academic and extracurricular activities at low-performing schools, renovate or construct new school buildings, expand preschool programs, and increase STEM options for students, among other things, according to the plan released by her office last week.

“As Mayor, Muriel Bowser will accelerate the pace of school reform by discontinuing ineffective programs and policies and replicating those that have demonstrated strong outcomes to ensure that all students receive a high quality public education,” the report stated.

The mayor-elect’s transition office did not respond to a request for comment.

Bowser, who takes office in January, also said she wants to increase collaboration between D.C. Public School and charter schools. Her plans calls for giving the city’s deputy mayor for education authority to make recommendations on improving the collaboration between the two school systems.

D.C. public charter schools are autonomous from the city and are regulated by the D.C. Public School Charter Board. About 44 percent of D.C. school children were enrolled in charter schools in the 2013-2014 academic year.

The D.C. Public School declined to comment on the Bowser’s plans to collaborate with charter schools.

The DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, a nonprofit that represents charter schools in the district, did not respond to a request for comment.

The plan also highlights Bower’s desire to make the budget process more transparent to taxpayers. The document did not provide any other details but did layout plans to respond to parents’ and community member’s concerns, including collecting student and parent satisfaction data from both public and charter schools.

As Watchdog.org reported, a recent study showed that mayoral control of the public school had lead to less transparency for officials and community members.

The mayor-elect’s plan says she will propose a longer school day and re-evaluate the effectiveness of mayoral control of the DCPS. She also will provide additional resources for underperforming schools and vows to raise $50 million from private-sector partners to support school reform efforts. The plan did not expand on what reforms would be included.

The document stated that Bowser will retain the Public School Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, and Michela English, president and CEO of Fight for Children, a nonprofit that promotes education for low-income children in D.C., were named co-chairs of Bowser’s education committee.

Bowser’s plan also calls for looking beyond standardized test scores to provide a broader approach to evaluating schools and provide more autonomy for high-performing schools. She indicated more resources will be going to the 25 lowest performing schools in the city in an effort “to close the achievement gap.”

The document states Bowser’s plans to double the number of community schools in the district, which are partnerships between public schools and community-based nonprofits. Six community schools were awarded one-year grants in 2013 and provide social services, parent support and mental and physical health care to students and their families.

Additionally, Bowser’s plan calls for a “Good to Great Initiative” that will target schools close to being considered “highly-regarded by parents.” The plan did not expand on any details of what schools would be included or what the program would entail.

The mayor-elect has stated that she wants to tweak the new school boundaries adopted by Mayor Vincent Gray in August, but she has remained vague about what those tweaks would be, according to public radio station WAMU. There was no mention of the school boundaries in the transition plan.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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