DC Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson joined Children’s Law Center supporters Wednesday evening to discuss what he’s learned in his seven weeks on the job and his vision for the future of DC schools.
Children’s Law Center board member Chip Magid, who is co-chairing the 2017 Helping Children Soar Benefit with his wife Vicky, hosted the gathering in their home.
The event comes as Chancellor Wilson continues his 8-ward tour of DC. The Chancellor has been visiting with parents, teachers, students and community members throughout DC, answering questions and sharing his vision for DC Public Schools.
“In my seven weeks I’ve been to about 50 schools and I hear the same things. People talk about the talent and the love for this city and its various initiatives.”
And, while Wilson is anxious to get to know the needs and wants of the DC community, he comes to the District with big ideas of his own.
In his previous role as superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, Chancellor Wilson faced many of the challenges we see in the District: coordination with the charter school sector, significant disparities in achievement and graduation based on race and disability, and an over reliance on suspension as a form of discipline.
Among his successes, suspensions dropped by more than half during Wilson’s tenure in Oakland.
“We ended suspensions for willful defiance and invested in restorative practices. It became cool to be in school. Juvenile detentions dropped – it’s all correlated,” said Chancellor Wilson.
To close the achievement gap in DC, Wilson says, students must be engaged. When students are excited and invested, they’ll want to stay in school, and they’ll be able to take a deeper dive in subjects like math, science and English.
“The school system has to be a place where you are taught by people who care about you and get to know you and get the resources they need at school and inside the community,” said Chancellor Wilson.
The most recent Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores show minimal improvement for students with disabilities in the District. Even with improvement only five percent are proficient in English and only 6 percent are proficient in math. The gap between white students and students of color is staggering. While 74 percent of students scored as “college-ready,” the rates were 19 and 25 percent for black and Latino students respectively.
“I hope the new Chancellor will focus on the trauma which so many children carry into the classroom each day. Research supports our experience that unaddressed trauma significantly impacts learning," said Sandalow.
Speaking bluntly, Chancellor Wilson said the PARCC scores in DC highlight significant gaps by ward, and the disparities are a significant concern for the District.
Last year, Children’s Law Center helped 5,495 children and families, more than 2,000 for education-related problems. Often an underlying education issue comes to light when the initial referral is for something else, such as a family or health concern. Family trauma, poverty and health problems don’t pause for the school day. They follow children inside the classroom.
Tackling the variety of challenges facing DC schools and DCPS students isn’t an easy task, but it’s a critical one. Looking to the future, Chancellor Wilson’s leadership is essential to the success of DC’s most vulnerable kids, especially as we face a changing political and education climate.
Children’s Law Center looks forward to working with Chancellor Wilson to ensure all children in DC receive the high quality education they deserve.