DC Ed Fund has a history of seeding the most strategic initiatives that yield outsized results for students in DC Public Schools. Our current plans seek to increase equity district-wide and investment needs range from $390K to $11.87M.
DC Public Schools Empowers Its Leaders
DCPS believes that district tranformation starts at the school level, under the guidance of a dynamic leader who pushes the envelope of what's possible for kids. To accelerate student growth and close the achievement gap, DCPS will empower school leaders to expand what's working and explore innovative solutions, ultimately increasing the number of excellent schools throughout the city.
In the coming years, all DCPS school leaders will experience increased decision-making authority and space to innovate. This increased autonomy is an important lever for change, but it is not a standalone solution. For DCPS leaders to thrive within a blended autonomy structure, they will need to build their capacity to make site-based decisions that drive student achievement.
DCPS already attracts and grows some of our nation’s top school leaders. To retain more top talent, and further tap their potential, DCPS will create a space for a select cohort of leaders to dream big for DCPS. Starting fall 2017, The Principals’ Lab will provide space for great leaders to design models of excellence.
At the same time DCPS’ supports ramp up for school leaders, the school district will also embark on an ambitious effort to launch innovative school options. These new schools will be informed by the landscape analysis and leaders will be selected from The Principals’ Lab.
With a discrete pot of dollars to be distributed, school funding decisions are some of the most difficult to make. To ensure that school district resources are allocated to support students with the greatest needs, DCPS will embark on a major overhaul of how it determines which schools get what, and on what timeline - accelerating outcomes for all students with the intention of closing the
In an effort to shift decision-making closer to the area of need, DCPS school leaders will be granted autonomies that were once enjoyed solely by their charter school peers. In the coming years, DCPS will launch a new blended autonomies approach that will articulate expectations of the “DCPS Way” and create an “Autonomy Menu” to guide leaders’ decision-making. A select number of school leaders will receive funding to seed their most ambitious
plans in SY18-19.
DCPS will strive to ensure a predictable, reliable, accessible K-12 continuum for all families. The district will conduct a citywide, cross-sector landscape analysis of school offerings and will implement a system to authorize new schools and programs (e.g. multilingual, magnet, community
schools,etc.), to promote greater student diversity, and to increase opportunities for
innovation with an eye towards accelerating
Reading to Achieve
The ability to read on grade level is a major predictor of a range of life outcomes. DCPS has made great strides in curriculum and professional learning over the last decade but must do more to ensure that all students build a strong literacy foundation in their early years.
Excellent readers possess a passion for reading and persist when they need to improve. It is therefore critical that students cultivate the interest, habits, and mindsets that will help them learn to read.
DCPS will leverage existing curricular and professional learning structures to coach teachers on how they can support students as they grapple with this sometimes challenging task. By making reading fun, engaging, and relevant to students, DCPS will help PK-2 students develop an identity as a reader.
In DCPS, parents are partners in student learning. DCPS will build on its successful family engagement approach to launch the Reading Families Project.
Just as students will develop identities as readers, so too will families build identity as reading families. This initiative will be fun and will meet the needs of adults who seek to better support their developing readers at home. Family book clubs and adult literacy workshops will be facilitated by educators and community partners who are already trusted by families, and summer programs will be offered for families and students who want to engage more deeply in targeted reading programs.
A print-rich environment is important. A print-rich environment that includes engaging texts, empowering messages, all aligned to what a student learns in school is transformational. DCPS will ensure that students have access to a range of texts at home and at school that serve, above all else, to spark a passion for reading.
This massive infusion of books and resources will ensure the barrier to entry is erased—families will have access to books at home and connections will be made to books at school, all in an effort to make reading the easy leisure choice for family and student time.
DCPS attracts and retains some of our nation’s top teachers—and it will become the destination for educators who want to become expert reading teachers. DCPS will provide an accelerated experience where teachers will learn the critical components of strong literacy instruction and become expert reading instructors. Leveraging existing professional learning structures, DCPS will offer targeted courses meant to address gaps in educator knowledge, as well as optional trainings for educators who are eager to learn at a faster pace.
One in five students struggles with a reading disability, which can be difficult to diagnose and takes significant time to address. Very few DCPS teachers are currently equipped with the skills and resources needed to support students with reading disabilities—a gap in knowledge that has the unintended impact of holding students back from developing the foundational literacy skills that set them up for success in school and life.
Through the DCRC, teachers and reading specialists will learn research-based, intentional instruction that can be accurately matched to student need, so that every DCPS child can learn to read. Through targeted training and intensive coaching, teachers will be equipped with the skills they actually need to address student difficulties in decoding and literacy.
The best strategies and targeted investments are only successful if students are present to benefit from them. Chronic absenteeism is a critical issue in many DCPS schools, particularly for our youngest students who are developing the foundational reading skills that will set them up for success long-term. Building on the citywide Every Day Counts! campaign, DCPS will launch a broad communications strategy and targeted interventions in partnership with those individuals who are positioned to help spread
this message—pediatricians, peers, and other
families. Because when students and families
prioritize daily school attendance, outcomes
Educating the Whole Child
All the research and common sense say the same thing: if students are to be successful in school and life, attending to their social and emotional needs is absolutely critical. This is why DCPS aims to lead the nation in the integration of social-emotional and academic learning.
