3

The District of Columbia and the Reform Act: Historical Overview

Washington’s Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) of 2007, like other urban governance reforms, was a response to complex political and historical circumstances, but four themes are particularly important for understanding this new law: (1) the school system’s long experience with expert scrutiny and institutional tinkering; (2) the continuing influence of the city’s racial history and politics; (3) the effects of the city’s unique jurisdictional relationship with the U.S. Congress; and (4) the school district’s legacy of limited administrative capacity.

A HISTORY OF REFORM AND CRITICISM

PERAA is the latest in a long line of changes in the way the DC Public School (DCPS) system is governed. Since 1804, there have been 17 different governance and administrative structures, and PERAA was the second new approach since 2000 (see Levy, 2004; Richards, 2000). There were many changes through the 1900s, perhaps the most visible of which was the 1968 decision to make the local school board an elected body.

Two changes during the 1990s significantly altered authority patterns in the city’s public schools. In 1995, the DC Public Charter School Board was established, which led to rapid growth in the number of charter schools: 2 in 1996, 19 more in 1997, and 10 more in 1998 (Hart, 2000). In 1996, the presidentially appointed DC Financial Responsibility and Management Board (informally known as the Control Board) reduced the authority of the elected school board and was given the authority to select the district superintendent. In the first major change in this century, DC voters in 2000



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3 The District of Columbia and the Reform Act: Historical Overview Washington’s Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) of 2007, like other urban governance reforms, was a response to complex politi- cal and historical circumstances, but four themes are particularly important for understanding this new law: (1) the school system’s long experience with expert scrutiny and institutional tinkering; (2) the continuing influence of the city’s racial history and politics; (3) the effects of the city’s unique juris- dictional relationship with the U.S. Congress; and (4) the school district’s legacy of limited administrative capacity. A HISTORY OF REFORM AND CRITICISM PERAA is the latest in a long line of changes in the way the DC Public School (DCPS) system is governed. Since 1804, there have been 17 different governance and administrative structures, and PERAA was the second new approach since 2000 (see Levy, 2004; Richards, 2000). There were many changes through the 1900s, perhaps the most visible of which was the 1968 decision to make the local school board an elected body. Two changes during the 1990s significantly altered authority patterns in the city’s public schools. In 1995, the DC Public Charter School Board was established, which led to rapid growth in the number of charter schools: 2 in 1996, 19 more in 1997, and 10 more in 1998 (Hart, 2000). In 1996, the presidentially appointed DC Financial Responsibility and Management Board (informally known as the Control Board) reduced the authority of the elected school board and was given the authority to select the district superintendent. In the first major change in this century, DC voters in 2000 31

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32 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS narrowly approved a referendum that allowed the mayor to appoint four of the nine school board members. Then, in 2007, PERAA was enacted. Al- though these 17 permutations in governance structures were implemented over two centuries by very different decision-making processes and under sharply contrasting political conditions, each can be viewed as an effort to balance ideals of democratic accountability and representation with effi- ciency goals. Although the 2007 law was regarded as a dramatic change, school administrators working under earlier governance arrangements attempted some reform strategies similar to those being implemented under PERAA. For example, in 2003, DCPS officials outlined a plan to give principals greater autonomy in return for improved student performance (Archer, 2003). This initiative, implemented in partnership with the nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools, was announced less than 2 years after another initiative, the Principals’ Leadership Academy, was implemented to trans- form principals into instructional leaders (Stricherz, 2001). One can infer from subsequent reports on educational quality in DCPS that these initia- tives did not live up to their proponents’ expectations. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that while some past governance structures may have turned out to be ineffective, parts of their reform agendas mirrored those being implemented under PERAA. Virtually all of the changes were prompted in part by the publication of myriad reports, commissioned by civic groups or other third parties, which were critical of the public schools. Beginning with a report prepared by Franklin Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Education in 1938, most docu- mented the same problems: low student achievement on standardized tests; the inability of the schools to retain students; and DCPS students’ low rates of enrollment in postsecondary education, relative lack of success in obtain- ing employment, and poor performance on the armed forces induction tests. Three decades later, in April 1967, the Washington Post echoed what scholarly analyses were documenting: The collapse of public education in Washington is now evident. Reading scores reported in this newspaper show that fully one-third of the city schools’ pupils have fallen two years or more behind their proper grade level. . . . The real question is whether the city is going to have public schools, in any legitimate and useful sense, in the future. . . . Citizens, Congress and President Johnson now have an urgent obligation to face the truth that nothing at all will help, short of a massive reorganization of the Washington School system. (as quoted in Diner, 1990, p. 127) The reports continued for the next 40 years, along with congressional hearings and media accounts documenting the failings of the District’s

