November 28, 2023
D.C. Council’s Committee of the Whole Hearing:
Teacher and Principal Retention in the District
Education Reform Now DC
Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson, members, and staff of the Committee of the Whole; my name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC), a non-partisan, non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all DC students. I am pleased to testify at the Committee of the Whole’s teacher and principal retention hearing.
ERN DC believes D.C. should recruit, prepare, and retain highly effective educators, particularly educators of color, within their chosen fields; ensure robust compensation and fair evaluation; adopt culturally responsive standards and instructional materials, and provide incentives for educators to teach in schools serving historically underserved students.
During this hearing, I will focus on how D.C. can grow the number of highly effective teachers and principals who 1.) support all elementary school educators to teach structured literacy and 2.) develop strategies to recruit, support, and diversify the pool of instructors qualified to teach dual enrollment/early college.
Support All Elementary School Educators to Teach Structured Literacy.
Reading is a fundamental skill that all students need to succeed in school, life, and career, and it’s vital that all educators feel confident in their ability to teach reading. Our deepest desire is for every child to read on grade level by third grade regardless of where in the city they live and what school they attend. That is not currently the case; schools in the District of Columbia are facing a reading crisis. In 2022, 73 percent of students scored below proficient levels on the NAEP (also known as the Nation’s Report Card), up from 69 percent in 2019. 1 Black and Hispanic students scored an average of 69 and 60 points, respectively, lower than White students. 2 This gap has remained statistically the same since 1998. 3
For the past three years, ERN DC has advocated for a citywide literacy intervention based on the science of reading — a decades-long, interdisciplinary, and proven body of knowledge that provides a deeper understanding of how individuals learn to read. This body of research informs the best approach for teaching basic reading skills: structured literacy. Structured literacy helps all students, including children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, read and write. Structured literacy emphasizes highly explicit and systematic teaching of all essential components of literacy. 4 These components include both foundational skills (e.g., decoding, spelling) and higher-level literacy skills (e.g., reading comprehension, written expression). 5 Structured literacy also emphasizes oral language abilities essential to literacy development, including phonemic awareness. 6
Thankfully, the D.C. Council (led by Chairman Mendelson and Brooke Pinto) passed into law the Structured Literacy Action Plan Amendment Act of 2022, which funds 45 hours of structured literacy training for specific K-5 DCPS teachers over two years, provides a $2,000 stipend for those who complete the training, and a task force to study expanding the training to all elementary school educators. Over the last several months, the Early Literacy Taskforce met and, in October, released their report 7 ,which we were excited to see. Namely, we commend the Taskforce for including the following recommendations:
● Special education and English Learner teachers are prioritized in the early implementation phases.
● Communication toolkits about their students’ early reading skills will be created for families.
● Educators will need to demonstrate competency.
But as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. To implement the Taskforce’s recommendations with fidelity, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will need funding to allow for increased structured literacy training opportunities, the creation of a structured literacy coaching pilot program, a new contract for the review of high-quality instructional materials, and data collection and analysis to ensure implementation. Tomorrow, we urge the D.C. Council to ask the OSSE for a progress update on implementing these recommendations and an estimate of how much this will cost. These recommendations must be fully funded in Fiscal Year 2025. We’d also like to hear more about the strategy of OSSE and LEAs to support educators in teaching Math and supporting students with disabilities.
Develop strategies to recruit, support, and diversify the pool of instructors qualified to teach Dual Enrollment/Early College.
Only eight out of 100 9th-grade cohort students will complete postsecondary education within six years of graduating high school, down from 14 pre-pandemic. 8 There are many reasons for this crisis, 9 including the fact that very few students participate in dual enrollment 10 and early college opportunities. 11 Dual enrollment –college course enrollment during high school – leads to greater two-year and four-year college enrollment, degree attainment, and earnings six years after high school, with stronger effects for traditionally underrepresented students. 12 Students in early college programs during high school are more likely than their peers to go on to college and earn a degree. Within six years after expected high school graduation, early college students were significantly more likely than control students to enroll in a four-year college (84% vs. 77%) and to enroll in two-year colleges (66% vs. 47%). 13 Only 1,100, or 9%, of public high school students in D.C., accessed publicly funded, fee-free dual enrollment programs in the 2022-2023 school year.
To prepare our students for success in life, college, and career, D.C. must scale up its dual enrollment and early college opportunities. This means establishing additional early college partnerships and ensuring dual enrollment is free, easily accessible, and a core part of a student’s sophomore through senior year by providing in-person, cohort-based dual enrollment courses at local education agencies so students can earn a regular high school diploma at the same time they earn no less than 12 transferable, free college credits. Programs should cover books, curriculum development and materials, faculty training, ongoing support, and support for credit transfers. There are several positive examples in D.C.14
To do this, D.C. will need to develop strategies to recruit, support, and diversify the pool of instructors with the qualifications to teach Dual Enrollment/Early College. There are two strategies that we urge swift action to (1) encourage and financially incentivize institutions of higher education to select and train instructors for high school cohort classes and (2) identify high school instructors with credentials to teach college to offer dual credit courses. Either strategy will increase the ease of access for students to take college courses while creating career pipelines and supporting retention for high school teachers. Tomorrow, we request that the D.C. Council ask OSSE and/or LEAs how they plan to develop strategies to recruit, support, and diversify the pool of instructors with the qualifications to teach Dual Enrollment/Early College. Relatedly, it would be helpful for OSSE to have teacher retention data broken out by this category.
