Testimony, OSSE Performance Oversight Hearing, FY 2017-2018

Testimony of Shana Bartley, Acting Executive Director

DC Action for Children


Agency Performance Oversight Hearing

Fiscal Year 2017-2018

Office of the State Superintendent of Education


Before the Committee on Education

                                                Council of the District of Columbia         


February 27, 2018


Good morning, Councilmember Grosso and members of the Committee on Education. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the Office of the State Superintendent for Education’s performance in the past year. My name is Shana Bartley, and I am acting executive director at DC Action for Children.

Over the past 25 years, DC Action for Children has served as a leading voice working on behalf of DC children and families. Through research and advocacy for equitable policies, we work to ensure that all DC children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their race/ethnicity, zip code or family’s income. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.

DC Action is grateful to join with other members of the Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance to testify about the importance of building a robust early care and education system in the District. Young children remain the fastest growing population in our city, with 43,507 under 5 living in the District.[1] Of these children, 19% are in families living below the poverty line, a figure varying widely by ward. [2] As District residents are trending younger, it is critical that the city remain focused on increasing access to equitable and affordable early care and education opportunities.

My testimony today emphasizes several key points:

  1. The District must continue investment in and targeted scaling of innovative and proven approaches like the Quality Improvement Network and Shared Services Alliance.
  2. A strong early care and education workforce is vital to prepare the next generation of Washingtonians; DC must recruit, retain and reward early childhood educators.  
  3. An integrated early childhood data system (ECIDS) would support better coordination across District agencies and improve services for young children and their families.


1) The Quality Improvement Network and Shared Services Alliance are promising initiatives that OSSE should plan to scale.

To reduce the achievement gap and promote positive education and life outcomes for all DC children, the District must sustain investments in comprehensive early childhood systems-building initiatives like the Quality Improvement Initiative (QIN).

We commend OSSE for focusing on quality and systems-building through the QIN, which is a key example of the agency’s commitment to our youngest children. The QIN is a neighborhood-based early childhood systems initiative meant to build capacity in the community, raise quality to Early Head Start (EHS) standards and improve access to infant and toddler care. It achieves this by leveraging the resources and expertise of a diverse group of stakeholders that includes three community hub partners and six DC government agencies that serve or support infants and toddlers and their families. As of August 2017, the QIN is operating in 14 early care and education settings, all offering full-day and full-year[3] care with the capacity to serve 400 children.[4]

In partnership with the national BUILD Initiative, DC Action serves as the systems evaluators of the QIN. Following the completion of the Phase 1 evaluation, DC Action provided recommendations focused on strengthening relationships, explicitly clarifying roles and responsibilities, improving communication across stakeholder groups, and defining concrete measures and outcomes of success. In addition to these recommendations, evaluation results highlighted the commitment of community-based and District agency stakeholders to the QIN and its success.

As with any innovative systems-level initiative, sustainable change and growth takes time. The QIN is a promising model, and we encourage those invested in early care and education to continue following the development and expansion of the QIN over the next few years.  DC Action anticipates that scaling of the QIN, particularly to areas of higher need, will yield positive results for young children and their families.

Lastly, though the QIN is a local District initiative, it is not immune to decisions made at the federal level. Because it is primarily funded through two federal sources (subsidy and grant dollars from the US Department of Health and Human Services), and partially funded with local money, it is important to be aware of potential threats to sustainable funding for the QIN. Due to our volatile Federal administration, we ask that all advocates, stakeholders and District agencies remain vigilant in their support of the QIN.

At the beginning of FY18, OSSE also rolled out the Shared Services Alliance to support a select number of child development homes. Infant Toddler Family Day Care received a grant to provide “marketing expertise, workforce development assistance, accounting and bookkeeping services, effective referral and enrollment processes, and training and support services in place that will be made available to DC homes in the Alliance.”[5] By centralizing these operational and administrative tasks with an external organization, child development home providers have more time to focus on relationship-building with children and families and to improve the quality of their services.

As we shared in our white paper, Piecing Together: Completing the Early Childhood System Puzzle, “Evaluation research on the benefits of shared services in the ECE field reports significant cost savings per provider, enhanced family engagement and improved equity among low-income families due to the increased affordability of child care. Program quality improves because smaller sites can leverage the professional management and economic strength of larger organizations, making it easier for small sites to meet quality standards, gather and report data and offer a range of needed supports to children and their families. This focus on quality is especially crucial in caring for children from low-income families.”[6] We are pleased that OSSE supports proven approaches with demonstrated benefits, and we hope that the agency will report on the progress of the Shared Services Alliance. We would also like to hear about OSSE’s plans to sustain and potentially grow the Shared Services Alliance in FY19.

