Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Speedwalking


Photo by Karen.Strolia on Flickr.
Racial differences in walking: DC's white population walks farther, faster, and more often than non-whites. This might stem from more white residents living in the city center and more non-whites in the periphery. (City Paper)

Lots of heat in education debate: Virginia's teachers rallied against Governor McDonnell's education proposals, including contract reforms and tax credits to businesses offering scholarships. (Washington Times)

Drawing great teachers to bad schools: Through bonuses, tax credits and tuition aid, Chairman Kwame Brown wants to draw great teachers from great schools and into the lowest-performing DC schools. (Examiner)

Bethesda's new gateway: New development plans have been submitted for the Trillium site in northern Bethesda. The project, a 370-unit rental building with a grocery store, is filling in a long-vacant and blighted lot near the downtown. (DCmud)

A fight for DC's memorial: Mayor Gray "will resist with every fiber" efforts by Congress to nationalize DC's World War I memorial. The Mayor appeared with Delegate Norton at a Congressional hearing to decry the proposal. (Washington Times)

Georgetown needs a plan: Tying Georgetown's myriad transportation plans into a single master plan would crystallize them into what the neighborhood actually needs, allowing them to finally move forward. (Georgetown Metropolitan)

One City Summit for the masses: Mayor Gray has called a summit of DC residents to discuss and vote on livability, inclusivity, and other issues on February 11. Perhaps go for the free lunch. (DCist)

How blogs influence planning: David is giving a talk this evening at the American Planning Association about the way blogs can change the conversation around planning. It's 5:30-6:30 at 1030 15th Street; RSVP here.

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

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re: Racial differences in walking

The underlying City Paper story has to be one of the oddest and most assumption and conjecture-riddled articles I've ever read in a mainstream paper. Shame on GGW for linking to it.

by Lance on Jan 24, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

Are you shooting the message, or the messenger? The City Paper simply covered an event in DC that made these statements.

by William on Jan 24, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

@William, Responsible messengers (aka'the Press') know better than to give voice to everything and anything someone claims to have been 'scientifically studied'.

by Lance on Jan 24, 2012 9:16 am • linkreport

I'd guess the underlying difference -- if it exists -- is soley a function of age.

What is interesting is the CP choosing that one paper and highlighting it, and then focusing on "density" as the appropriate frame. I agree -- bizzare.

Density doesn't explain anything. But is certainily is become the new "race" as an overall explanation.

by charlie on Jan 24, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

The paper (the original and the city paper) noted that white people walk more than other races. It did not do anything to prescribe a cause to it so of course any guess made to it would be conjecture. Both the paper's author and lydia depillis admit to that. And Lydia stated why it caught her eye in the first place, because it had a local focus on an urban issue so why not cover it?

by Canaan on Jan 24, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

Location and age certainly have something to do with it, but I also think a lot of the newer arrivals are from cities in the northeast like NYC and just walk faster. NYers (both white and non-whites) walk very quickly whereas for as long as I've know Washingtonians don't walk very quickly and will stop to talk to someone, or just call out to a neighbor. It's more of a southern/northern thing, I think. And CP picked that study over the others because it will bring the commentariat out - which it has - just like the rant on adulthood they published a few weeks ago.

by dc denizen on Jan 24, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

My guess is that whites go to farmers markets more and do more yoga and attend more lectures bla bla bla. It might even have something to do with the amount of college degrees/wealth they have compared to minorities. These analysis out of context don't seem to bring much to the conversation.

by Thayer-D on Jan 24, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

I am a transplanted New Yorker and I find that Washingtonians walk painfully slowly!

As for the study, I have not read it and cannot attest to it's quality. While I agree that the city paper article seemed sloppy with its assumptions, I certainly see why the study itself is of potential interest to GGW readers and I see no reason to exclude it from this morning's links.

by Sam on Jan 24, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

Why didn't the study make an effort to control for variables? I realize it's just data pulled from another survey, but don't those surveys also code for location (eg zip code or census tract) so that the researcher could determine whether blacks and whites living in the same (or similar) neighborhoods have those disparities?

