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DCPS Educator Stephen Varhall Testimony to the DC Council on DCPS Technology Equity

Good Afternoon Council members - I’m a fourth and fifth grade math teacher in Ward 1. Thank you for providing this opportunity to hear support for Council member Lewis-George’s bill 24-77.

Before I speak on digital equity, I want to thank Chairman Mendelson, Council member Nadeau, Council member Allen, and Council member Robert White for their attention earlier in the year on HVACs. Students and teachers at Cleveland suffered through 2 months of exhausting heat in face masks, but in mid-October new units were installed.

The objective of my testimony today is to demonstrate the effectiveness of DCPS on technology. I’m sure you’ve heard, but I’d like to remind you how teachers are evaluated each year. Every single teacher earns Highly Effective, Effective, Minimally Effective, or Not Effective each year. Bonuses and terminations are based on these ratings. The final rating is based on several data points - test scores, unannounced observations, academic growth and proficiency, the qualitative commitment to school community, and a teacher’s qualitative core professionalism.

High expectations are okay with me actually, but I have high expectations too. So, I’d like to spend my time today rating DCPS’s technology since March 2020:

Category 1: getting students devices for virtual learning: minimally effective

While many of my students were provided with a Microsoft Surface Go by DCPS, the roll-out was so slow our school had to go into our PTA funds to buy students’ computers and beg Embassy’s for their old devices to equip our students for virtual at the beginning of the pandemic. I had more than a handful of students not attending for weeks because they didn’t have a device.

Category 2: being 1:1 for simulcasting when students are out on quarantine: Not Effective

Students all across the city were handed paper packets without any support this fall when they were on forced quarantine because schools didn’t have devices to send home.

Category 3: being 1:1 for in-person instruction: minimally effective

My classroom is now 1:1. Even though DCPS was advertising 1:1 on Kojo and here at the Council all fall, my personal classroom was not 1:1 until Week 7 of this school year (for those keeping up were are finishing Week 10 now). I am grateful for this, but I’m not able to be 7-weeks late on any of the rubrics I’m evaluated on. Actually, if I’m late to work just 3 times in an entire school year, I’m deducted 10 points for core professionalism. In fair play, DCPS would be deducted 110 points on their core professionalism for being 7 weeks late.

Category 4: smartboards: not effective

Why are all the smartboards broken? These aren’t cute classroom decorations or chic tech accessories. Just as in the 1930s a chalkboard was required, and in the 1990s when I was in school a whiteboard was required, in 2021 a digital display is required for teaching. I urge a Council member to request an audit of ALL DCPS smartboards just so you can begin to understand the enormity of the broken equipment in our District.

To review: out of four categories that is two Minimally Effectives and two Not Effectives. If a teacher earned this she or he would be terminated.

Thank you for your time. Your vote on Council member Lewis-George Technology Equity Act is necessary, please don’t give up on us.

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