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Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the 
Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:30 p.m. EDT:
Thursday, July 23, 2009: 

District Of Columbia Public Schools: 

Implementation and Sustainability of Reform Efforts Could Benefit From 
Enhanced Planning: 

Statement of Cornelia M. Ashby, Director:
Education, Workforce, and Income Security: 


[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to present information on the District of 
Columbia's (D.C. or the District) progress in reforming its public 
school system. The District's school system has had long-standing 
problems with student academic performance, the condition of school 
facilities, and its overall management. The District's public schools 
have fallen well behind the District's own targets for demonstrating 
adequate yearly progress toward meeting the congressionally mandated 
goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math, reading, and 
science by 2014, as outlined in the Elementary and Secondary Education 
Act of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA). In 
addition, the U. S. Department of Education (Education) designated the 
District as a high-risk grantee in April 2006 because of its poor 
management of federal grants. Of the nearly $762 million the District 
spends on D. C. public schools (DCPS), 16 percent comes from federal 
sources. My remarks today are based on our report released at this 
hearing, entitled District of Columbia Public Schools: Important Steps 
Taken to Continue Reform Efforts, But Enhanced Planning Could Improve 
Implementation and Sustainability.[Footnote 1] 

In an effort to address the school system's long-standing problems, the 
Council of the District of Columbia (D.C. Council) approved the Public 
Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 (Reform Act), which made major 
changes to the operations and governance of the school district. 
[Footnote 2] The Reform Act gave the Mayor broad authority over the 
District's public school system, including curricula, operations, 
budget, personnel, and school facilities. In doing so, the District 
joined a growing number of cities to adopt mayoral governance of public 
school systems in an effort to expedite major reforms. The Reform Act 
transferred the day-to-day management of the public schools from the 
Board of Education to the Mayor and placed DCPS under the Mayor's 
office as a cabinet-level agency. It also moved the state functions 
into a new state superintendent's office, established a separate 
facilities office, and created the D.C. Department of Education headed 
by the Deputy Mayor for Education. 

Because of the broad changes in governance, Congress asked GAO to 
evaluate the District's reform efforts. In our report, we addressed the 
following questions: (1) What steps has the District taken to address 
student academic achievement? (2) What actions has the District taken 
to strengthen the quality of teachers and principals? (3) To what 
extent have the District's education offices[Footnote 3] developed and 
implemented long-term plans and how has DCPS used stakeholder input in 
key initiatives? (4) What steps have DCPS and the state 
superintendent's office taken to improve their accountability and 
performance?[Footnote 4] 

To answer these questions, we reviewed and analyzed relevant documents 
and research and interviewed officials from the District's education 
offices. We also interviewed representatives of education and research 
associations, and various organizations based in the Washington, D.C. 
community. Across all our objectives, we measured the progress of 
ongoing reform efforts against any implementation time frames 
established by DCPS or the state superintendent's office. We based our 
evaluation of completed initiatives on relevant recognized standards, 
such as those established by GAO in past reports. To provide a broader 
national context for our work, we visited four urban school districts 
with mayoral governance: Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City. 
We based our selection of these districts on how long the school 
district had been under mayoral control and student demographic 
information. We interviewed high-level officials--such as 
superintendents and former superintendents, school board presidents and 
members, officials from majors' offices--as well as union leaders, and 
representatives from various community and research organizations in 
these cities.[Footnote 5] 

In summary, DCPS's early efforts to improve student achievement focused 
on implementing initiatives to improve student performance, including 
implementing a new staffing model; restructuring underperforming 
schools; and creating and enhancing data systems. DCPS is refocusing or 
revising its approach to many of these initiatives as it continues to 
implement them. DCPS is also attempting to improve the quality of its 
teacher and principal workforce by hiring new teachers and principals 
and by providing professional development, but it has encountered 
challenges in effectively implementing these changes. DCPS officials 
told us that the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 teacher evaluation process did 
not allow them to assess whether the teacher workforce improved between 
these 2 school years and that they are working to develop a new teacher 
evaluation system. The state superintendent's office and DCPS each 
developed 5-year strategic plans and involved stakeholders in 
developing these plans. While DCPS has recently increased efforts to 
involve stakeholders such as parents and the D.C. Council in key 
initiatives, past stakeholder involvement was inconsistent. DCPS and 
the state superintendent's office also have taken steps to improve 
accountability and performance of their offices. While DCPS has taken 
steps to improve accountability and link its individual performance 
management system to organizational goals, it has not yet linked its 
employee expectations and performance evaluations to organizational 