It's also sort of bizarre--what do the data mean? Other than a conclusion that walking is "stuff white people like" it seems to me there's a lack of meaningful point to the disparity. Is it access to public transit? Is it proximity to destinations worth walking to? Should we care?

by ah on Jan 24, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D; no, it is the cupcakes. Clearly.

by charlie on Jan 24, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

Re: Speedwalking

I don't think studies should attribute our differences to race unless there's a clear causal link between the difference and race. Otherwise, it's just sensational headline grabbing because we all know a study that says "People who live in walkable areas walk faster than people who don't" won't get nearly the kind of press as a statement like "White people walk faster than other races". And, shame on the press and other media for pandering to this.

Sure, there are legitimate differences among races and we should study them (for example, people of different races respond to the same medication in different ways). But, attributing our differences to race unnecessarily just divides us and creates disharmony.

The paper (the original and the city paper) noted that white people walk more than other races. It did not do anything to prescribe a cause to it

The headline and study clearly give a first impression that the cause of walking faster is being white. Only later do they say that race probably doesn't have anything to do with it.

by Falls Church on Jan 24, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

Kwame's "effective teachers" idea is interesting, but I think it is not enough. He proposes a $10k bonus and tax goodies to get the best teachers to transfer from the good to the bad schools. But consider what is like for a teacher to move from an excellent W3 school to a challenged W8 school. If I were a so-called "highly effective teacher", I would find this a risky change because it is likely that what works in the former does not work in the latter. Given the risk, the extra money is not enough: I think there will be few takers for the program.

OTOH it shows that DC council has figured out that the key resource that all DC schools are competing over is teachers. The best schools hire and retain the best teachers, and conversely, shed themselves of the worst teachers.

by goldfish on Jan 24, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

I like the idea of annual contracts for teachers instead of continuing ones. There's no reason to retain an employee simply on the basis of their existing status.

by Fitz on Jan 24, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

I'm an extremely fast walker, and find myself frequently frustrated while walking, stuck behind locals and tourists, both downtown, and around my residence in Columbia Heights. People talking or texting on their phones walk slowly and erratically. People walking dogs do the same. People pushing strollers take up lots of sidewalk real estate. Tourists walk 6 abreast and don't make way for faster pedestrians either overtaking, or going the opposite direction. Surly groups of teenagers block the sidewalk in a passive-aggressive, or aggressive-aggressive manner. School groups and Segway tours take over entire stretches at a time, oblivious to the fact that us locals rely on the sidewalk for actual transportation. It's so frustrating! please, slower traffic keep right, just like on the highway, and no more that two abreast please.

Whew, OK, rant over... ;)

by MrTinDC on Jan 24, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

If any of you wondered "how" things get turned into issues of race, Lydia's article is a good reason why.

No this shouldn't have made the morning links and especially the FIRST news item of the day. Didn't we learn enough from John King's slaughter by Newt Gingrich, when John decided the the first debate question should center on Gingrich's marital history. King made the choice and here GGW made the choice to engage in this tomdamnfoolery.

White people walk faster, farther and more often than the rest who are either lazy or car owners.

There is no value to this discussion at all and it perpetuates a stereotype that many rail against.

And then some of you had to nerve to question "how" bike lanes and dog parks became SWPL (stuff white people like). Well check the sources, ain't none of 'em black.

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Oh and Kwame's proposal is an interesting one but it also leads to what I consider a reasonable and relevant question to the issue of reform during the last administration.

If we were to believe the reports, most high-peforming teachers don't operate in low-performing schools. Many have accepted the fact that the main issue in low-performing schools is...the teachers...or the unions. What I would like to know is (on average)how well do HP teachers continue to perform in low-performing schools...and why.

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

Good to see some movement on the Trillium (finally). I've lived in Bethesda for almost six years, and this place was has been a lot for almost the entirety of that time.

by Cassidy on Jan 24, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

@goldOTOH it shows that DC council has figured out that the key resource that all DC schools are competing over is teachers. The best schools hire and retain the best teachers, and conversely, shed themselves of the worst teachers.

This actually raises a more interesting point. If the "good" schools are competing over "good" teachers, then what option does that leave low performing schools and how do they attract better teachers?

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

I've read black people run faster than white people in urban environments because they're more likely to be running away from something. I'll make sure to submit a tip for tomorrow's Breakfast Links.

That was my first thought upon seeing the link and reading the article.

by selxic on Jan 24, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

I like how a study that makes no effort to posit a real answer to why the walking disparity exists then gets turned around to have obviously only the crassest of intentions with the purpose of it. All of the assumptions have played out in the comments sections here. No one really believes that its a fundamental difference between races that one would prefer walking just because (and if they do they probably believe much worse things about race/ethnicity anyway), so it behooves us to move past the snarky assumptions.

