Last Monday evening Education Forward DC held a conference at the newly renovated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library entitled “Better Than Before: Building Exceptional Schools Through DC’s Covid Recovery.” There was some extremely interesting information provided at the session, especially by Shalini Shybut, Education Forward’s Partner, Schools and Talent. But the fundamental reason that this meeting was so great is that following the remarks there was a reception that brought attendees back to a time before the terrible pandemic changed our lives.
Prior to the refreshments there was data. Ms. Shybut opined that the 2022 PARCC results are sobering. She showed charts demonstrating that the overall student proficiency rates for English Language Arts, meaning those who score at least a four on the standardized exam, are down to 31 percent for this year, a level we have not seen since 2016. The overall proficiency rate in math is at 19 percent, a number that is lower than we have ever seen in this city since administering the currently utilized standardized examination. When looking into the ELA numbers, Ms. Shybut revealed that a staggering 48 percent of students posted scores in levels one and two, meaning that just about half of our pupils are not able to read.
It was this depressing news that previewed a panel discussion moderated by Jessica Sutter, the current president and Ward 6 representative to the State Board of Education. Participants included Corinne (Corie) Colgan, chief of teaching and learning at DCPS; Hanah Nguyen, school design partner for Transcend; Raymond Weeden, executive director Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS; and Daniela Anello, head of school DC Bilingual PCS. This is when the mood of the room turned around. Strange as it may sound, the discussion was actually uplifting. The star of the show, as is the case anytime you are in her presence, was Ms. Anello, who received practically a standing ovation from the crowd when she announced that the 2022 PARCC scores at her school were the highest they have ever recorded. She attributed the achievement to her staff’s determined focus on the whole child, a theme that united the efforts of all of the educators on the stage. Also impressive was Ms. Colgan from the traditional school system, who is following a strategy similar in scope to what Ms. Anello described. I think that students in D.C. are in exceptionally good hands. I must also compliment Ms. Sutter in her ability to summarize the major discussion points at the end of this segment of the program. A question and answer period highlighted the thoroughly perceptive inquires from two students from TMA who were in attendance.
In closing remarks, Education Forward board chair Reverend Doctor Kendrick Curry brought to the room his skills as a preacher in formally introducing the new chief executive officer of his organization, Bisi Oyedele, who officially started his new job last week. Dr. Curry also lavishly praised outgoing CEO and co-founder of Education Forward DC Maura Marino, which was certainly well deserved. Dr. Curry revealed that Ms. Marino contributed to raising over one million dollars for the group during her six-year tenure.
It was then off to the reception. Waiters and waitresses greeted guests with glasses of wine and passed appetizers, both of which kept coming throughout the night. I had the fantastic opportunity to catch up with long-time acquaintances including Carrie Irvine, CEO and co-founder of Education Board Partners and Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, partner, National Charter School Institute. I laughed with Maura about trying to keep up with note taking during my interview of her five years ago. I discussed the happy occasion of DC Bilingual expanding its permanent facility with Daniela. Finally, I caught up with Dr. Curry, who I happily discovered is working with my good friend Dr. Jehan “Gigi” El-Bayoumi, founding director of The George Washington University’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences Rodham Institute. The Rodham Institute partners with numerous community associations in Ward 8 in an effort to eliminate negative social determinants of health and Dr. Curry’s church is located in Southeast. It was a fitting end to an outstanding occasion.