To three new members of the D.C. Board of Education, including two student members, the new math and reading standards for students represent a welcome change to a school system that has long received poor grades.
Recently appointed board member JoAnne Ginsberg said the state of the city's schools demonstrates it is a system in need of change. "I think the current system is failing a lot of our children," said Ginsberg, who formerly was an education analyst for D.C. Council members Kathy Patterson and Jack Evans.
"We have to find a way to educate every single child."
She said she hopes the new standards will do just that.
"I am so excited about the new learning standards," she said. "How can you have a school system with no standards and no curriculum? I'm excited to see what's going to happen once school starts, and I'm very hopeful."
The school system defines standards as the "descriptions of what students should know and be able to do to pass each subject." To help students reach the new standards, the school district is adopting new textbooks, revising the curricula and training teachers.
While Ginsberg is anxious to see how D.C. students grasp the new standards, she stresses that there should be just as much emphasis on what is to be expected from students.
"We need to change the way we think, and put in place high expectations for these kids," she added. "When you have high expectations, students will strive to learn more."
As a student, Janeese Lewis has a firsthand account of the failings of the previous curriculum that the new standards are designed to reverse.
And as a student member on the board, the School Without Walls senior is in a position to help the student experience affect policy.
"As far as test scores go, a lot of the students at D.C. public schools don't perform well, and getting to the root of why students aren't performing well in terms of reading and math proficiency is a major concern," said Lewis.
Lewis, who has also been a youth mayor for the YMCA DC Youth and Government Program and vice president of the citywide student council, said the new learning standards will come with a transition period for students.
"The new learning standards might come as a challenge to D.C. students, and I think that's what D.C. students need. One of the things I realized from being on the school board is that everything is a process. A lot of students want things done right away, but it takes time."
Ronetta Johnson, a senior at Spingarn Senior High School, also serves as a student member of the board of education. While acknowledging the potential impact of the new standards, she said a school's physical environment is just as important as the subjects the student is learning.
"Academically we're on the rise. In terms of the facilities, we'd like to see improvement in terms of air-conditioning and heating problems," said Johnson, who also plays shooting guard for the girls' basketball team in the winter and helps manage the baseball team in the spring. "If you can't focus because you're either too hot or too cold, how are you going to focus on your schoolwork?"