DCPS Quickly Implemented Many Separate Initiatives to Improve Overall 
Student Performance and Is Refocusing Its Approach as It Moves Forward: 

During the first 2 years of its reform efforts, DCPS implemented 
several classroom-based initiatives to improve students' basic skills 
in core subjects. For example, to improve students' basic skills and 
standardized test scores in reading and math, DCPS introduced targeted 
interventions for students struggling in these subjects and provided 
additional instruction and practice to improve students' responses to 
open-ended questions, including test questions. Table 1 provides a list 
of DCPS's major initiatives to improve student outcomes, as well as 
descriptions and the status of these initiatives. 

Table 1: Status of Major Academic Initiatives during the First 2 Years 
of DCPS Reform Efforts: 

Initiative: Reading and math interventions; 
How it works: Provides supplemental intensive instruction and practice 
for struggling students; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Check]; 
Standardized test scores: [Check]; 
Student engagement: [Empty]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Check]. 

Initiative: Saturday classes for targeted students; 
How it works: Extends class time to Saturdays; primarily targeted to 
students close to meeting academic targets; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Check]; 
Standardized test scores: [Check]; 
Student engagement: [Check]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Empty]. 

Initiative: Targeted instructional practices; 
How it works: Provides additional practice on answering short answer 
test questions, using calculators, and playing math games; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Check]; 
Standardized test scores: [Check]; 
Student engagement: [Empty]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Empty]. 

Initiative: Pacing guides; 
How it works: Provides guidance to teachers to help focus instruction 
on what students are expected to know and testing timetable; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Check]; 
Standardized test scores: [Check]; 
Student engagement: [Empty]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Check]. 

Initiative: Capital Gains; 
How it works: Offers money to students for attendance, behavior, and 
academic performance; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Empty]; 
Standardized test scores: [Empty]; 
Student engagement: [Check]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Empty]. 

Initiative: Staffing model; 
How it works: Provides access to art, music, and physical education as 
well as supports for all students; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Empty]; 
Standardized test scores: [Empty]; 
Student engagement: [Check]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Check]. 

Initiative: Teaching and learning framework; (planned); 
How it works: Provides guidance to teachers on how to plan, deliver, 
and evaluate instruction; 
The initiatives target: 
Reading and math interventions: [Check]; 
Standardized test scores: [Check]; 
Student engagement: [Check]; 
School year (SY) initiative was (or will be) launched and status: 
Being revised: [Empty]. 

Source: GAO analysis of DCPS documents. 

[End of table] 

DCPS is modifying its approach to implementing many of these 
initiatives as it moves forward. For example, the Chancellor recently 
acknowledged that DCPS, in its effort to remedy the range of issues 
that plagued the District's public schools, may have launched too many 
initiatives at once and some schools may not have had the capacity to 
implement so many programs effectively. In particular, some schools 
were undergoing significant organizational changes that may have 
affected their ability to implement these new academic initiatives. To 
support such schools, DCPS is considering offering a choice of programs 
for schools and allowing the principals to determine which programs 
best suit their schools' needs and capacity. 

DCPS does not yet know how successful these initiatives have been in 
improving student achievement. Our report notes that DCPS elementary 
and secondary students increased their reading and math scores between 
8 and 11 percentage points on the 2008 state-wide test, but it is 
unclear whether these gains could be attributed to the current reform 
efforts or to prior efforts. Preliminary scores for the 2009 reading 
and math tests were announced on July 13, 2009. Elementary students 
made modest gains in reading (49 percent were proficient in reading, up 
from 46 percent in 2008) and more substantial gains in math (49 percent 
proficient in math, up from 40 percent in 2008). Preliminary scores for 
secondary students show that 41 percent are proficient in reading, up 
from 39 percent in 2008, and 40 percent are proficient in math, up from 
36 percent in 2008.[Footnote 6] While DCPS officials told us that it is 
generally difficult to isolate and quantify the impact of any single 
program on student achievement, they plan in late summer 2009 to 
analyze student outcomes, including state-wide test scores, to assess 
the effectiveness of various initiatives. 