In short, the only stereotypes I've seen about the walking study are in the comment section here.

by Canaan on Jan 24, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

@Hogwash: then what option does that leave low performing schools and how do they attract better teachers?

Schools compete for teachers by giving them the tools they need to succeed: by providing the best class materials; by eliminating burdensome teacher paperwork; by promoting enriching extracurricular activities; and by supporting them in disciplinary matters.

School also compete by providing an educational model that teachers can support.

A low-performing charter is in danger of being put out of business at the whim of the charter board. This provides the gift of desperation: in addition to the points above, it can also provide better pay for HP teachers (and cut something else in the budget like admin or library). A low-performing DCPS school is more constrained in this regard, and I think changing an educational model for a given school is more difficult (requiring hearings and parent meetings). OTOH DCPS having lost 40% of its students over the past 10 years, now also has the gift of desperation and is willing to try things.

by goldfish on Jan 24, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

Walk speed is also a cultural thing, tied to city size:
http://www.radiolab.org/2010/oct/08/

To me, finding a racial difference in walk speed, distance, and frequency within a single (quite segregated) city is important because it makes us ask why. Is it cultural? Dubliners walk faster than New Yorkers. Has it to do with the uneven form of the cityscape? If the apparent city size is different for the typical white resident than the typical black resident, we need to examine zipcode. Has it to do with relative wealth? Age? Health?

The point of any study is to force us to ask more questions, and this most certainly does.

by OctaviusIII on Jan 24, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

I like how a study that makes no effort to posit a real answer to why the walking disparity exists

To me, finding a racial difference in walk speed, distance, and frequency within a single (quite segregated) city is important because it makes us ask why

The whole point is that there is no walking disparity/difference between whites and non-whites! Any APPARENT difference is caused by confounding variables. It's coincidence, not causation. It's like saying that the Redskins final home game in a presidential election year predicts the outcome just because the stats happen to line up that way.

The point of any study is to force us to ask more questions, and this most certainly does.

Yeah, you can do the same thing with the Redskins theory. Maybe the reason the incumbent wins when the skins win is because the incumbent has a lot of staff in the area that goes to Redskins games and they get all riled up and motivated when they win the last game and that translates into harder work in campaigning.

by Falls Church on Jan 24, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

I think its a valid question to ask considering that one of the issues in the last mayoral race was literally "bike lanes are for white people", we know there are confounding variables, now its time to see what those variables are because it just might help make the city more equitable.

by Canaan on Jan 24, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

If bike lanes are for white people, does that mean tennis is for black people? Why else would a $10MM tennis facility be developed in Marshall Heights?

by Rayful Edmond on Jan 24, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

I wish that Mayor One-City would "resist with every fiber" the proliferation of street muggings in Northwest DC. One even happened right before a police-community meeting on the crime wave, just blocks from the meeting venue. Please sweat the important stuff, Vince, not the feel-good fluff.

by Sarah on Jan 24, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

@HogWash
This actually raises a more interesting point. If the "good" schools are competing over "good" teachers, then what option does that leave low performing schools and how do they attract better teachers?

DCPS already pays more to high-performing teacher in the low-performing and disadvantaged schools.

Beyond that are there other incentives you think they could offer? They could move teachers to those schools, but those teachers would probably quit as they can get a teaching job anywhere on demand basically.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2012 1:04 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church and others condemning a study that is a simple cross-sectional description -you can't start finding out what covariates attribute to the difference (in walking) until you make the observation in the first place. See Octavius's comment.

Worthwhile inquiry only starts AFTER an observation is made. The walking cross-section is just an observation. We all agree- its perhaps interesting but doesn't tell us anything. As you say, the "Why" (a difference) is the inquiry that follows the observation. But no observation, no inquiry.

Most epidemiological studies don't start with statistical tests. They start with recording observable/describable differences/patterns. If there's no observable difference there's no reason to do a follow up study, like adjusting for covariates.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

@MLD/Gold, I get that.

A better framing of my question asks, "what barriers prevent HP teachers in HP schools from replicating the same level of success in LP Schools?"

