Testimony on Education Agencies’ Performance

March 1, 2023 ERN DC Testimony

Jessica Giles
Executive Director
Education Reform Now D.C.

Committee of the Whole Performance Oversight Hearing:

  • District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Office of the State Superintendent of Education
  • Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education
  • District of Columbia Public Charter School Board
  • State Board of Education
  • Office of the Student Advocate
  • Ombudsman for Education

Good morning 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 D.C. (ERN D.C.). ERN D.C. is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in Washington, D.C.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a student in the District of Columbia. Are students safe? Can they get to and from school quickly and efficiently? Is school a place where they want to be? Are they respected? Is their classwork rigorous, inspire curiosity, and prepare them for the next step in their academic journey? Do they have the supports needed to persist to college and career? If we asked students these questions, what type of answers might we get? And would their answers differ by student group?


Our Vision: All students reading at grade level by third grade regardless of where in the city they live, what school they attend, and their ability or language-learning status.


4th grade reading: The percentage of students in District of Columbia who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 26 percent in 2022. This percentage was smaller than that in 2019 (30 percent) and was greater than that in 1998 (10 percent). Black and Hispanic students are 69 and 60 points lower than white students, respectively.

8th grade reading: The percentage of students in District of Columbia who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 22 percent in 2022. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2019 (23 percent) and was greater than that in 1998 (11 percent).

Recommendation: Require all elementary educators to receive free & accessible structured literacy training with incentives to strengthen how educators teach reading.

Addressing Dyslexia and Other Reading Difficulties Amendment Act of 2020

  • LEAs will need ongoing support to implement the law.
  • OSSE must ensure training, tools, and guidance are appropriate for English Learner (EL) students.

FY2023 Budget Support Act Subtitle: “Structured Literacy Training Action Plan”

  • Train educators to become reading coaches and pay them for their expertise.
  • The District must work with local universities to offer free Masters’s degrees in Reading and Special Education aligned with the Science of Reading.
  • OSSE/LEAs must ensure all parents and guardians receive and understand all of their children’s assessment results in a timely fashion so they are equipped to support their learners. These assessments include but are not limited to PARCC (statewide annual assessment), DIBELS (reading skills exam), MAP, and iReady.
  • LEAs must provide citywide training so that families can better understand their student’s assessment data, co-create an action plan to support students’ growth, and can hold their educators and schools accountable. This training should also provide guidance and/or turnkey materials to LEAs so they can provide training, supports, and discussions about the next steps at the school level.
  • Parents and guardians have a right to ask for a free evaluation or assessment of their children’s reading ability. OSSE must make information about how to access the assessment process available online.
  • OSSE must publish on its website a calendar for implementation so the public can understand what the District is doing at every step in the process and be aware of opportunities to engage.
  • OSSE must ensure the newly created Early Literacy Education Task Force (“Taskforce”) is transparent by publicizing on its website the members of the taskforce as well as the literacy education report.

Conclusion: Reading proficiency in Mississippi has increased 16 points since 2016 due to this intervention. Students in the District of Columbia do not have years to learn how to read well. OSSE must move quickly to get all stakeholders the necessary tools to implement this intervention well.


Our Vision: Every student graduates from high school and receives a high-quality, affordable college education and the work-based experience and credentials necessary to immediately earn a livable wage.


Graduation: 75% of students graduated from high school within four years. 58% of students with disabilities, 54% of ELL, 63% of students designated as At-Risk.

College Enrollment: 51% of students enroll into a two or four-year college. 35% of students with disabilities, 33% of ELL, 35% of students designated as At-Risk.

College Completion: 18 out of 100 9th grade students in SY 2011-12 completed an associates or bachelors degree by 2022. OSSE has not disaggregated this information.

Recommendation: Improve college access & completion by deepening and expanding dual enrollment opportunities for students furthest from opportunity.

Dual enrollment has a significant effect on 2-year and 4-year college enrollment, degree attainment, and early labor market earnings 6 years after high school, with stronger effects for students who are traditionally underrepresented. In 2022, the College in High School Alliance, in partnership with the Deputy Mayor for Education, completed an assessment of the dual enrollment opportunities in the District of Columbia, and several areas were identified where there could be improvement.

  • Create a District-wide vision for dual enrollment;
  • Engage in a process to understand DC student & parent perspectives on dual
  • Develop a comprehensive dual enrollment ecosystem map for DC;
  • Continue to build DC dual enrollment data availability & tools for use, including in
    accountability systems;
  • Consider alternative program models and state and federal funding mechanisms for dual enrollment;
  • Expand dual enrollment course options and dual crediting of class experiences;
  • Provide tools and resources to school counselors & other dual enrollment
    practitioners; and
  • Develop a student, parent, and caregiver friendly web portal for DC dual

Conclusion: There is a role for all of our agencies (Deputy Mayor for Education, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and DC State Board of Education) to play in ensuring that the District operate a first-class public education system that not only prepares students for college, but makes earning an affordable college degree a reality.


Our Vision: Every student receives targeted resources that prioritize their social-emotional well-being to ensure they have ample opportunities to learn.

Reality: Through a number of measures, both quantitative and qualitative, we know that our students are experiencing higher levels of trauma. For example: the growing number of our youth who’ve been shot, killed, or arrested for violence is unacceptable.

Recommendation: Faithfully implement & fully invest in school-based behavioral health, Out of School Time, safe passage, and restorative justice.

  • Attract highly skilled clinicians to fill the gaps in schools without behavioral health (SBBH) clinician on staff.
  • Add more Out of School Time (OST) seats by expanding Learn24 grants to OST providers and permanently covering the cost of security funding.
  • Survey students, families, and educators on ways to improve the District’s safe passage efforts, and implement changes that work.
  • Invest in restorative justice programming.

Conclusion: Our agencies must ensure that the programs we have in place work so that we can strengthen students’ wellbeing and ultimately improve public safety efforts in the District.

Thank you for allowing me to testify.