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2023 OSSE Annual Report: Advancing Excellence

Supporting students requires a holistic approach that serves educators and school communities alike, while also setting high standards for all stakeholders in the educational ecosystem. In 2023, through the adoption of new learning standards, innovative partnerships, educator incentives for professional learning opportunities, and other unique approaches, OSSE made great strides in advancing excellence for all DC learners.

Adopting New Education Standards for DC Students
Learning standards prepare our students to be informed and compassionate citizens, and to meet the demands of a modern, interconnected world. In 2023, for the first time in nearly two decades, OSSE adopted updated Social Studies Standards for students in DC public and public charter schools with a unanimous vote by the DC State Board of Education (SBOE). Developed through a years-long process supported by community partners and philanthropic support, the new standards incorporate expert feedback, community input and educator insight that aim to empower DC students to become active participants in our democracy, identify and combat misinformation, and wisely and effectively shape the future of DC, the nation and the world.

OSSE also became the first jurisdiction in the country to adopt statewide Menstrual Health Education Standards for all students, regardless of gender. A comprehensive health education curriculum is essential to increasing student agency and health literacy and to creating inclusive schools. These standards, also adopted unanimously by the SBOE, provide a clear, skillbased and age-appropriate approach to this essential health topic and renew the District’s commitment to comprehensive health education. The new Menstrual Health Education Standards also aim to empower DC students to become active participants in their own health while maintaining dignity and respect for their fellow students as they grow and develop.

Improving Student Literacy Outcomes
New literacy investments and initiatives are accelerating learning for DC students. OSSE invested over $3 million in ESSER funds from the US Department of Education, as well as $16 million in grant funds from the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant program to expand access to evidence-based literacy trainings for educators across the District, including the Language Essential for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program. OSSE has also committed approximately $16.8 million to fund high-impact tutoring in literacy for approximately 7,600 students, and is currently on track to reach a total of more than 13,000 students across both math and literacy by fall 2024.

In English language arts (ELA) and literacy, OSSE implemented research-backed science of reading courses, and more than 350 educators have completed the training so far, with another 300 registered. Participants in these courses receive a $1,000 stipend for their time and efforts, and more than 300 educators have received this incentive. More than 13,000 DC educators completed OSSE’s dyslexia training in 2023, helping to ensure educators are equipped to support students with a variety of needs.

Ensuring Classroom Materials Support Instruction
OSSE prioritized accelerated learning for more than 12,800 DC public and public charter school students by awarding more than $1.7 million in grant funds to 13 LEAs. The mission: To carefully select and introduce high-quality instructional resources and materials (HQIM)  to elevate learning experiences for DC students.

Research highlights that educators significantly enhance their ability to propel student learning when equipped with top-notch instructional curricula and materials. The funds went toward materials to empower educators throughout the District, enabling them to facilitate accelerated learning in ELA, math and science and ultimately guide thousands of DC students back to their grade levels, setting the stage for them to not just catch up but truly thrive in their educational journeys.

Strengthening Math Education Through High-Quality Professional Learning & Incentives
New and existing standards require that our educators have the supports they need to lead effective instruction. In 2023, OSSE deployed high-quality professional learning opportunities for educators and strategically paired those opportunities with monetary incentives. 

To increase DC students’ math proficiency over the next two years and beyond, OSSE has invested $1.6 million in intensive professional development bootcamps to improve educator and LEA practices in math instruction at the elementary and secondary levels. This investment focuses on schools with the highest needs and on teachers with fewer than five years of experience. Educators receive a $1,000 stipend for completing the math bootcamp coursework.

Administering High-Quality Assessments
OSSE administered the annual statewide assessments  in math, ELA and science in spring 2023. More than 47,000 students – over 95 percent of those eligible for testing – participated. We are encouraged by the first post-pandemic proficiency rate increases in both math and ELA – nearly three percentage points in each.

Educator Credentialing and Preparation
Additionally, OSSE finalized and successfully operationalized a new credentialing option – the one-year, provisional teacher credential– that provides more flexibility for local education agencies when hiring new teachers. OSSE also expanded the options available for educators to demonstrate their general knowledge by allowing a high grade-point average to substitute for a competency exam.

In FY23, OSSE began implementing our new Educator Preparation Provider and Subject Area Program Approval Regulations, which require preparation programs preparing future teachers whose primary responsibility will be teaching literacy to meet rigorous standards in the science of reading.

Making Data Available to DC Families
In November, OSSE introduced a revamped DC School Report Card, unveiling a user-friendly, dynamic website that seamlessly delivers comparable data at the school, LEA and city levels for all public schools in the District of Columbia. Aimed at families, educators and the community at large, the DC School Report Card paints a picture of school performance, aligning with OSSE’s dedication to transparent data sharing. Looking ahead, OSSE and SBOE launched a collaborative effort in 2023 to engage the public to gather insights on enhancing the visual appeal and format of the DC School Report Card in the years to come.

Celebrating DC History
We celebrated DC history in both the release of our new social studies standards and in recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Charles H. Sumner School. An 1872 school building designed by prominent and prolific German architect, Adolf Cluss, the Sumner school was one of the earliest public school buildings for Black students in Washington, DC. The building, which now serves as a museum and archives, currently exists as one of the oldest intact African American buildings in the nation, with minimal alterations constructed during the post-Civil War, Reconstruction era. It is also listed on the National Register for Historic Places. Since the Sumner School Museum and Archives was placed under the stewardship of OSSE in 2007, we have worked to elevate the Sumner Museum’s profile and resources, including the expansive research library and broad collection on the history of DC Public Education dating back to 1804, when Thomas Jefferson was president.

