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November 23, 2018

Dear Council Members and Council Chair Mendelson

Communities for D.C. Public Schools (C4DC) as represented by the undersigned, supported B-22 0776 as it was proposed by Council Members Cheh, R. White, Nadeau, Silverman, Allen, Gray, and Chairman Mendelson this summer.  We do not support the current amended version of the bill. 

The purpose of the Research Collaborative is to establish an independent resource for education research to serve the Council, inform the public education agencies, and the public.  If a Research Collaborative of long term credibility and sustainability is to be instituted, public planning and engagement need to be done. In order to achieve this, using the DC Auditor's office to manage an independent Advisory Board composed of the stakeholders included in the original bill represents the appropriate group.  The steering committee cannot be limited to Mayoral appointees, the Executive Director of the SBOE and a trustee or employee of a charter school.  The challenges this bill is designed to address--lack of transparency and independence by the executive with complete control of education policy, practice and leadership--will not be overcome, if the research consortium, itself is primarily controlled by the executive.

Securing a credible and sustainable entity, also means not pre-judging the outcome of the planning and feasibility process and rushing the spinning off of the Research Collaborative, as the Committee amended B-22 0776 requires. This is likely to permanently limit its effectiveness, hamper its potential for establishing viable finances, and so have it go the way of the many other attempts to create a DC research consortium. The original concept was to give time for the culture and integrity of this effort to be established. This is crucial.

Data access for the research collaborative is also critical. The collaborative will need to draft Memorandum of Understandings with OSSE and other agencies; however, legislative language bolstering the need for access is important. In addition, we feel the collaborative and OSSE should develop feedback loops so that external researchers are assisting in OSSE’s work toward building and maintaining a research-ready longitudinal database.

We appreciate your commitment to a Collaborative for Education Research and look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to ensure that the Council votes on a bill that is ensures an independent, credible, and sustainable research collaborative.