The D.C. Council is poised to vote Tuesday on legislation that would lead to a massive transformation in District schools -- changing everything from where teachers work and how they are paid, to which tests high schoolers must take to graduate.
The "Raising the Expectations for Education Outcomes Act of 2012" sews together four education bills of varying levels of controversy into a single piece of legislation. Three of the bills were introduced by Chairman Kwame Brown, and a widely supported plan to transform several D.C. schools into community hubs was sponsored by Brown, At-large Councilman Michael Brown and Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.
If passed, the measure would establish a pilot program to give $10,000 annual bonuses and other incentives to highly rated teachers who transfer to high-needs schools, where at least 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the schools' indicator of poverty, and where fewer than 40 percent of students are proficient in math and reading.
The bundle of bills also includes a measure to require students to take the SAT or ACT, and apply to college or another postsecondary institution, before they can graduate from high school.
Finally, the legislation would create an "early warning and support system" to identify as early as elementary school those students at risk of dropping out of school.
Although funding for all the bills hasn't been pinpointed, the efforts concerning early interventions and community-centric schools -- buildings would stay open after hours to provide tutoring, health services and adult education courses -- have enjoyed almost universal support.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has said she supports the measures to lure top teachers -- who have been concentrated in affluent Ward 3 -- to low-income, low-performing schools. Critics told the D.C. Council that a good teacher in one environment may not be good in another; and the teachers' union questions what rewards will be given to top teachers already working in these high-need schools.
Henderson also supports the college-readiness measures, although her chief academic officer, Carey Wright, testified that she believed lawmakers shouldn't impose another graduation requirement on D.C. Public Schools, from which fewer than half of students graduate.
Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Charter School Board, testified that the effort was "overreaching" and that the city's charter schools -- which enroll 41 percent of the city's public school students -- are already preparing students for college in most cases.
Brown spokeswoman Allison Abney said the chairman decided to group the bills into one -- creating an all-or-nothing decision for his colleagues -- because "if you only have pieces, it's not as supportive for kids all the way through" from pre-K through 12th grade.