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33 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT public schools, such as incompetent management and lack of fiscal over- sight, unequal and inefficient distribution of resources to schools, student discipline problems, and chronically low academic achievement. For exam- ple, in a 2006 report funded by the Federal City Council,1 the Parthenon Group summarized five other reports, issued between 1989 and 2006, that consistently found student academic performance had worsened; no significant progress had been made in improving the teacher workforce; schools were hampered by an ineffective central bureaucracy; and the broader Washington community seemed to be indifferent to these persistent problems. On the eve of PERAA’s enactment, a Washington Post reporter concluded that (Witt, 2007, para. 5): The history of D.C. school reform is filled with fix-it plans hailed as silver bullets and would-be saviors who are celebrated before being banished. The constant churn of reform has been a big part of the schools’ troubles, according to school officials, community activists, and others who have watched the system for decades. A good measure of the explanation for the District’s saga of continued documentation of problems and shifting governance arrangements—with little to show for either—may lie in the politics that emerged from its unique dependence on congressional authority and the city’s racial history. THE RACIAL HISTORY OF DC SCHOOLS The first District school for black students was founded in 1807 by three former slaves with support from private contributions. In 1862, Congress mandated that all black and white children (aged 6-14) receive 3 months of education each year and that 10 percent of the taxes collected on “Negro- owned property” be used to support schools for black students (Richards, 2000). In 1874, what had been separate governing boards for black schools and for white schools in Washington City, Georgetown, and Washington County were consolidated into a single board with the requirement that 5 of its 19 members be black. Despite the consolidated board, the district had two superintendents, one for the white and one for the black schools. The District’s public schools remained segregated for the next 80 years, until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Despite significant disparities in the resources available to black and white schools, Washington had some of the highest quality black schools in the country during the period of legal segregation. For example, Dunbar 1 TheFederal City Council, established in 1954, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization composed of and financed by 200 business, educational, professional, and civic leaders.

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34 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS (originally the M Street School), which was for many years the only high school for black students, had an illustrious history of academic achieve- ment. Its students earned higher scores, on average, than did the students at two of the three District high schools for white students. Among Dunbar’s graduates were the first blacks to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, the first black federal judge, the first black general, the first black elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, and the first black full professor at a major research university (Hundley, 1967). Dunbar and other black schools were staffed by many teachers with excel- lent credentials during this period. For example, four of Dunbar’s first eight principals graduated from Oberlin College and two from Harvard University. In the 1920s, its faculty included three teachers with PhDs. As Risen (2008, p. 82) notes of this period: Like many urban districts, Washington thrived because it could rely on a class of educators—in this case, African Americans—who were mostly kept out of other professions. But as barriers eroded in the 1950s and 1960s, experienced black teachers began leaving for better opportunities. After the 1954 Brown decision, Washington differed from other southern school districts in its quick and positive response: only 8 days after the ruling, the appointed school board adopted a desegregation policy. However, that policy did not substantially change the racial composition of schools that had been part of the all-black system. Enrollment for these schools averaged 97 percent black students for each year between 1954 and 1960, and nearly two-thirds of the schools that had been legally restricted to white students before 1954 became predominantly black by 1960, as white families moved out of both the public schools and the inner city (Henig et al., 1999). Within 6 years of the Brown decision, the structure of racial isolation in DCPS that has persisted into this century was in place. By 1966, more than 30,000 white students had left DCPS to attend pri- vate schools or suburban ones, and after the 1968 passage of the Fair Hous- ing Act, middle-class black families also began to move to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs (Risen, 2008; Witt, 2007). A small number of schools, located mainly in the Northwest section of the city, remained overwhelm- ingly white in their enrollment, a state of affairs that, politically, worked against the building and sustaining of capacity across the entire school system. According to Henig and his colleagues (1999, p. 49): The emergence of an elite subset of predominantly white, upper socio- economic status schools, combined with the deterioration and unrespon- siveness that characterized the broader system, provided parents with an incentive to pursue their children’s needs at a microlevel. Parents—

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35 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT predominantly white—who lived in the regular attendance zones of these schools could devote their considerable energies and resources to fund- raising and politics oriented around their own school, rather than system- wide reform. To some extent, middle-class black parents also had the option of enroll- ing their children in an “enclave school.” As white flight continued through- out the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, schools in affluent white neighborhoods (“west of the park”) lost substantial enrollment and were in danger of being closed. The city responded partly by recruiting middle-class black students from other neighborhoods. Over time, DCPS adopted a liberal policy allow- ing out-of-boundary transfers to parents assertive enough to request them. By 1993, more than 30 percent of students in the 16 DCPS elementary schools in which fewer than a quarter of the students were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch were out-of-boundary transfers, as compared with only 12 percent in the more than 100 elementary schools with higher proportions of low-income students (Henig et al., 1999, p. 200). However, some activists sought districtwide solutions to the unequal distribution of resources across DCPS schools. Julius Hobson, a major Washington civil rights leader and later school board member, filed an innovative lawsuit against the school district for unconstitutionally depriv- ing poor and black students of equal educational opportunities. In a 1967 decision (Hobson v. Hansen, 269 F. Supp. 401­Dist. of Columbia), U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered major changes to equal- ize educational opportunities, including integrating teachers and busing students to relieve overcrowding in majority black schools.2 Parents United, an advocacy group organized in 1980 by the Wash- ington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, initially worked to mobilize parents from around the city to rally in support of additional resources for the public schools. Over time, Parents United depended less on mass mobilization and more on research and legal action. One example was its push in the 1990s to ensure that school facilities were safe and free from building code violations. After documenting widespread viola- tions that were not being addressed by the school system, Parents United went to court. In 1994, the judge ruled in the group’s favor and began to monitor the district’s compliance. When DCPS failed to respond, the judge postponed the opening of school by 3 weeks, which prompted intervention by the Control Board, and Parents United reluctantly dropped its suit.3 2 In a subsequent decree, Judge Wright attempted to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers. However, a later study found that it led to an unintended result because many of the most experienced black teachers transferred to white schools (Witt, 2007). 3 Parents United members assumed that their lawsuit would help the superintendent, Franklin Smith, whom they supported, by forcing the mayor, city council, and Congress to pay to rebuild

