After the fallout from Antwan Wilson’s recent resignation as D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) chancellor, city officials won’t let up the pressure on Mayor Muriel Bowser for systemwide reform.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), chair of the council’s education committee, urged Bowser to expand the investigation into attendance and grade promotion at District of Columbia traditional public and public charter schools.
“After holding two public hearings on graduation accountability and receiving compelling evidence that teachers throughout the city, across grade levels, and in both sectors of public education feel pressure to pass students, it appears that these issues may extend beyond high schools,” Grosso wrote in a letter to Bowser.
He requested that Bowser direct the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) to extend its contract with the third-party firm Alvarez & Marsal, or similar independent firm, to broaden the investigation that began in December to audit every public charter high schools’ attendance and graduation policies.
It should also deepen the investigation to lower grades by examining the attendance and grade promotion in both traditional public and public charter elementary and middle schools.
Alvarez & Marsal found in a report released in January that 34 percent of the 2017 DCPS graduates were awarded high school diplomas in violation of District attendance or grading policies.
“Those results were extremely troubling, but they do not tell the whole story,” Grosso said. “A cross-sector, system-wide examination will provide a more accurate picture of whether or not our children are prepared for the next milestone in their academic career before advancing.”
Grosso has requested a response from the mayor before a previously scheduled Committee on Education oversight hearing on Thursday, March 1.
“I believe that with a complete investigation, our city will better understand the breadth and depth of this issue and be better positioned to develop meaningful solutions,” he said.
Last month before his resignation, Bowser and Wilson celebrated D.C. Education Week by launched a new website to help families and students find safe and enriching programs and resources throughout the city.
The new initiative, Learn24, will ensure youth have access to quality educational and enrichment activities beyond the regular school day.
“With Learn24 we are ensuring that more young Washingtonians have access to high quality educational and enrichment activities beyond the school day,” Bowser said. “We know learning doesn’t end when the bell rings and that our students need safe places to learn and play when they are not in class.”
Learn24 includes a network of after-school and summer opportunities and supports access to opportunities for students in all eight wards.
For the current school year, the mayor awarded $2 million in grants to 40 organizations that serve more than 23,000 students. The grants included an increased focus on access and equity, providing most of the funding to high-need areas in Wards 1, 7 and 8. Last year, the mayor also invested an additional $4 million in 2017 and 2018 summer programming.
“Learn24 is going to change the way we get families and young people connected to programs and resources that meet their needs and interests and set them up for success in school and life,” Bowser said.