Education Forward DC is on track to meet our five-year goal to double the number of underserved students who are college and career ready, but we are always thinking about how to better improve quality and equity for the city’s students. We are excited to announce our School Quality and Equity Strategy, a set of grants that complement the overall work of our Schools grant making by funding collaboration, school models, and support organizations that can demonstrate what is possible in schools and the systems that impact them in three priority areas: special education, school-based mental health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The strategy is designed to support innovative and visionary leaders to tackle solutions to challenges around these three priority areas and provide examples of excellence for schools and system leaders to learn from and build upon.
We decided to focus on special education, school-based mental health, and DEI based on feedback from school leaders and other stakeholders across the city and the significant potential impact for students we believe we can have by focusing on these three priority areas in an integrated, coordinated way.
- Special Education: Although DC has come a long way and there are promising bright spots and practices across the city, we need a clearer vision for educational excellence for students who receive special education services. With approximately 15% of students attending public schools in DC receiving special education services, and fewer than 10% of these students demonstrating college and career readiness on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), we need to do better. We believe all students will benefit from more individualized approaches, creating a larger impact on citywide outcomes.
- School-Based Mental Health: We know that mental health and trauma have a significant impact on student learning. Half of DC students have experienced a traumatic event, and nearly a quarter have experienced more than one. Student and parent members of our grantees the Black Swan Academy and Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) have identified mental health and trauma as a priority in their advocacy and engagement work. However, there are limited models for how schools can address this need in a productive way that is integrated into, rather than tacked on to, the school day. Supporting preventative strategies that can address mental health and trauma for students will have a significant impact on their learning and life outcomes, and improve sustainability and mental health for educators, too.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): Structural racism undermines and constrains school improvement efforts, yet there are few resources and policies to address this issue. We cannot create significantly improved outcomes for the most underserved students in DC without addressing the fundamental inequities in our education system.
Empowering educators and other community stakeholders to tackle some of these core issues will ensure we contribute to truly disrupting educational inequity in DC. Our most recent grantees in support of our School Quality and Equity Strategy include SchoolTalk, Relay Graduate of Education, MedStar Georgetown Center for Wellbeing in School Environments (WISE), and Transcend. We will continue to share news about the work within our School Quality and Equity Strategy as it progresses and invite leaders across the city to work with us on this strategy and help us identify and grow promising practices that will change outcomes for underserved students across the city. If you would like to learn more about our School Quality and Equity Strategy, or connect on work you’re doing in this area, please contact Shalini Shybut, Principal on our Schools and Human Capital grant making team, at email@example.com.