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36 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS Although the organization was able to recruit some middle-class blacks into its leadership core, its strongest membership base was concentrated in white, affluent sections of the city, and the group never gained strong cred- ibility among lower-income black (Henig et al., 1999). Despite the efforts of Parents United and a few other organizations, the District has lacked the deep tradition of cross-racial, grassroots mobiliza- tion over citywide education issues that have developed in some other cities (Hannaway and Usdan, 2008; Henig et al., 1999). The politics that emerged from the racial history of DCPS has been based on what have been largely racially divided neighborhoods and wards, and the goals of strengthening home rule and gaining a greater political voice have been persistent themes. SCHOOL POLITICS AND THE LEGACY OF CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL Washington, DC’s unique status as the nation’s capital limited local political power and authority for most of its history, with Congress deter- mining how the city was to be governed and appointing its leaders. In the years before the Home Rule Act of 1973, the local government was essentially an agency of the federal government. The House and Senate committees that oversaw the District were controlled by white southern segregationists, who maintained a tight grip on the city’s affairs and were unresponsive to black leaders who demanded a greater voice (Harris, 1995). Efforts to gain home rule became a focus for local civil rights leaders, who accused Congress of racism and insensitivity to the needs of an urban black population. The contrast between the demographics of its congressional overseers and District residents became particularly telling when the city’s public student enrollment became predominantly black in the 1950s (the city’s population was majority black by 1960). In 1968, 6 years before the city was given significant (but not complete) home rule, Congress established an elected 11-member board of education consisting of three at-large members and one representing each of the city’s eight wards (electoral districts). DCPS was now an independent agency, but it still lacked the authority to raise its own revenue. The significance of this shift to the first locally elected body in the 20th century was initially demonstrated when 53 candidates ran in the first election, and 70 percent of the District’s registered voters went to the polls (Richards, 2000). the schools. The result was quite different. The District’s elected officials did not provide the needed resources and cut DCPS’ capital funding, arguing that the code violations were evidence of DCPS mismanagement. The Control Board later fired Smith, and the executive director of Parents United could only say on the day he was dismissed, “The thing—the lawsuit, the court dates—it all backfired. Be careful what you wish for, you might get it” (as quoted in Witt, 2007).

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37 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT The long-term political implications of the 6-year period between the advent of an elected school board and home rule were even more signifi- cant. As the only elected body in the District during that time, the school board became a focal point for both individuals and groups seeking to build a political power base. Many people saw the school system’s thousands of well-paying jobs as a resource for strengthening the black middle class and the school district as a source of political patronage (Henig, 2004; Risen, 2008). The political coalition that emerged in response to the new institu- tion of an elected board was largely composed of teachers represented by the Washington Teachers Union and parents active at individual schools. In a number of cities in which the school district is the major employer, the allocation of jobs has become politicized. In the District, several fac- tors complicated the situation: the long disenfranchisement of District residents and the growing pains of an emerging polity; the ward-based system of school board elections, which provided for better representa- tion of local neighborhoods, but also led to a blurred line between board members’ constituent service and micromanagement of school and district operations;4 and pressure to revitalize the city’s working- and middle-class neighborhoods. Over time, DCPS became even more politicized. Levy (2004, pp. 6-7) summarized the expert, media, and public reaction to the way DCPS was governed over the almost three decades between the first elected school board and the mid-1990s: Conflicts and division continued unabated, and studies, news stories and editorials castigating the Board became routine and harsh. . . . The com- plaints were similar to those of the previous 60 years. Reports on the subject, numerous news stories and editorials, and public comments by citizens as well as government officials asserted that the Board of Educa- tion (1) lacked focus on student achievement and the “big picture” policy- making important to the health of all DCPS schools; (2) failed to provide effective oversight; (3) micro-managed the system; and (4) was prone to too much internal dissension and personal politicking. A 1997 Washington Post article documented the extent to which the school board had become an employment agency based on family and per- sonal relationships (Loeb and Casey, 1997, as cited in Henig et al., 1999, p. 124). Subsequent investigations found that the school district had been able, through accounting techniques, to obscure hiring in excess of what 4 The newly elected school board became involved in what professional educators would see as micromanaging or even meddling in administrative affairs, such as calling on principals to reassign teachers or to accept a particular student transfer (Henig, 2004).

