Local: Education

D.C. Council approves huge education overhaul

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

D.C. students would be required to apply to college or trade school and take the SAT or ACT under the most sweeping education legislation passed by the D.C. Council since a 2007 law set the stage for former Chancellor Michelle Rhee's aggressive reforms.

Under the Raising the Expectations for Education Outcomes Omnibus Act of 2012, the District is set to become the first "state" in the nation to require students to apply to a postsecondary institution, according to council staff.

Top teachers would be given $10,000 annual bonuses to relocate to poor, struggling schools; several campuses would be turned into community hubs; and the District would amp up efforts to identify and provide interventions for at-risk students as early as elementary school.

Sharpen your #2 pencils
The following states require or have plans to require all 11th graders to take the ACT or SAT:
StateRequired test
AlabamaACT - starting 2013-14 school year
ColoradoACT
DelawareSAT - at least for duration of 4-year contract that continues through 2013-14 school year
IdahoACT, SAT, COMPASS or ACCUPLACER
IllinoisACT
KentuckyACT
MaineSAT
MichiganACT
North CarolinaACT
North DakotaACT or WorkKeys
TennesseeACT
WyomingACT or WorkKeys
Source: D.C. Council

"This is a historic moment," said Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who introduced most of the bill's components. "It probably won't be felt for another two or three years, but we'll look back on this moment."

The council voted 10-1, with At-large Councilman Phil Mendelson dissenting and Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells abstaining. Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign it into law.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi told Brown in a March 5 memo that the city doesn't have enough money to fully fund the measure, which would cost about $2.8 million through fiscal 2015. Brown has committed to finding outside funding, but had not identified any sources when the bill passed Tuesday.

The measure combines several bills introduced this session: One ensures that children enter kindergarten prepared and can read independently and compute before being promoted to the fourth grade; another requires school officials to track data as early as elementary school on students who are at risk of dropping out and provide interventions as they transition to middle and high school.

The bill also creates five "community schools" providing tutoring and medical services to students and adult-education classes during evenings, weekends and summer vacation.

Critics of the bill have said the college exam and application requirement fails to address testing fees and college affordability.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, testified last month that the idea was "overreaching" and that Brown did not have the support of the charter community, which enrolls 40 percent of D.C. public-school students. A spokeswoman said Pearson was unavailable Tuesday.

Wells said he agrees with the measure's goals, "but I don't believe that the city council should be taking on the role of the school board."

"I think that it's too possible to politicize school policy, and so in general, I believe there should be a very bright line," added the former D.C. State Board of Education representative.

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry called the bill "landmark" and "trailblazing."

"The problem we have is so massive," he said. "It is so massive."

Staff writer Alan Blinder contributed to this report.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner