Plan for W8 Schools

Ward 8 Speaks Out About Its Schools
Ward 8 Speaks OutAt the Ward 8 Education Town Hall, Mayor Fenty enlisted the help of over 100 parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members to conquer the problems that block student academic achievement in the DC Public Schools (DCPS).
Ward 8 Town Hall participants discussed three questions:
Dialogue 1: Top 3 early actions for improving DCPS and public education.
What Ward 8 Town Hall participants most want to see done quickly: 1) qualified and motivated teachers and administrators in every school; 2) clean, well-maintained and modernized school facilities and 3) improved school environments through better behavior, discipline and security. 

Ward 8 parents want to be a part of their schools: "I feel like a second class citizen from the time I drop my child off in the morning to when I pick her up."
The most frequently voiced concern is the lack of qualified and enthusiastic teachers throughout the DCPS system.  Many participants recommend retraining and reevaluation of teachers against national standards.  Many encourage schools to empower teachers to make learning and education an active and stimulating process. 
Participants want well-maintained school facilities, especially safe drinking water and clean bathrooms.  They want working heating and cooling systems, repairs completed quickly and efficiently and schools made attractive from the inside out.
Many participants urge improvements in discipline and school security.  They demand consistent and fair enforcement of school rules and that students be held accountable for their actions.  Participants also want heightened security and prevention of violence within school buildings.  One participant said “students need to be taught to value life, starting with their own.” Another encouraged breathing exercises to help students and teachers relax and maintain focus during the day.
Participants also recommend mandatory parental involvement, a new or revised curriculum and more funding for supplies, especially books and computers.  Participants suggest that parental involvement is critical for the positive development of students and urge DCPS to “initiate a process that drives parents into the arms of the education system.” Participants desire a new or revised curriculum that connects the learning in the classroom to real life experiences, and they want more funds for supplies, especially computers and books, to be in the hands of teachers before the first day of school.
Some participants recommend a revision of the truancy policy, improved placement and testing methods for the special needs program, and more qualified and available guidance counselors. 
Dialogue 2: Safe schools that support learning
Participants consistently call for: qualified and dedicated security personnel; more youth advisors and adult support systems for youth and better and more after school programs.
Ward 8 wants better guidance for youth: "Students need to be taught to value life, starting with their own."
Participants are less in agreement about methods of achieving school safety: some suggest installation of police cameras in and around schools, while others think that increased police presence will not increase student safety.  There was also some interest in providing ID cards for students.
The second most important issue for participants is the need for youth advisors and an active adult support system for youth.  Many urge that DCPS adopt different kinds of conflict resolution through peer mediation and student support teams.  Many call for more qualified and engaged security professionals.
Dialogue 3:  Involving parents, guardians and community members in public education
Participants urge the immediate strengthening of the PTA; greater access to parents who want to volunteer in their schools and parent training, workshops and more timely, accurate information. 
Ward 8 wants parents involved in the schools: "a process that drives parents into the arms of the education system."
Participants see the PTA as a vehicle for getting parents, school staff and community members meeting and working on common goals.  They want the PTAs to meet more frequently, reach out to community members, employ parent liaison officers and work with the schools to make parents welcome as volunteers and partners.
Many participants want PTA and parent involvement made mandatory.  They want the schools to be clear about how volunteers can help.  Some think that parents should be required to complete a set amount of volunteer hours in order for their child to graduate.
Participants are in strong agreement that there must be more effective communication with parents and community members. They urge the schools to provide information to parents through lectures, workshops and newsletters.  Some suggest a family learning center. 
Participants believe that these efforts to involve parents will enable adults to support children as they learn and grow into productive citizens.