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38 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS the city council and Congress had authorized (Horwitz and Strauss, 1997, as cited in Henig et al., 1999, p. 124).5 Between the beginning of home rule in 1974 and the early 1990s, Con- gress had lessened its oversight over District government and the schools. An in-depth study of DCPS cites two reasons for this benign neglect: (1) more sympathetic members now served on the committees with over- sight authority for the District, and (2) members of Congress were wary of a situation in which white officials imposed their priorities on black citizens who had had no voice in electing them (Henig et al., 1999, p. 254). However, when the Republicans gained a majority in Congress after the 1994 midterm elections, the relationship between the District and Congress changed again. Congressional Republicans saw an opportunity to test some of their ideas for privatizing the management and delivery of public education. The District’s financial collapse, though it was not primarily an education is- sue, gave them a rationale because members could argue that Congress was acting responsibly in reasserting its fiscal authority. In 1995, Congress passed legislation establishing a presidentially appointed Control Board and a chief financial officer appointed by the mayor.6 The chief financial officer continues to exercise supervisory authority over DCPS’ budget, accounting, and pay- roll. Consequently, debate persists over whether this arrangement addresses the District’s chronic problems of fiscal mismanagement or fragments DCPS’ administration in a way that obscures accountability and enables “inter- agency finger-pointing” (Turque, 2010, para. 1). In 1995, Congress also cre- ated the DC Public Charter School Board, with authority to approve charter schools that operate independently of DCPS. Early in its tenure, the Control Board issued a report whose assessment of DCPS sounded eerily like others issued over the past 30 years (District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, 1996, para. 1): The deplorable record of the District’s public schools by every important educational and management measure has left one of the city’s most im- portant public responsibilities in a state of crisis, creating an emergency which can no longer be ignored or excused. . . . In virtually every area, and 5 Because DCPS lacked (and still lacks) independent taxing authority, the absence of a direct connection between revenue and expenditures created an opportunity for blame-shifting and gaming between the school board and the city council. The board could argue that the city council had provided insufficient funds, and the city council could argue that DCPS was misusing funds, with the result that neither institution was truly accountable to the public. 6 The Control Board (officially, the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Man- agement Assistance Authority) was a five-member body established by Congress to oversee the city’s finances. The board had the power to override decisions by Washington’s mayor and city council. It suspended its activities on September 30, 2001, when the District achieved its fourth consecutive balanced budget.

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39 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT for every grade level, the system has failed to provide our children with a quality education and safe environment in which to learn. . . . This failure is the result not of the students—for all students can succeed—but of the educationally and managerially bankrupt school system. The Control Board found, for example, that neither the school board nor the superintendent knew precisely the number of employees and stu- dents in the system: the available data suggested that DCPS employed about 50 percent fewer teachers for every central office administrator than other urban districts (Vise and Horwitz, 1996). The Control Board also documented student test scores that were well below national averages, a widening achievement gap, unsafe and violent learning environments, and other examples of operational and financial mismanagement. Using the authority vested in it by Congress, the Control Board took charge of DCPS. It transferred most of the responsibilities of the elected school board to a new board of trustees whose members it appointed; it was authorized to oversee DCPS until June 2000. The Control Board also replaced the superintendent.7 Once again, tensions between local political focus as well as managerial effectiveness were evident, and at least part of the reason lay in the District’s unique jurisdictional relationship with Congress. WEAK CENTRAL OFFICE LEADERSHIP AND CAPACITY Although it is not possible to empirically demonstrate causality, the racial history of DCPS and its changing governance models at least partly explain a major characteristic of the system’s evolution, the limited admin- istrative capacity of the central district office. In the 10 years prior to the establishment of mayoral control under PERAA in 2007, DCPS had had six superintendents, but the tensions among members of the DCPS gov- erning board members and between them and superintendents extended back to the 1960s. For most of its history, DCPS has lacked stable leader- ship. Without stable leadership, efforts to build central office capacity and to introduce cost efficiencies were sporadic and almost impossible to implement. As just one example, Education Week reported in 1991 that in an effort to reduce the size of the central office staff and to make it more efficient, a new superintendent had reassigned four assistant superintendents and 14 other noninstructional personnel to provide direct services to students, primarily as principals and assistant principals. However, some 4 months 7 Theboard hired a retired lieutenant general with no education experience as his replace- ment; he resigned after only 17 months, citing differences with the board.

