Last month, Education Forward DC brought together policymakers, education advocates, and students to dive into the latest data and hear from school leaders to better understand how students are doing academically following more than two years of disrupted learning at its second Better Than Before event.
While DC was making strong progress to serve students better academically prior to COVID, significantly fewer DC students are on track for college and career since they returned to school according to the latest PARCC data presented by Ed Forward DC Partner Shalini Shybut. Only about a third of students were proficient in English Language Arts and a fifth were proficient in Math. These percentages were even lower when looking at students considered at risk of academic failure.
DC was not alone, nor are state assessments the only metrics to look to for how students are doing. Other cities including Denver, New Orleans, and Chicago also experienced declines in state assessments. And while the trend is troubling, there is hope in other data, such as EmpowerK12’s Unfinished Learning brief which found that students’ growth rates in key grades and subjects had returned to pre-pandemic levels this past spring as students returned to the classroom. Additionally, student well-being index scores also significantly improved. All point to the importance of in-person learning and the progress made before the pandemic in better serving students academically.
Beyond the data, leaders from Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School, DC Bilingual Public Charter School, DC Public Schools, and Transcend joined State Board of Education President Jessica Sutter for a panel discussion to evaluate the data from an educator perspective, share what they see in their schools, and how we can build a path forward.
“I was very glad we looked at trends in the data prior to the pandemic,” said Corie Colgan, Chief of Teaching and Learning at DC Public Schools. “While the data was very discouraging. I really like to concentrate on the progress we were making prior because what it tells me is that we know there are many things we know how to do well…We need to continue to double down on those things while at the same time opening our minds to ‘Okay, what could be new and different?”
“How can we do this better while not letting go of things that were working?”
– Corie Colgan, Chief of Teaching & Learning, DC Public Schools
Many of the leaders pointed to a need to support students’ non-academic needs so they are in school and ready to learn. It’s a priority for Thurgood Marshall Academy Executive Director Raymond Weeden. He believes that that the data on student wellness is encouraging, and the academic progress will continue to fall into place.
When students enter his building “they are going to get a smile, a corny joke from me…they are going to get food and we take those things for granted but being able to come into the building just to like to get settled allows us to get into a space where we can learn.”
“There is a lot more to educating our children than seeing how they do on a standardized test.”
– Daniela Anello, Head of School, DC Bilingual PCS
And other leaders agreed.
“The whole child approach to education is really what’s been at the forefront of all of our thinking, in particular at DC Bilingual,” said Daniela Anello, head of school. Our kids showing up to school, are they able to learn, are they emotionally well, are they able to have all their basic needs met to pay attention to other academic aspects of education, do they feel safe, do they feel comfortable?”
Hanah Nguyen from Transcend agreed about the need to support the “whole child”, expounding further that educator and family wellness are an integral part of supporting student achievement.
“You cannot have a whole child without having a whole teacher. Within the whole child model, we’re looking at three big pillars. The first being family circle and understanding respecting that the family is a child’s first teacher having that respect there,” said Nguyen.
Ed Forward DC appreciates our moderator and panelists for joining us for this event and all the participants who joined the discussion in this important series. Keep an eye out for the next event in the Better Than Before series in 2023.