DCPS officials also noted that there were varying levels of teacher 
quality and knowledge of effective teaching practices, and that it was 
difficult to ensure the extent to which teachers implemented the 
programs effectively. While DCPS had not previously defined "effective" 
teaching, DCPS officials told us they will focus on practicing 
effective teaching, as opposed to implementing various disparate 
programs. By the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, DCPS plans to 
implement a framework that is intended to help teachers understand what 
students are expected to learn for each subject, how to prepare 
lessons, and what effective teaching methods are to be used. 

DCPS also changed the way it allocated teachers across its schools for 
the 2008-2009 school year. This new staffing model was intended to 
provide all schools with a core of teachers including art, music, and 
physical education, as well as social workers. It was also intended to 
provide all schools with reading coaches who work with teachers to 
improve reading instruction. Prior to this change, DCPS allocated 
funding to schools using a weighted student formula, which distributed 
funds to schools on a per pupil basis, so that the greater the 
enrollment of a school, the greater the amount allocated to that 
school.[Footnote 7] The new staffing model was intended to ensure core 
staff at all schools regardless of enrollment. While DCPS allowed 
principals to request changes to the staffing model based on their 
school's needs,[Footnote 8] it did not establish or communicate clear 
guidance or criteria on how such requests would be treated. Therefore, 
it is unclear whether similar requests were treated in a consistent 
manner. A more transparent process, one that publicly shared their 
rationale for such decisions, would have helped assure stakeholders, 
including the D.C. Council, that changes to staffing allocations were 
made consistently and fairly. The D.C. Council and several community 
groups have criticized the process for its lack of transparency and 
questioned the fairness of the decisions made. For example, one 
independent analysis concluded that under the staffing model some 
schools received less per pupil funding than others with similar 
student populations.[Footnote 9] DCPS revamped its approach for the 
staffing model for the 2009-2010 school year to address some of these 
challenges. For example, it established guidance about what changes it 
will allow principals to make to the staffing model and disseminated 
this guidance to school leaders at the beginning of the budgeting 
process. According to DCPS, the new guidance is expected to reduce the 
number of changes that principals request later in the process. 

In addition, as required by NCLBA, DCPS restructured 22 schools before 
the fall of 2008, after the schools failed to meet academic targets for 
6 consecutive years. NCLBA specifies five options for restructuring a 
school, including replacing selected staff or contracting with another 
organization or company to run the school. DCPS revamped its process 
for determining the most appropriate restructuring option for the 13 
schools that will be restructured in the 2009-2010 school year. Prior 
to implementing the first round of restructuring (for the 2008-2009 
school year), DCPS officials told us there were insufficient school 
visits and inadequate training and guidance for teams assigned to 
evaluate which restructuring option was best suited for a given school. 
DCPS has addressed these issues by requiring two visits to each school, 
offering more training, and revising the form used to evaluate each 
school's condition for the next round of restructuring. Restructuring 
underperforming schools will likely be an ongoing initiative for DCPS, 
as 89 of its 118 schools were in some form of school improvement status 
as of June 2009. 

Finally, DCPS and the state superintendent's office are planning and 
developing new ways to use data to monitor student achievement and 
school performance. DCPS reported it has ongoing and planned 
initiatives to expand data access to principals and teachers, in part 
to monitor student and school performance. In particular, DCPS reported 
making improvements to its primary student data system so central 
office users can better monitor school performance. DCPS also plans to 
use monthly reports to enable school leaders to better monitor student 
progress, but DCPS officials told us they have delayed some of these 
efforts while they attempt to improve coordination among the various 
departments that were developing and disseminating information to 
school leaders. The state superintendent's office also is developing a 
longitudinal database, called the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data 
Warehouse (SLED), intended to allow DCPS and other stakeholders to 
access a broad array of information, including standardized test scores 
of students and information on teachers[Footnote 10]. According to 
officials in the state superintendent's office, they revised the 
project schedule to allow more time to assist the charter schools with 
updating their data systems. In February 2009, the initial release of 
student data provided a student identification number and information 
on student eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches and other 
student demographics for all students attending DCPS's schools and the 
public charter schools. The state superintendent's office plans for 
SLED to enable DCPS to link student and teacher data by February 2010. 

