By UELIP Associate: Leigh Creighton
I wanted to be a “UELIP” because I am interested in pursuing a degree in education, and I wanted to learn more about what “urban education” means. An internship with DC Public Schools sounded like a great opportunity to gain first-hand experience about urban education and learn about DC Public Schools, both of which I knew little about having recently moved to the DC area from Georgia.
Given my law degree and past experience interning for a legal clinic that focused on special education matters, I was excited to be placed with the Office of Specialized Instruction (OSI, formerly known as the Office of Special Education). I work specifically for OSI’s Local Education Agency Monitoring and School Support Team (LEAMSST).
Right away, I had an opportunity to begin sitting in on OSI meetings concerning DC Public Schools’ special education student population. The openness in allowing me to observe meetings with candid discussions was a great first impression for me about DC Public Schools as a whole. OSI is leading the special education reform goals for DC Public Schools, and an important component of successful reform incorporates candid conversations about the current status of special education in DC Public Schools in order to promote constant brainstorming and solutions.
Two of the more intriguing brainstorming sessions I have observed involved DC Public Schools’ alternative schools. I had an opportunity to accompany a special education specialist during her visit to the Youth Services Center, which is an alternative school within a youth detention facility. During the visit, I listened to the honest assessments and thoughtful discussion amongst various school administrators and OSI team members. Problem solving did not begin back at central office, but started and continued throughout the visit. About a week later, during a meeting involving administrators from several of DC Public Schools’ alternative schools, I witnessed the genuine passion the administrators have for the students and parents they serve.
Soon, as part of my UELIP project, I will have an opportunity to hear feedback concerning special education from a variety of DC Public School employees. Based on my observations thus far, I expect the feedback to be passionate, insightful, and forward –thinking because ultimately what I have learned throughout my internship is that urban education has a lot to do with the mindset of the people involved. Indeed, I believe DC Public Schools has grouped together people, positions, and responsibilities that are truly focused on and passionate about improving special education for the students of DC Public Schools.