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40 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS later, only 1 of the 19 had shown up at her new post; the rest had placed themselves on paid sick leave. This unsuccessful move to streamline the central bureaucracy came 2 years after a 1989 study of DCPS found that the district was spending more than a third of its budget on noninstructional services (Olson, 1991). Systematic initiatives aimed at improving student learning were few and were rarely fully implemented, largely because of the lack of central office direction and support. For example, a 1992 external review of DCPS by the American Association of School Administrators National Curriculum Audit Center (as cited in Henig et al., 1999, p. 69) concluded that DCPS’ curriculum policies were “obsolete and incomplete,” with few schools in compliance. Auditors found that DCPS had no system- atic mechanisms for selecting, implementing, or evaluating ongoing pro- grams. They concluded that special projects were ad hoc, and “the result of site-based entrepreneurship rather than part of a district thrust.” The same report also criticized DCPS’ poor accounting procedures, which made it difficult to track millions of dollars in expenditures and allowed “payroll ghosts” to draw salaries without any apparent responsibilities. More broadly, most of the DCPS’s superintendents had neither the time nor the political resources necessary to change teaching and learning according to their convictions (Henig, 2004). For more than two decades, no superintendent was able to design and implement a comprehensive plan to teach reading and mathematics, leaving individual teachers to teach these subjects in whatever way they knew (Witt, 2007). Clifford Janey, the last superintendent to serve prior to PERAA, was able to get the Massachusetts academic standards, considered the most rigorous in the country, adopted in DCPS and to implement an assessment measuring students’ achievement on those standards. However, Hannaway and Usdan (2008, p. 120) conclude that “facilities and financial problems plagued Janey’s tenure, and he never seemed to get control of the district apparatus. Observers noted that the large entrenched district administrative office dragged efforts down as they report- edly had in previous administrations.” The unraveling of central oversight over the curriculum was just one example of a rudderless system. DCPS was not able to consistently keep school facilities safe and in good repair, and it had failed to invest in updated technology. Consequently, its data systems were antiquated and not integrated with each other. Of particular concern was the condition of special education. In 2005, 20 percent of DCPS students were enrolled in special education.8 In com- parison with other jurisdictions, DC identifies significantly more students as having emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, and mental retardation, and is much more likely to educate them in segregated public and private 8 Nationwide,13 percent of public school students received special education services in 2007-2008 (Aud et al., 2010).

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41 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT placements (about 25 percent in DC compared with 5 percent nationally). About a third of those students were attending private schools or public schools in other districts at DCPS expense. About 10 percent of DCPS’ entire budget is earmarked for private school tuition. There are a number of reasons for the disproportionate number of out-of-district placements (see Parrish et al., 2007), but most observers agree that two central ones have historically been DCPS’ inability to offer adequate programs for students with disabilities, and parents’ distrust of the district’s ability to provide appropriate services for their children (Samuels, 2005). RESPONSES TO THE SYSTEM’S PROBLEMS DCPS’ overall lack of capacity did not go unnoticed. Individuals and groups concerned about the district’s problems offered a variety of solu- tions, including attempts to achieve a more equal distribution of resources to schools, filing of lawsuits, and efforts to elect or appoint members to the school board who would focus on DCPS as a whole and seek to implement reforms that reached into the classroom. However, by the late 1990s, as the Control Board era was coming to a close, a number of reformers concluded that the problems of DCPS went considerably beyond feuding school board members and superintendents, that they were structural in nature. They concluded that the solution needed to be an institutional one that changed the way DCPS was governed. This perspective was represented in a 1999 report of the DC Appleseed Center, a nonpartisan public interest advocacy group. It proposed a hybrid model for the school board. The board would be reduced from 11 to 9 members, and if there continued to be elections, candidates would run in two stages: a primary conducted in each ward or other large subunit, followed by a citywide runoff election between the two top vote-getters in each ward or subunit. The report also raised the possibility of mayoral appointments made from a list of nominees provided by a broad-based commission, with the appointments then subject to city council approval. In addition to recommending altering the method for selecting board mem- bers, the Appleseed report also recommended that the division of labor between the board and the superintendent be clearly specified. The report recommended that the board articulate broad goals and objectives, ensure that the superintendent shares them, and then set benchmarks with which to monitor the superintendent’s progress. Although the Appleseed report was not widely known to the public, major stakeholders were aware of it, and it became the basis for a proposal that represented a compromise among the mayor, city council, and Con-