My idea is that it's not simply "bad" teachers but a myriad of issues and IMO, one of the most important one is the quality of the student body. I'm just not convinced that a superman/woman can miraculously change that.

On a different note, I wish we could tie DC TANF benefits to a child's performance in school. But that's my pipe dream...:(

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

@SelxI've read black people run faster than white people in urban environments because they're more likely to be running away from something. I'll make sure to submit a tip for tomorrow's Breakfast Links.

OMG! I almost spilled my chai!...

Too funny!!!! ROTFLOL

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

...now its time to see what those variables are because it just might help make the city more equitable.

Exactly.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

@William, Responsible messengers (aka'the Press') know better than to give voice to everything and anything someone claims to have been 'scientifically studied'.

Nice one!

The Bell Curve was accorded attention totally disproportionate to the merits of the book or the novelty of its thesis. The book and its dubious claims set the agenda for discussions on such public affairs programs as Nightline (10/21/94), the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (10/28/94), the McLaughlin Group (10/21/94), Charlie Rose (11/3/94, 11/4/94), Think Tank (10/14/94), PrimeTime Live (10/27/94) and All Things Considered (10/28/94).

In addition to the above-mentioned New Republic issue, the "controversy" made the covers of Newsweek (10/24/94) and the New York Times Magazine (10/9/94), took up nearly a full op-ed page in the Wall Street Journal (10/10/94), and garnered a near-rave review from the New York Times Book Review (10/16/94; Extra! Update, 12/94).

While many of these discussions included sharp criticisms of the book, media accounts showed a disturbing tendency to accept Murray and Herrnstein's premises and evidence even while debating their conclusions.

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1271

by oboe on Jan 24, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash re: teachers- ...it's not simply "bad" teachers but a myriad of issues and IMO, one of the most important one is the quality of the student body. I'm just not convinced that a superman/woman can miraculously change that.

Agree. However having a teacher thats already proven HP in an easier environment can't hurt and might help.

But as you pointed out, how long before those "Very Effective" teachers degrade to "Effective" in the more difficult environment? How many "Effective" teachers currently in more challeging schools would be "VE" in an easier school?

IMO all/most the "E" teachers currently in challenging schools would easily be graded "VE" if they taught in an easier school.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

@oboe- IMO this is evidence of piss poor general science education and understanding. Maybe its a failure among jouranlism schools that journalists show so little understanding of scientific reports. I mean the studies written by the scientists, not the reports of the studies as written by other journalists.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

Didn't we learn enough from John King's slaughter by Newt Gingrich, when John decided the the first debate question should center on Gingrich's marital history. King made the choice and here GGW made the choice to engage in this tomdamnfoolery.

What now?

by oboe on Jan 24, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

I bet Barack Obama walks faster than Newt Gingrich.

by AWalkerinTheCity on Jan 24, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash: My idea is that it's not simply "bad" teachers but a myriad of issues and IMO, one of the most important one is the quality of the student body. I'm just not convinced that a superman/woman can miraculously change that.

This is a slippery slope on the way to blaming poor school performance on the kids. I think this is terrible mistake and it should be fought as fiercely as other unjust prejudices such as racism. Not only does it lead to circular reasoning (poor students --> bad schools --> poor students...) but more tragically this leads to the school system blaming its own poor performance on its own students. Then parents move to the suburbs for the better schools and the ones left behind are even worse off.

I've seen many an educator make this argument and at its core, it is a sign of pushing passing the blame for their own failures.

by goldfish on Jan 24, 2012 2:57 pm • linkreport

@goldfish-I absolutely understand what you're saying. But then how do you talk honestly about the challenges students face before and after school and how those challenges affect their performance at school? For instance its well established that kids whose parents/an adult reads to them regularly in infancy and as toddlers learn to read sooner and have better reading comprehension skills long after toddlerhood. How do you talk about that with early grade teachers? It is a more challenging student body to teach than one coming to school already acquainted with literacy.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

^"...after toddlerhood than those who haven't been read to

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 3:09 pm • linkreport

Worthwhile inquiry only starts AFTER an observation is made...Most epidemiological studies don't start with statistical tests. They start with recording observable/describable differences/patterns.