Tragically, many DCPS students face acute trauma in their lives. Brain research tells us that these kinds of experiences can make it exceedingly difficult to make positive decisions and focus on learning. DCPS is committed to supporting these young people with new “Uplift” Teams, composed of personnel who are expertly trained in trauma-informed care and who will focus intensely on small number of students throughout their educational career at DCPS. This will be the district where not a single student falls through the cracks.
To fully realize its vision, DCPS realizes that as part of its SEAD work, it must confront the reality that implicit bias infects us all and is corrosive to the educational experience. The “More Perfect Union” initiative will be a multi-year set of structured conversations and experiences designed to help staff and students increase awareness of their biases and expand their toolkit for confronting and changing these biases.
Art and music are languages for thinking through ideas, understanding complexity, expressing concepts and affecting others. Education in art and music develops students as agile thinkers, providing them with tools that support their emotional and intellectual well-being. DCPS will radically expand its art and music offerings as part of its “Creative Mind” initiative, guaranteeing that every graduate will be proficient in an artistic discipline of her/his choosing.
As DCPS has learned with groundbreaking initiatives such as IMPACT, Cornerstones, and LEAP, dedicating capacity to thorough research and design on the front end is absolutely critical. Given this, the district will develop a “SEAD Design Team” to study the latest research, conduct site visits to schools and other organizations that are innovating in this space, and ultimately create a framework for the “DCPS Way” on SEAD that will guide and inform every aspect of the district’s work on the integration of academic and social-emotional learning.
To fully embed the new DCPS SEAD Framework into the culture and lifeblood of the organization, extensive training will be critical for all school-based and the central office staff. DCPS will take a phased approach to this work, delving deeply into each of the principles of the DCPS SEAD Framework in an effort to foster authentic understanding, thereby enabling the adults of the system to begin to live these principles in their daily work.
As part of the training process, DCPS will develop summer “SEAD Institutes” to help jump start learning across the district. It will also develop “SEAD Learning Teams,” which will be small collaborative teams that cut across job title to foster deeper connections across the school sytem. Finally, it will create online SEAD Learning Modules to allow for continuous development at a differentiated pace.
DCPS is already leading the nation on teacher professional learning with its LEAP program.
Data from the first year of implementation
indicates that schools with the highest levels of
LEAP implementation saw the greatest gains
on the PARCC. The next step in this
groundbreaking work is to integrate the
principles of the DCPS SEAD Framework into
the LEAP curriculum. For example, in the LEAP
Seminars, the modules on “student mathematical
discourse” will be enhanced with opportunities
for teachers to learn about the social-emotional
factors that need to be considered when
attempting to foster such discourse in their
Preparing students for Postsecondary Success
By the year 2020, 76% of all jobs in the District of Columbia will require some postsecondary education beyond high school. To ensure DCPS students are prepared for the high-wage, high-demand careers in the DC Metro area, we must take well-coordinated and intentional steps to provide every student with the support that they need to pursue their desired postsecondary pathway.
DCPS has made great strides to match students with the college options where they have the best chance to succeed. To put more students on a path toward college graduation, DCPS will launch a major effort to stay connected to alumni during the “summer melt” period and during the first few years of college, establish more robust university partnerships, provide transportation to college, create a dorm fund for incoming freshmen, and launch an alumni texting platform where students can stay connected to supports.
Additionally, DCPS will provide strategic supports to Career Bridge alumni that have become, or are in danger of becoming, disconnected youth defined as young people ages 14-24 who are neither employed nor enrolled in an educational institution.
Early exposure to college-level coursework is one of the best-proven strategies to help students envision themselves in college and begin to take steps to get there. DCPS will build on this approach with a three-pronged strategy: (1) launch a unique early college program at a DCPS high school; (2) increase access to more dual enrollment options; and (3) ensure greater access to AP courses and supports so that more students are setup to successfully pass AP exams.
All pre-college efforts will expose students to the rigor and expectations of the college experience without the cost or relocation that attending college typically requires.
The DCPS Career Bridge program will prepare participating high school seniors to pursue post-secondary pathways such as apprenticeship programs, military, full-time employment, and workforce development programs. Students will be eligible for paid school year internships, will be matched with a Career Coach, and receive bonus incentives for completing key milestones, such as: resume, mock interview, and post-secondary applications. These experiences will culminate with a big career fair that will enable DCPS students to practice what they learned and land high-wage, high-demand jobs with local companies.
Given the significant interest in partnership from local universities and industries, Washington, DC is primed to establish a comprehensive pathway that enables students to determine the steps they will need to take to embark on their postsecondary journey. DCPS will launch a citywide planning process to: formalize university and industry partnerships; identify exposure and training opportunities starting in the summer before 9th grade; articulate specific pathways to selective college acceptance or high-wage career placement; and plan for how families can best support students as they explore what’s next.
Colleges and universities across the country offer summer programming to high school students. These experiences are life-changing for the students who participate—they live in a college dorm, eat in the cafeteria, and attend classes with other college-bound students. DCPS will make an unprecedented commitment to ensure that all high school students can participate in pre-college programming and campus visits to colleges where DCPS graduates have a track record of success.
DCPS already provides high-quality CTE programs of study and Career Academies that align with the District’s high-wage, high-demand careers. To help students make connections to real-world career options, DCPS will build on its successful internship program and ensure that every 11th and 12th grade student can access a paid summer internship experience, aligned to their field of interest.