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42 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS trol Board.9 A citywide referendum, in June 2000, represented a middle approach: to reduce the size of the school board from 11 to 9 members, 4 of whom would be appointed by the mayor. The referendum passed by a margin of only 843 votes (just 2 percent of the 40,179 cast), and the voting patterns revealed sharp racial cleavages. Precincts with more than 50 percent white residents supported the referendum at rates two-and-a- half times greater than predominantly black precincts (Henig, 2004). In his analysis of the 2000 referendum, Henig (2004) noted that those supporting the referendum, including leaders of the local business com- munity, believed that structural changes, such as eliminating ward-based elections, would make the system less fragmented and allow it to develop greater capacity to focus on classroom instruction. But an alternative frame of reference shaped the perceptions of grassroots activists who opposed the referendum. This frame, according to Henig (2004, p. 204): put race and power, not organizational structure, front and center. The public education system had a special role in this narrative, but less as an institution for educating children than as an historically significant plat- form for democratic control, political clout, jobs, and social status within the local Black community. Thus, the basic themes of this broad frame were not specific to the schools. From the standpoint of citizens inclined to credit this narrative, the battle over the school board structure was just the latest installment in a long-running tale. However, as in more recent elections, issues of class and status as well as race shaped the electoral outcome. Elite support for the referendum was biracial, and among its supporters was the black mayor, Anthony Williams. However, after the election, he acknowledged that the vote highlighted the District’s racial cleavages and had put him at odds with the majority of the black community (Cottman and Woodless, 2000). THE ENACTMENT OF PERAA When Mayor Adrian Fenty, a former member of the city council, was elected in 2007, he put forward the plan that was eventually enacted by the council as PERAA. Fenty had made improving the public schools a primary 9 The move to change the board structure gained momentum because of the impending changeover from the Control Board, but also partly because of the very public bickering among board members that included public insults and a move to replace the sitting board president, who then threatened to take her opponents to court (Wilgoren, 1999). Problems within DCPS became even more evident when the superintendent who had replaced the lieutenant general resigned after less than 2 years and, in leaving, criticized the many layers of oversight from the Control Board, Congress, and the city council, which had limited her ability to keep the system running smoothly (see Richard, 2000).

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43 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT focus of his campaign, and he proposed the dramatic restructuring of school governance as the way to accomplish this goal. The ultimate provisions of the act were negotiated with the city council, which approved mayoral control in a 9-to-2 vote (Stewart and Labbé, 2007). Among the modifica- tions made at the council’s request was that it would have the power to withdraw the mayor’s powers over public education if the mayor did not show “sufficient progress in education” within 5 years. Passed by the Council of the District and then ratified by Congress, the Public Education Reform Amendment Act: • established a Department of Education, led by a deputy mayor for education; • redesigned the State Education Office, converting the position of chief state schools officer to state superintendent of education; • converted the position of DC school superintendent to DC chancel- lor, now appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the city council, and granted the chancellor responsibility for the overall operations of the public school system; • tasked the new Department of Education with various planning, promotion, coordination, and supervision duties, along with over- sight of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization; • established the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education to provide parents and residents an entity to which they could express their concerns; • created the Interagency Collaboration and Services Integration Commission to coordinate the services of all agencies that serve children and youth; • significantly altered the duties and authority of the former Board of Education, which was renamed the State Board of Education, and removed it from the local, day-to-day operation of the school system; • authorized the Public Charter School Board as the sole chartering and entity in the District of Columbia; and • mandated a 5-year independent evaluation to determine, among other things, whether sufficient progress in public education has been achieved to warrant continuation of the provisions and requirements of PERAA or whether a new law and a new system of education should be enacted. We turn in Chapter 4 to an examination of the city’s responses to this legislation.

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44 EVALUATING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS REFERENCES American Association of School Administrators National Curriculum Audit Center. (1992). A Curriculum Audit of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Arlington, VA: Author. Archer, J. (2003). D.C. program promises principals freedom. Education Week, 22. Available: http://www.nlns.org/resources/EW2.12.03.pdf [accessed March 2011]. Aud, S., Hussar, W., and Planty, M. (2010). The Condition of Education 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Cottman, M.H., and Woodless, Y. (2000). Mayor sees racial divide in vote; through not claim- ing victory, Williams vows inclusiveness in revamping schools. Washington Post, June 29. Available: http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/inacademic/delivery [accessed December 2010]. Diner, S.J. (1990). Crisis of confidence: Public confidence in the schools of the nation’s capital in the twentieth century. Urban Education, 25(2), 112-137. District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority. (1996). Children in Crisis: Executive Summary. Washington, DC: Author. Hannaway, J., and Usdan, M.D. (2008). Mayoral takeover in the District of Columbia. In W.L. Boyd, C.T. Kerchner, and M. Blyth (Eds.), The Transformation of Great American School Districts: How Big Cities Are Reshaping Public Education (pp. 113-188). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Harris, C.W. (1995). Congress and the Governance of the Nation’s Capital: The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. Hart, E. (2000). History of the Charter School Movement. Available: http://www.dcwatch. com/lwvdc/lwv0003c.htm [accessed October 2010]. Henig, J.R. (2004). Race, definition, and school board restructuring. In J.R. Henig and W.C. Rich (Eds.), Mayors in the Middle (pp. 191-218). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Henig, J.R., Hula, R.C., Orr, M., and Pedescleaux, D.S. (1999). The Color of School Reform: Race, Politics, and the Challenge of Urban Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer- sity Press. Hobson v. Hansen, 269 F. Supp. 401, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (1967). Horwitz, S., and Strauss, V. (1997). A well-financed failure: Systems protect jobs while short- changing classrooms. Washington Post, Feb. 16, A1. Hundley, M.G. (1967). The Dunbar Story. New York: Vantage Press. Levy, M. (2004). History of Public School Governance in the District of Columbia: A Brief Summary. Available: http://www.dcpswatch.com/dcps/0401.htm [accessed March 2011]. Loeb, V., and Casey, W. (1997). Work force a family affair for many. Washington Post, Feb. 17, App. B. Olson, L. (1991). Effort to cut back DC’s bureaucracy proves nettlesome. Education Week, Nov. 20. Available: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1991/11/20/12dc.h11.html [accessed March 2011]. Parrish, T., Harr, J.J., Poirier, J.M., Madsen, S., and Yonker, S. (2007). Special Education Financing Study for the District of Columbia. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Richard, A. (2000). Governance changes sought for D.C. schools. Education Week, May 31. Richards, M.D. (2000). Timeline of Public School Governance in the District of Columbia. Available: http://www.dcwatch.com/richards/0002.htm [accessed March 2011]. Risen, C. (2008). The lightning rod. The Atlantic, 302(4), 78-87. Samuels, C.A. (2005). Special education a chronic challenge for D.C. schools. Education Week, May 11.

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45 THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND THE REFORM ACT Stewart, N., and Labbé, T. (2007). D.C. schools takeover gets initial approval. Washington Post, April 4. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/03/ AR2007040301116.html [accessed December 2010]. Stricherz, M. (2001). D.C. principals’ training designed to boost instructional leadership. Education Week, September 12. Turque, B. (2010). D.C. teachers contract paid for through budget cuts, reallocation of funding, Washington Post, May 11. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ content/article/2010/05/10/AR2010051004611.html [accessed December 2010]. Vise, D.A., and Horwitz, S. (1996). D.C. schools called a failure, control board blasts system as it readies takeover plan. Washington Post, Nov. 13. Wilgoren, D. (1999). For bitterly divided D.C. school board, no business as usual. Washington Post, July 27. Witt, A. (2007). Worn down by waves of change. Washington Post, June 11. Available: http:// www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/10/AR2007061001496.html [accessed December 2010].

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