Increased Access to Specialized School Programs
While public schools in DC currently offer a range of specialized school programs, not all families have real access to these options from PreK through high school — or a voice in conversations on how to change that fact.
- This lack of access is especially challenging for families of color, families that are low-income or experiencing homelessness, and immigrant communities, which is profoundly inequitable and unjust.
- One example of the glaring disparity in access is highlighted by the difference in the availability of sought-after program options between areas East and West of the Anacostia River.
In order to have a system of great schools that 1) includes a diverse and expansive variety of specialized school programs and 2) offers increased access to these programs for students with the most need, we have identified a set of priorities.
- Increasing the base Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to the recommended adequacy level based on the 2013 adequacy study (until the forthcoming DME study is available). The 2013 study said the base UPSFF should be $11,840 (when adjusted for inflation).
- The UPSFF is currently set at $10,980 which is a gap of $80 million. We recommend this gap be closed over two years: 4% in FY21, and 3% in FY22.
- OSSE should also support schools in getting federal funding and resources for the implementation of specialized programs within their schools.
- This investment could provide the following resources:
- School infrastructure that is designed to support the particular requirements for a specific specialized school program (e.g. robotics labs, performance space, etc);
- Strong partnerships with community organizations, government agencies, and the private sector to leverage community assets and connect students to content experts, mentors, and future opportunities;
- Supports for teachers and staff, including:
- Teachers who are masters in their content area and can mentor newer teachers
- Ongoing professional development to help teachers grow their craft
- Schedules and structures that allow for collaborative planning time across subjects;
- Class sizes that allow teachers to provide individualized and differentiated support
- School materials and opportunities that meet the needs of a diverse community of learners and abilities, including access to technology, experts, field trips, and evidence-based and culturally responsive curriculum.
- Safe and reliable transportation options to address barriers to students’ ability to attend specialized school programs, regardless of the student’s address and the school’s location.
OSSE, DCPS, and PCSB should work with the community and experts in the field to:
- Define key information that families want to know about specialized school programs and use this as a basis for creating a citywide set of publicly available, baseline standards for each type of specialized school program in DC.
- Develop a verification system that includes qualitative reviews based on the above set of standards to verify fidelity to the model and quality implementation. Parent and student voice should be included in the assessment of program quality.
- Design a clear indicator to demonstrate how a school implements a specialized school program to be included on existing parent resources, i.e. OSSE School Report Card and My School DC School Profile.
- Develop an inclusive outreach campaign to share resources and information with families.
Community partners, such as local businesses and neighborhood institutions, all have an important role to play. To that end, the DC Council, the Mayor’s office and relevant District agencies should:
- Identify and provide incentivizes that aim to support community partnerships – both public and private. Such incentives should prioritize communities that are currently under-resourced. Examples can include financial incentives for businesses to locate in specific communities and develop educational partnerships to support specialized school programs.
- Collaborate with DCPS and public charter schools to develop pipelines to recruit experts in specialized fields to support DCPS and public charter schools, with a priority focus on recruiting staff that reflect the cultural/racial composition of the school community.
The Cross-Sector Working Group:
- Includes both DCPS and public charter schools students and families as well as community partners.
- Collaboratively identifies and plans for equitable specialized program expansion across the city, prioritizing access to families with the greatest needs.
- Develops feeder patterns for specialized school programs so students can continue their education and can also offer an opportunity for schools to share best practices.
- Uses and builds upon practices from successful models (e.g. Ward 8 POST).
- Identifies which entity is responsible for overseeing implementation, staffing, and resources to support this process.