DCPS Replaced Teachers and Principals and Introduced Professional 
Development Initiatives, but Encountered Challenges in Implementation: 

DCPS focused on a workforce replacement strategy to strengthen teacher 
and principal quality. After the 2007-2008 school year, about one-fifth 
of the teachers and one-third of the principals resigned, retired, or 
were terminated from DCPS. DCPS terminated about 350 teachers and an 
additional 400 teachers accepted financial incentives offered by DCPS 
to resign or retire in the spring of 2008.[Footnote 11] In addition, 
DCPS did not renew the contracts of 42 principals. To replace the 
teachers and principals who left the system, DCPS launched a nationwide 
recruitment effort for the 2008-2009 school year and hired 566 teachers 
and 46 principals for the 2008-2009 school year.[Footnote 12] DCPS did 
not have a new teacher contract in place due to ongoing negotiations 
with the Washington Teachers' Union and DCPS officials told us a lack 
of contract may have hindered their efforts to attract top-quality 
teachers. Under the plan, which has been in negotiation with the 
Washington Teachers' Union since November 2007, the Chancellor has 
stated that she wants to recruit and retain quality teachers by 
offering merit pay, which would reward teachers with higher salaries 
based, in part, on their students' scores on standardized state tests. 

In addition, DCPS officials told us that the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 
teacher evaluation process did not allow them to assess whether the 
teacher workforce improved between these 2 school years. According to 
DCPS officials, this system does not measure teachers' impact on 
student achievement--a key factor cited by DCPS officials in evaluating 
teacher effectiveness. DCPS plans to revise its teacher evaluation 
process to more directly link teacher performance to student 
achievement. To supplement school administrators' observations of 
teachers, DCPS is also seeking to add classroom observations by 36 
third-party observers, called master teachers, who would be 
knowledgeable about teaching the relevant subject matter and grade 

In addition, DCPS introduced professional development initiatives for 
teachers and principals, but late decisions about the program for 
teachers led to inconsistent implementation. For the 2008-2009 school 
year, DCPS hired about 150 teacher coaches to improve teachers' skills 
in delivering reading and math instruction and boost student test 
scores. According to DCPS, teacher coaches assisted teachers with 
interpreting student test scores, planning lessons, and using their 
classroom time constructively. DCPS is planning for teacher coaches to 
work with teachers in all grades and subjects for the 2009-2010 school 
year. DCPS intended to staff about 170 teacher coaching positions; 
however, as DCPS began the 2008-2009 school year, about 20 percent of 
the coaching positions remained open (19 reading coach vacancies and 16 
math coach vacancies) because of late hiring of teacher coaches. DCPS 
officials told us they made the decision to hire teacher coaches after 
their review of school restructuring plans in June 2008. The ratio of 
teachers to coaches was higher than it would have been had the 
positions been filled. In addition, according to DCPS officials and 
Washington Teachers' Union officials we interviewed, teacher coaches 
were often uncertain about their responsibilities and how to work with 
teachers, and received some conflicting guidance from principals. 

The State Superintendent's Office and DCPS Have Developed and Begun 
Implementing Strategic Plans; However, DCPS Has Not Always Involved 
Relevant Stakeholders in Planning and Implementing Key Initiatives: 

The state superintendent's office and DCPS each developed their 5-year 
strategic plans and involved stakeholders in the process. Stakeholder 
involvement in formulating strategic plans allows relevant stakeholders 
to share their views and concerns. The state superintendent's office 
and the State Board of Education collaboratively developed the 
District's state-level, 5-year strategic plan, and released it in 
October 2008. This state-level plan spans early childhood and 
kindergarten through grade 12 education (including public charter 
schools).[Footnote 13] Officials from the state superintendent's office 
told us they involved District officials, and stakeholders representing 
early childhood education, business, and higher education communities, 
as well as other stakeholders while drafting the plan. In September 
2008, the state superintendent's office held a public forum to solicit 
stakeholder input and accepted comments on the draft on its Web site. 
The office released a revised version of the plan within a month of the 
public forum. 

