One size fits none for DCPS policies

Sophie Reeves

The creation of standardized policies for a school district with a wide variety of schools is ineffective. Instead, DCPS should grant schools the autonomy to create policies that can accomodate their respective needs and nuances.

There it is, written on the DCPS homepage for Student Empowerment and Support: “we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to education.” However, actions speak louder than words. Central Office’s implementation of District-wide policies is the definition of one size fits all.

Adjusting to the “new normal” of pandemic-era learning is no small ordeal, but with that being said, in a time that has demanded clear answers about what is best for our community, the decisions of DCPS Central Office have fallen short. They are too uniform, too broad, and do not allow for the flexibility that our city’s schools need.

In April, DCPS announced its plans to make a full return to in-person learning, later adding reopening plans and procedures.

The executive decision to return fully and in-person made by DCPS came with a cost. Across a diverse school district with endless variables, there is no single solution. 

My first few weeks back at school revealed the stark reality of DCPS’s standardized policies: operating with a population over 2,000, Wilson didn’t fit the mold that DCPS designed their policies for.

If Wilson had the opportunity to plan its own policy, the administration could have accounted for certain aspects that are unique to our school. Then the scramble to split up lunch periods to avoid overcrowding may not have happened and there would also be clearer and more suitable reopening policies all over DC, not just at Wilson.

This principle doesn’t just extend to COVID-19 policies. Other district-wide policies are also just too standardized. The revised late work policy for the new school year stands out as one of them. An 86 percent is now the highest a student can earn on any assignment handed in late, and that is far too uniform.

At Wilson, Eastern High School, Mckinley Tech, and Anacostia High School, students have dramatically different at-home situations, access to resources, and thus different capabilities to turn work in on time. It is once again the case that one size does not fit all. 

Every school has students and teachers with different needs. Guidelines created by those who know their respective school the best will, time and again, be the ones most suitable to the community there.

Stepping back, I am proud of our school district and the Wilson administration. These near-impossible decisions are being handled mostly well, and it is clear that teachers and administrators alike care deeply about the health of students and their families. 

That being said, giving individual schools a chance to take on a more tailored approach in the future may make the system all the more effective. •