It's fine for a study to START with a simple observation. But the study (or at least how it was covered in the media -- I haven't read the study itself) seems to end with the conclusion that there are "racial differences in walking". Since this observation is just the beginning of the process of inquiry, then it's not newsworthy. It only becomes newsworthy if you imply that "white people walk faster" is the conclusion at the end of the process of inquiry.

by Falls Church on Jan 24, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

@Gold, if there is ANYBODY who rejects the notion of poor/performing students = poor schools, it's me.

But I'm also willing to acknowledge that there is a causal relationship between poor/performing students and poor performing schools. I'm also willing to say the same about PP teachers and PP students/schools. The problem is that we aren't comfortable talking about them.

Many friends and I often talked about how this latest wave of education reform posits this notion that "all students are the same" when in fact, they aren't. All children in the same household aren't the same. When looking at great stories like the Harlem School District and others, there is a "hunger" the students (and parents) have which propels them. Disciplinary issues are handled swiftly and are consequential.

Just this past Saturday I got out the car and confronted a boy (at least 14) who was running down the street w/a knife because of a fight he had w/some lil dude. After he calmed down, he told me he hadn't been to school all year. WTMF!

Now imagine teaching him in a classroom.

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

Ok, the last point really shouldn't have been a point at all. For whatever reason that Joe Clark scene just popped back up in my mind.

by HogWash on Jan 24, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church-I could only find the abstract, not the whole paper (here if you're interested http://pressamp.trb.org/conferenceinteractiveprogram/PresentationDetails.aspx?ID=46415&Email=)

So the problem or complaint is in how the study is reported in the CP, not the fact that this observational study was executed?

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

Now imagine teaching him in a classroom.

Let alone addressing this childs needs wrt undereducation, his deficits probably cause him to be disruptive. It only takes one to make a mess for the whole class. A kid like that needs one-on-one. Who pays? The Catholic Church Charities after he's in prison? I think the money Kwame wants to spend on this program might see more benefit from just hiring more teachers and making smaller classrooms in the underperforming schools.

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 3:57 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
It only becomes newsworthy if you imply that "white people walk faster" is the conclusion at the end of the process of inquiry.

B/c these data are from a survey, that is self-reported and not objectively measured, its just as likely that non-whites are better at assessing how fast they walk a certain distance than whites. That wouldn't surprise me. I know a lot of white people who often overestimate their abilities ;-)

by Tina on Jan 24, 2012 4:04 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash & Tina: Part of the challenge a school must rise to meet is getting the parents in shape. And for the most part, they will get there. Schools such as DC Prep, LAMB, and Haynes each have like 1000 parents sign up for their lottery. As far as parents are concerned, there is that hunger to get their kids in good school. OTOH a sucky school that teaches to the test and gives busywork homework neither excites the students' interest nor the parents' respect, and therefore flounders.

Yes there is a range of talent and student ability in any classroom. But that is where a good school gets its lesser kids through. When a kid fails I will bet that 95% of the time, it is a reflection of the school.

Now about that other 5%, such as that 14 year-old who has not been to school for a year: where are DC social services? This family should be investigated; probably that kid should be in foster care, or at least out of his toxic home life. He represents tiny minority of failing kids -- but an unjustified share of the excuse of why a school system is actually failing its students.

by goldfish on Jan 24, 2012 11:05 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I should've stated that it wasn't some "concerned citizen stop potential crime" sorta thing. There were a group of maybe five who ran in front of the car and I stopped..then yelled out the window and then later got out to talk to the boy (who was actually embarassed that he got beat up in front of his friends and wanted to retaliate). But he clearly needs or will need help.

@Gold, I haven't been in a classroom in yeaaars. But based on my talks w/friends who are, that 95% numbers seems rather, rather large. Maybe because most of them teach or taught in "bad" schools?

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

@Hogwash: In the olden days there were dumb kids and smart kids; they did not have the tools to identify and deal with learning disabilities. We do now. The number is large because teachers give up on kids that they should not.

A kid that shows up clean and groomed every day and is reasonably well fed is a kid that is making the effort and has family support; if he fails, it is the school's fault. The 5% that are beyond reach are the ones that are not making this effort, and probably need social services.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

Have you ever noticed how white people are always walking like this [do da do da do] and black people are always walking like this [um - hmmm].

by 80's stand up comic on Jan 25, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

When I walk with one of my black friends in the neighborhood, we go at half the speed of me by myself, but that's because she knows everyone and stops to talk to them.

by David C on Jan 25, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

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