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The lead paragraph is a bit ambiguous: are you suggesting that we'll end with no neighborhood schools in the whole city, or none East-of-the-Park? Because west-of-the-park DCPS schools are doing fine and are often sought-after.

One thing that needs to be kept in mind here is that middle-class families EOTP have ALWAYS opted out of their neighborhood schools; in earlier decades it was largely to out-of-boundary DCPS schools. The rise of charters has more or less coincided with these OOB spots WOTP becoming harder to secure as more WOTP families opt for DCPS.

The schools on Capitol Hill, while geographically EOTP, are also highly sought after. In fact, they are evidence that once a neighborhood has a critical mass of middle-class families, DCPS neighborhood schools can become good schools.

Middle-class students will do well in schools that are predominantly middle-class. We also know that at-risk students do better in predominantly middle-class schools than they would in predominantly at-risk schools. There is no evidence that small numbers of middle-class students in predominantly at-risk schools will either improve the performance of the at-risk students or perform as well as they would in predominantly middle-class schools.

DC's present demographics indicate that there's not enough middle class families to have all the schools be predominantly middle-class. So we're going to be left with a substantial number of predominantly at-risk schools, and the problem of educating predominantly at-risk students has really never been solved.

The idea that DCPS could, with its existing resources, "innovate" its way to success with predominantly at-risk students needs far more evidence than pointing out that some schools with longer days do well. As has been noted, DC charter schools as a whole do not out-perform DCPS, and there are no charters, no matter what their strategy, with predominantly at-risk students that have posted performances that are clearly and substantially better than normal, in ways that can't be explained by selective recruiting or the Hawthorn effect or other non-scalable phenomena. Further, consider the Harlem Children's Zone, which deals with a comparable demographic to DCPS. Using millions in private investment, it's pulled out far more stops than DCPS could ever hope to, most of which are expensive, and although it's doing better than the regular schools, it's still not finding universal success and is not anywhere close to the results of ordinary suburban predominantly middle-class schools.

What a number of charters are doing is making it viable for more middle-class families to stay in the District with school-aged children, further increasing the feasibility of the District as a place to raise a middle-class family, and helping convince increasing numbers of middle-class families to settle in the city. As the numbers grow, it might one day be possible to have all DCPS schools predominantly middle-class, but until then, the charters are the bridge.

by thm on Dec 13, 2012 5:58 pm • linkreport

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