Breaking Records and Helping Families Make Informed Decisions About Schools
In December, My School DC hosted EdFEST, an annual public school fair and one-stop shop for families to learn more about the District’s public school options. We welcomed families back in person for the first time since before the pandemic to EdFEST. The event spanned two weekends for the first time, with a session dedicated to pre-K 3 through grade 8 and one for high school. This year’s EdFEST broke records with more than 8,000 attendees.

Naming the 2024 Teacher of the Year
In October, Mayor Bowser, State Superintendent Dr. Grant and District officials presented Beth Barkley, a high school teacher at the International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus, with the 2024 DC Teacher of the Year Award during a surprise event. Ms. Barkley’s dedication earned her this prestigious honor, accompanied by a $7,500 prize. The award, an annual recognition, is reserved for a DC public or public charter school teacher who exemplifies remarkable leadership and unwavering commitment to student achievement. As the 2024 DC Teacher of the Year, Ms. Barkley will represent DC in the Council of Chief State School Officers National Teacher of the Year program and can advocate for her students on a national level.

Ms. Barkley’s impact at Cardozo has been noteworthy. Working with English learner students in the International Academy since its inception in the 2014-15 school year, she focuses on the unique needs of newcomer students arriving in DC and has been instrumental in helping them adapt and succeed in their new educational environments. Ms. Barkley also serves as the teacher lead for the International Academy’s Family Engagement Leadership team, extending her support to students and their families.

Ms. Barkley’s teaching portfolio includes Human Rights and Social Action courses, as well as facilitating intergroup dialogues and social identity workshops with students. Beyond the school walls, she collaborates with students on initiatives for justice, such as a recent campaign advocating for mental health services and resources for immigrant students and families. Ms. Barkley and her students also orchestrated the Inspiring Voices series, shedding light on the challenges and resilience of young leaders in the immigrant community.

She is also part of United We Dream and contributes to Teaching for Change’s DC Area Educators for Social Justice People’s History Curriculum Working Group, further showcasing her commitment to creating positive change inside and outside the classroom.

Celebrating Excellent Educators
OSSE also named four 2024 DC Teacher of the Year finalists: Chad Harris, a music teacher at Stanton Elementary School; Kena Allison, a biology teacher at Washington Latin Public Charter School; Rabiah Harris, a physical science and robotics teacher at Ida B. Wells Middle School; and Aneesah Blount, a kindergarten teacher at Van Ness Elementary School.

Chad Harris has served as music teacher at Stanton Elementary School for eight years. A dedicated educator for more than 19 years, Mr. Harris is committed to creating dynamic and engaging music lessons for all students. Mr. Harris’ overarching goal is to use music to bring joy to his students in Southeast DC, hoping to counteract the trauma many experience. He nurtures students’ creative abilities, empowering them to make a positive impact on others. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Harris actively contributes to the DC education community. He serves as a Teacher Selection Ambassador, conducting job interviews for prospective music teachers. In his first year in DC, he was honored with the prestigious Capital Commitment Fellowship and appointed to the DC Chancellor’s Teacher Cabinet. Mr. Harris was a part of the music curriculum writing team and served as the District Music Course Chair. When DC Public Schools implemented the RISE program (Rigorous Instruction Supports Equity), Mr. Harris was chosen to support the initiative. He created equity-centered professional developments with robust supports for new teachers, particularly in DC’s highest-need schools. As part of the RISE program, he also mentored visual arts and music teachers.

Kena Allison teaches 11th grade Honors Biology and 12th grade AP Biology at Washington Latin Public Charter School. Ms. Allison initially moved to Washington, DC to pursue a medical degree. When she realized that her passion was not in treating the sick, but in educating young people, Ms. Allison transitioned to the high school classroom. She has taught several science classes including Health, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. To enhance her instruction, she earned a Master’s in Teaching from American University. A problem solver who is ready to help students and her school community, Ms. Allison serves as a teacher, the Upper School Science Department Chair and an Instructional Coach at Washington Latin. Ms. Allison spends most of her time thinking about how to make her classes dynamic; however, she values balance in her life. Her self-care regimen includes cardio dance classes, summer beach vacations and quality time with friends and family.

Dr. Rabiah Harris hails from a little bit of everywhere in the United States, but is happy to call Washington, DC home. She currently teaches eighth grade science and serves as the science department chair at Ida B. Wells Middle School. An educator for more than 18 years, Dr. Harris has served public and charter school students across the District, Pittsburg and New Orleans, where she taught science courses and STEM electives for students in grades 6-12. She also helped support Next Generation Science Standards adoption in DC through training and course blueprint realignment. When she’s not teaching and supporting science, you can find her out and about DC with her 14-yearold son.

Aneesah Blount teaches kindergarten and first grade at Van Ness Elementary School in Navy Yard where she has worked for six years. An avid learner, Ms. Blount is currently pursuing a doctorate degree from American University in Education Policy and Leadership and is writing her dissertation on the implementation of trauma-sensitive programs in elementary schools and their effects on students’ safety, connection and self-regulation. At Van Ness, Ms. Blount has been featured in several videos that highlight exceptional teaching practices. She has worked with Transcend to codify and share the trauma-informed social-emotional whole child model with other schools across DC and the country. Ms. Blount has also co-facilitated professional development and coached kindergarten teachers in literacy.

Including Educator Voices
Educator voice is a critical piece of OSSE’s work, and educational leaders from across the District serve on the Superintendent’s Advisory Councils. The Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) and the Principal Advisory Council (PAC) represent a diverse group of public and public charter school teachers and school leaders who reflect the educator workforce across the city. The TAC and PAC work alongside OSSE’s senior leadership, including State Superintendent Dr. Grant and division leaders, to provide them insight, feedback and advice on issues that impact students, educators, classrooms and schools across the District.