Executive director Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council’s Committee on Education at a public hearing for several proposed education bills: Bill 20-310, The Individual School Accountability Act; Bill 20-311, The Focused Student Achievement Act; Bill 20-328, Increasing Access to High Quality Educational Opportunities Act; Bill 20-041, Reading Development and Grade 3 Retention Act. Read a summary below or review her full testimony (PDF) as submitted to the committee.
DC’s education system is struggling to meet basic expectations and Children’s Law Center is glad that the DC Council, led by the education committee and its chairman, Councilmember David Catania, is treating this as the crisis it is. Our feedback on several of the bills under consideration, but one overarching recommendation is to amend the bills to ensure children come to school ready to learn.
Children who grow up in poverty – and 72% of DC’s children come from families at or below 185% of the poverty line – walk through the schoolhouse door at a disadvantage that even the best instruction cannot remedy. Poverty and the so-called toxic stress associated with it creates affect children’s brain development and make it harder for these children to listen, to follow directions, and to retain information. While schools cannot change neighborhood or family conditions, they can provide structure and supports to ameliorate these effects and help children be more receptive to academic instruction.
Several small-scale programs in the District, including Tools of the Mind, are already working to address these needs. In her testimony, Sandalow urged the education committee to consider a competitive grants process to encourage schools to implement additional evidence-based models to support students. She also encouraged considering requirements that schools address students’ exposure to trauma and toxic stress.