DCPS released the draft of its 5-year strategic plan in late October 
2008. In contrast to the state-level plan which includes the public 
charter schools, the DCPS plan is specific to prekindergarten through 
grade 12 education in its 128 schools. DCPS officials told us they 
based the draft on the Master Education Plan,[Footnote 14] which the 
prior DCPS administration developed with stakeholder involvement, and 
that they sought additional stakeholder input through a series of town 
hall meetings. After releasing the draft, DCPS held three public forums 
in the following 3 weeks where attendees provided DCPS officials with 
feedback on the draft strategic plan. In May 2009, DCPS released the 
revised draft, which incorporated stakeholder feedback. Officials from 
the D.C. Deputy Mayor of Education's office told us that as part of 
their office's coordinating role, it ensured that DCPS and the state- 
level strategic plans were aligned. However, the office had no 
documentation showing its efforts to coordinate these plans, such as an 
alignment study. We found that the two plans were aligned in terms of 
long-term goals. For example, DCPS's goals could support the state- 
level goal of having all schools ready. However, we could not evaluate 
whether more detailed, objective measures and performance targets were 
aligned because the DCPS strategic plan did not always include specific 
objective measures and performance targets. 

DCPS recently increased its efforts to involve stakeholders in various 
initiatives; however, it has not always involved stakeholders in key 
decisions and initiatives. DCPS officials told us they have a variety 
of approaches to involve stakeholders, including parents, students, and 
community groups, as well as institutional stakeholders such as the 
D.C. Council. For example, DCPS officials told us they reach out to 
parents, students, and the public through monthly community forums, 
meeting with a group of high school student leaders and a parent 
advisory group, responding to e-mail, and conducting annual parent and 
student surveys to gauge the school system's performance. DCPS also 
involved other stakeholders, such as parent organizations and the 
Washington Teachers' Union in its process of changing the discipline 
policy. However, according to two DCPS officials, DCPS did not have a 
planning process in place to ensure systematic stakeholder involvement, 
and we found that DCPS implemented some key initiatives with limited 
stakeholder involvement.[Footnote 15] For example, key stakeholders, 
including D.C. Council members and parent groups, told us they were not 
given the opportunity to provide input on DCPS's initial proposals 
regarding school closures and consolidations, the establishment of 
schools that spanned prekindergarten to grade 8, or the planning and 
early implementation of the new staffing model that placed art, music, 
and physical education teachers at schools and which fundamentally 
changed the way funding is allocated across DCPS. 

Lack of stakeholder involvement in such key decisions led stakeholders, 
including the D.C. Council and parents groups, to voice concerns that 
DCPS was not operating in a transparent manner or obtaining input from 
stakeholders with experience relevant to the District's education 
system. Further, these stakeholders have questioned whether the impact 
of reform efforts will be compromised because of restricted stakeholder 
involvement. Stakeholders in the other urban school districts we 
visited told us a lack of stakeholder involvement leads to less 
transparency as key decisions are made without public knowledge or 
discourse. In addition, the lack of stakeholder involvement can result 
in an erosion of support for ongoing reform efforts and poor decisions. 
For example, officials in Chicago and Boston said public stakeholder 
involvement was critical to community support for various initiatives, 
such as decisions on which schools to close. Officials and stakeholders 
in New York cited a lack of stakeholder involvement in decisions that 
were eventually reversed or revised. 

DCPS and the State Superintendent's Office Have Taken Steps to Improve 
Accountability and Performance, and DCPS Has Yet to Align Key Aspects 
of Its Performance Management System to Organizational Goals: 

DCPS has taken steps to improve accountability and performance of its 
central office. To improve accountability for central office 
departments, DCPS developed departmental scorecards to identify and 
assess performance expectations for each department. According to a 
DCPS official, these scorecards are discussed at weekly accountability 
meetings with the Chancellor to hold senior-level managers accountable 
for meeting performance expectations. In addition, in January 2008, 
DCPS implemented a new performance management system for employees. 
Performance management systems for employees are generally used to set 
individual expectations, assess and reward individual performance, and 
plan work.[Footnote 16] In addition, as we previously reported in our 
March 2008 testimony, DCPS developed individual performance evaluations 
as a part of its performance management system in order to assess 
central office employees' performance. Previously, performance 
evaluations were not conducted for most DCPS staff. Individual 
performance evaluations are now used to assess central office employees 
on several core competencies twice a year. 

Prior to our March 2008 testimony, DCPS officials told us that they 
intended to align the performance management system with organizational 
goals by January 2009, and DCPS has taken some steps to improve 
alignment. For example, DCPS officials told us they had better aligned 
their departmental scorecards to their 2009 annual performance plan. 
However, DCPS has not yet explicitly linked employee performance 
evaluations to the agency's overall goals. DCPS officials told us they 
plan to do so in the summer of 2009. 

The state superintendent's office also implemented a new performance 
management system, effective October 2008, to hold its employees 
accountable and improve the office's performance. The office is 
converting to a single electronic management system to track and 
evaluate employee performance by December 2009. According to an 
official from the state superintendent's office, this system links 
individual employee evaluations to overall performance goals and the 
office's strategic plan. Under this new evaluation system, each 
employee is given a position description, which includes 
responsibilities and duties linked to the overall goals, mission, and 
vision of the state superintendent's office. Individual and agency 
expectations are defined in an annual performance meeting with the 
employee. The office is currently training supervisory employees on how 
to use the system before its full implementation in December 2009. 

In addition to implementing a performance management system, the State 
Superintendent has begun to address long-term deficiencies identified 
by Education related to federal grant management. Education designated 
the District as a high-risk grantee because of its poor management of 
federal grants. If the District continues to be designated as a high- 
risk grantee, Education could respond by taking several actions, such 
as discontinuing one or more federal grants made to the District or 
having a third party take control over the administration of federal 
grants. As noted in a recent GAO report[Footnote 17], the state 
superintendent's office uses findings from an annual audit as part of 
its risk assessment and monitoring of subrecipients. The findings are 
used to design monitoring programs and determine risk levels for each 
school district, and the risk levels are used to develop monitoring 
strategies and work plans. The state superintendent's office developed 
a corrective action plan, which it reports to Education and intends to 
use the plan to strengthen the monitoring of the school districts. 

Implementation of Recommendations Could Improve Sustainability of 
Reform Efforts: 

The District's Mayor and his education team have taken bold steps to 
improve the learning environment of the District's students. As more 
initiatives are developed, the need to balance the expediency of the 
reform efforts with measures to increase sustainability, such as 
stakeholder involvement, is critical. DCPS currently lacks certain 
planning processes, such as communicating information to stakeholders 
in a timely manner and incorporating stakeholder feedback at key 
junctures, which would allow for a more transparent process. 
Stakeholder consultation in planning and implementation efforts can 
help create a basic understanding of the competing demands that 
confront most agencies and the limited resources available to them. 
Continuing to operate without a more formal mechanism for stakeholder 
involvement could diminish support for the reform efforts, undermine 
their sustainability, and ultimately compromise the potential gains in 
student achievement. In addition, since the Reform Act, the District 
has taken several steps to improve central office operations, such as 
providing more accountability at the departmental level and 
implementing a new individual performance management system. However, 
DCPS has not yet aligned its performance management system, including 
its individual performance evaluations, to its organizational goals, 
which could result in a disparity between employees' daily activities 
and services needed to support schools. By ensuring that employees are 
familiar with the organizational goals and that their daily activities 
reflect these goals, DCPS could improve central office accountability 
and support to schools. 

In our report that we publicly released today, we make two 
recommendations that could improve the implementation and 
sustainability of key initiatives in the District's transformation of 
its public school system. We recommend that the Mayor direct DCPS to: 

* Establish planning processes that include mechanisms to evaluate its 
internal capacity and communicate information to stakeholders and, when 
appropriate, incorporate their views. 

* Link individual performance evaluations to the agency's overall 

In written comments on the report, all three District education 
offices--DCPS, the state superintendent's office and the Deputy Mayor 
for Education--concurred with our recommendations. However, they 
expressed concern with the way in which we evaluated their reform 
efforts and the overall tone of the draft report. A summary of the 
District's response to our findings and recommendations, as well as our 
evaluation of the response, are contained on pages 41 and 42 of the 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my 
prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you 
may have at this time. 


For further information regarding this testimony, please contact 
Cornelia Ashby at (202) 512-7215 or In addition, 
contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public 
Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement. Individuals 
who made key contributions to this testimony are Elizabeth Morrison, 
Assistant Director, Sheranda Campbell, and Nagla'a El-Hodiri. 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, District of Columbia Public Schools: Important Steps Taken to 
Continue Reform Efforts, But Enhanced Planning Could Improve 
Implementation and Sustainability, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 26, 

[2] Pub. L. No. 110-33. 

[3] The District's education offices include the District of Columbia 
Public Schools, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 
and the District of Columbia's Department of Education. 

[4] We also testified in March 2008 about the status of the reform 
efforts. See GAO, District of Columbia Public Schools: While Early 
Reform Efforts Tackle Critical Management Issues, a District-wide 
Strategic Education Plan Would Help Guide Long-Term Efforts, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
Mar. 14, 2008). 

[5] We performed our work from May 2008 through June 2009 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards 
require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, 
appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence 
obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions 
based on our audit objectives. 

[6] Under NCLBA, each state creates its own content standards, academic 
achievement tests, and proficiency targets. States are required to test 
all children for reading and mathematics achievement annually in grades 
3-8 and once in high school to determine whether schools are meeting 
academic targets. While a greater percentage of D.C. students reached 
proficiency levels set by the District, a smaller percentage of 
schools--27 percent compared to 31 percent in 2008--met proficiency 
targets set by the District. The District's proficiency targets were 
the same for both years. 

[7] The state superintendent's office continues to provide funding to 
DCPS and charter schools on a per pupil basis. In addition to a 
standard funding amount, students with certain characteristics are 
funded at greater levels to account for the increased cost of educating 
them. For example, schools with students who are English language 
learners and students with disabilities are allocated additional funds. 

[8] Under the new staffing model, a school may choose to trade a 
position offered by the new staffing model for another position based 
on its needs. For example, a school may employ an art teacher funded by 
a private entity and trade the art position assigned by the staffing 
model for a regular classroom teacher. 

[9] Mary Levy, An Analysis of DCPS General Education Resources in Local 
School Budgets for FY 2009 (Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil 
Rights and Urban Affairs, December 2008). DCPS officials told us that 
they conducted their own analysis in an effort to minimize such 
differences in the future. GAO did not conduct an independent analysis 
of the per pupil allocations across schools. 

[10] SLED is intended to enable the sharing of critical information 
spanning a student's lifelong public education experience in the 
District from early childhood to college and other postsecondary 
education. SLED is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education's 
Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grants Program. Education's 
Institute of Education Sciences provides monitoring and technical 
assistance for the project. 

[11] DCPS terminated 248 teachers in June 2009. According to a document 
provided by the Washington Teachers' Union, 117 of these teachers were 
terminated for failing to get proper licensure. In addition, 70 of the 
248 terminated teachers were subject to the 90-day evaluation process- 
including 55 tenured teachers and 15 probationary teachers. Sixty-one 
additional probationary teachers were also terminated. 

[12] DCPS did not need to hire the same number of teachers as the 
number who left the school system after the 2007-2008 school year 
because 23 schools closed and district-wide enrollment had again 
declined by the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. 

[13] The state superintendent's office serves as a state education 
agency for DCPS and 59 public charter schools, as of March 2009. 

[14] The Master Education Plan dated February 2006 was developed and 
released by the Superintendent of D.C. schools and the D.C. Board of 
Education. According to the plan, there was a high degree of 
stakeholder involvement in developing the 122-page plan, including five 
community forums, three forums sponsored by the Washington Teachers' 
Union, and over 15,000 parents participating through phone surveys. 

[15] After reading the draft of our report, DCPS officials identified 
four steps they said DCPS takes to involve stakeholders in key 
decisions. We requested documentation showing that these steps had been 
in place during the 2008-2009 school year; however, DCPS did not 
provide such documentation. 

[16] Effective performance management systems can be used strategically 
to drive internal change, achieve desired results, and provide 
continuity during transitions. GAO, Results-Oriented Cultures: Creating 
a Clear Linkage between Individual Performance and Organizational 
Success, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C: Mar. 14, 2003). 

[17] GAO, Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned 
Uses Of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses (Appendixes), [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: July 

[End of section] 

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