2)  The early childhood workforce needs more support; teachers need higher compensation.

It is well established that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life shapes the trajectory of the rest of his or her life. When children are nurtured in high-quality environments by individuals who facilitate high-quality interactions, their chances at lifelong success increase drastically.[7]

Despite the critical role that early childhood educators play in ensuring the healthy development of children, here in the District, the average salary of those teaching our youngest children is $29,450 annually or about $14 an hour.[8] These educators also rarely receive additional benefits like health care or retirement plans.[9] Inadequate compensation for skills and credentials leads to high turnover in child care centers and homes, putting additional stress on such a system we so fervently depend upon. 

While higher compensation could facilitate improved recruitment and retention of early childhood education teachers, child care directors cannot afford to pay higher salaries. We applaud OSSE for its efforts to incentivize teachers to attain higher degrees; however, there is more work to be done to ensure that teachers receive adequate compensation. We join with other members of the Birth-to-three Policy Alliance in support of well-researched salary scale that establishes compensation parity for infant and toddler teachers with other educators.  Though we know that financing early childhood programs is challenging, we ask that you ensure that  such a salary scale is also attached to increased funding for programs.  

3) Implementing an integrated early childhood data system would allow the District to better serve young children and their families.

To deepen the impact of systems-level initiatives such as the QIN, the various stakeholders must have a common language. In the world of government, research and public-private partnership, this language is a coordinated data system. Young children in the District currently receive services from a matrix of local and federal agencies and programs whose internal data systems cannot communicate.[10] While OSSE has already established the Student Longitudinal Educational Data System (SLED) to track student-level education data, PreK-12, there is no comparable system for younger children.

Families with young children are touched by many different programs and DC currently lacks a data system capable of answering critical policy questions pertaining to our youngest citizens. Because of this, DC Action believes the implementation of a fully functional Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS) would allow stakeholders to compare District-wide baseline child-level data to data of children receiving specific programs. Equipped with a more complete, longitudinal picture of the early childhood landscape that the ECIDS would provide, stakeholders could think and invest more strategically in programs that focus on narrowing the achievement gap and ensuring that children receive developmentally appropriate health, behavioral and developmental screening and services. Effective implementation of an ECIDS would empower policymakers in the District to improve program quality, promote a strong early care and education workforce, increase access to high-quality programs and improve child outcomes.[11]

We call on this Committee and the Committees on Health and Human Services to consider the benefits of developing an early childhood data system that includes a robust selection of data including child-level data pertaining to early care and education, health and developmental screenings, and home visiting. We believe the system should, by design, be easily accessible to all agencies and programs serving young children. Furthermore, it should build upon cross-agency data-sharing agreements and link to SLED with unique identifiers for individual children. This proposed coordinated data system holds the potential to propel forward the work of the QIN and other inter-agency efforts working on initiatives that have already begun coordinating systems and wrap-around services for DC children such as early intervention and home visiting.

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.



[1] Data via DC KIDS COUNT; Child population by age group. Source: Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/101-child-population-by-age-group?loc=10&loct=3#detailed/3/any/false/870,573,869,36….

[2] Data via DC KIDS COUNT; Children in Poverty by Age Group; Source: US Census Bureau. Accessed at: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/5650-children-in-poverty-by-age-group?loc=10&loct=3#detailed/3/10,55-56,58-61,64-77…

[3] No less than 10 hours and no less than 48 weeks

[4] Total program enrollment in August 2017: 291 children

[5] Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2017) . Shared Services Business Alliance for DC Child Development Homes and Expanded Home Facilities. Retrieved from: https://osse.dc.gov/publication/shared-services-business-alliance-dc-child-development-homes-and-expanded-home

[6] Bartley, S., Lloyd, A., Dean, E., & Abu-Anbar, R. (2017). Piecing together: Completing the early childhood system puzzle in the District. DC Action for Children. Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/Piecing%20Together_FINAL_0.pdf.

[7] Mickelson, S. (2017). D.C. leads on education requirements for early learning workforce. Bainum Family Foundation. Retrieved from: https://bainumfdn.org/blog/d-c-leads-education-requirements-early-learning-workforce/.

[8] ChildCare Aware. (2017). 2017 State Child Care Facts in the State of District of Columbia. Retrieved from: http://usa.childcareaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/DC_Facts.pdf.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Bartley, S., Lloyd, A., Dean, E., & Abu-Anbar, R. (2017). Piecing together: Completing the early childhood system puzzle in the District. DC Action for Children. Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/Piecing%20Together_FINAL_0.pdf.