Finally, the D.C. Council has passed a number of positive budget support subtitles over the last several years aimed at addressing our teacher and principal retention challenges. We urge the D.C. Council to ask for an update on those measures.
1. (Committee of the Whole – UDC) Early Childhood Higher Education Incentive Amendment Act 2018: This subtitle makes technical amendments to the Higher Education Incentive Program to clarify allowable costs and reporting requirements. The program is operated by the University of the District of Columbia and aims to increase the number of early education teachers teaching in the District by offering tuition assistance to students. 15
2. (Committee of the Whole – OSSE) Teacher Preparation Amendment Act of 2021: This subtitle establishes a competitive grant program through OSSE to develop and grow teachers from within the District of Columbia in a “grow your own” model. 16
3. (Committee of the Whole – UDC) University of the District of Columbia IT and Nursing Education Enhancement Amendment Act of 2022: The subtitle allows the Workforce Investment Council (WIC) to include in its annual memorandum of understanding funding for UDC to hire faculty who teach classes in nursing or related health fields and funding for the UDC Community College (UDC-CC) to hire faculty who teach classes in information technology, cybersecurity, and computer science.17
4. (Committee of the Whole – OSSE) Structured Literacy Action Plan Amendment Act of 2022: This subtitle funds 45 hours of structured literacy training for specific K-5 DCPS teachers over a two-year period, a $2,000 stipend for those who complete the training, and a task force to study expanding the training to all elementary school educators.18
5. (Committee of the Whole – OSSE) Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund Amendment Act of 2022: This subtitle establishes a framework for how funds in the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund will be spent to improve early childhood educator compensation parity with elementary school teachers employed by District of Columbia Public Schools. 19
6. (Committee on Housing – DC Department of Housing and Community Development) The D.C. Council passed a budget support act subtitle in Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act of 2021, which included educators in the District’s Employer-Assisted Housing first responders grant program so they can be provided financial support to purchase a home in Washington, D.C.20
7. (Committee of the Whole – OSSE) Public Charter School Teacher Compensation Amendment Act of 2023: The subtitle allows OSSE to issue grants to public charter schools for the provision of direct compensation payments to teachers employed by schools after September 30, 2023, for teaching services, recruitment, and retention.21
8. (Committee of the Whole – DPS) DCPS Educator Exit Survey Report Amendment Act of 2023: The subtitle requires the DCPS Chancellor to publish an Educator Exit Survey Report annually that includes specific demographic and contextual information on educators who left the employ of their school or the employ of DCPS.22
9. (Committee of the Whole – OSSE) Flexible Schedule Amendment Act of 2023:This subtitle directs OSSE to create a flexible school day pilot program for the DCPS and Public Charter School teachers.23
Thank you for holding this hearing. I am available for any questions you may have.
1 October 24, 2022. NAEP. 2022 Reading State Snapshot Report. Accessed: October 26, 2023. Source:
4 June 2019. Here’s Why Schools Should Use Structured Literacy. Accessed: October 26, 2023. Source: https://dyslexiaida.org/heres-why-schools-should-use-structured-literacy/#:~:text=What%20Is%20Structured%20Literacy%3F,reading%20comprehension%2C%20written%20expression.
7 Early Literacy Education Task Force Report. Source: https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/page_content/attachments/Early%20Literacy%20Task%20Force%20Report.pdf
8 Coffin, Chelsea and Julie Rubin. State of D.C. Schools, 14 2021-22. D.C. Policy Center, 15 March 2023, http://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/schools-21-22/.
9 Education Reform Now D.C. D.C.’s Quiet Crisis in College Access & Completion 1 November 2023, https://edreformnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/ERN- DC_QuietCrisisPostSecondaryReport_NOV2023.pdf
10 A “dual enrollment program” involves a partnership between at least one institution of higher education and at least one local educational agency through which a sec- ondary school student who has not graduated from high school is able to enroll in one or more postsecondary courses and earn postsecondary credit. It is transferable to the institutions of higher education in the partnership and applies toward completion of a degree. SOURCE: College in High School Alliance. “College in High School Programs Glossary.” collegeinhighschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/CollegeinHighSchoolPrograms- Glossary.pdf. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.
11 An “early college high school” involves a partnership between at least one local educational agency and at least one institution of higher education. It allows participants to simultaneously complete requirements toward earning a regular high school diploma and earn not fewer than 12 credits that are transferable to the institutions of higher education in the partnership, as part of an organized course of study toward a postsecondary degree or credential at no cost to the student participant or their family. SOURCE: College in High School Alliance. “College in High School Programs Glossary.”
12 College in High School Alliance. “Evidence of Success.” collegeinhighschool.org/what-we-do/evidence-of-success/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.
14 Ibid. D.C.’s Quiet Crisis in College Access & Completion
15 Fiscal Impact Statement – “Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Support Act of 2018 Source: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5bbd09f3d74562c7f0e4bb10/t/5bce28d18165f51ecbfa2197/1540237522037/FINAL+FIS+-+Bill+22753+Fiscal+Year+2019+Budget+Support+Act+of+2018.pdf
16 Fiscal Impact Statement – “Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act of 2021 Source:
17 Fiscal Impact Statement – “Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Support Act of 2022 Source: