Greater Greater Washington

Education


What could DC do to encourage diversity in schools?

This is part 4 of a series on education in DC. See part 1, part 2, and part 3.

If diversity is a worthwhile goal for DC schools, but the numbers are moving in the opposite direction, what could DC do?


Photo by OregonDOT on Flickr.

We've talked about how some DC public schools are becoming so desirable that they're attracting in-boundary, wealthy families and pushing out the kids from elsewhere in the city who have gone to these schools in the past. This may create greater segregation in the public schools, where only well-off families can enjoy the good schools but can't enjoy the benefits of diversity.

Raleigh, North Carolina had an explicit policy of trying to draw school boundaries or include kids from out of boundaries so that each school had some lower-income students in it, but no more than 35%.

Raleigh found that the 35% threshold was a good one to include many kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who could benefit from being a part of a school with more privileged kids, but not so much as to create overconcentration and diminish the outcomes for the highest-performing students.

Should DC set a similar goal?

There are essentially 2 ways to include out-of-boundary, poorer children in the most exclusive public schools: make the schools bigger, and entice some in-boundary families to go elsewhere.

The old status quo was essentially that not enough families felt the school was "good enough" and therefore opted out of public education, making room, but that's ending.

One option is to add more school capacity, creating new space for out-of-boundary kids. Mary Cheh has secured funding to expand Deal Middle School, and is pushing for a new middle school in Ward 3. If there were more and larger schools to fit more kids, then there would again be out-of-boundary spaces.

Some argued, when Wilson High School was being modernized, that it was good to keep the school smaller. In part, the reason was to avoid having a huge high school that could become impersonal, but there was another oft-cited reason: if not all families who want to go to Wilson can, some will go to others, like Eastern, and in doing so make that a better school. Eastern, at Stadium-Armory, does not yet have many well-off families sending kids there, but that is poised to change.

There might be ways to avoid just having another Ward 3 school draw the well-off families from Capitol Hill; for example, DC could dedicate some of the new capacity explicitly to kids in the free or reduced-price lunch program. This would resemble Raleigh's program of explicitly fostering income diversity.

Should specialized or magnet programs migrate eastward?

The second possibility is to create programs that woo families from exclusive schools to go elsewhere. Specialized schools and magnet programs might do this. What if a new technology-focused graduate program at Saint Elizabeths also included a high school component, either at the campus or in one of the nearby schools? Montgomery Blair's nationally-known science and technology program is in Silver Spring, and at one time, Silver Spring was not quite the highly desirable place it is today.

Some of DC's current specialized programs are actually located in some of the most desirable locations. Hardy, in Glover Park, has a specialized arts program. Duke Ellington is an arts-focused high school and is in Georgetown. School Without Walls is in Foggy Bottom; that's because it's affiliated with GW.

Should any of these programs move? When Michelle Rhee reassigned Hardy principal Patrick Pope, the initial objective was to create an arts-focused middle school somewhere else that could draw from the entire city, and let Hardy evolve into more of a neighborhood school.

Should Ellington always stay in Georgetown? Most of its students aren't from the immediate area, and it's not the most transit-accessible location. Could Ellington go into an undersubscribed school building, boosting that school and getting the school closer to more of its students, and making room for a school west of Rock Creek to relieve Wilson?

Certainly, DC already has some of this. McKinley Technology High School is in Eckington. Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School is in Carver-Langston. However, these haven't (yet, at least) created such demand to uncrowd the upper Northwest schools.

Magnet programs could explicitly include kids from the area

If some of the most desirable programs were located in less privileged parts of the District, having the eastward draw would inherently free up space in competitive schools. DC could also consider ensuring that at least some (perhaps about a third) lower-income kids from the surrounding area can go to the competitive school.

Columbia University created a specialized school which included many children of faculty, and quickly became in high demand. However, Columbia also set aside a number of spots for kids living in the immediate neighborhood, which around Columbia are very diverse.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the top magnet school, Booker T. Washington, is in the worst part of town. It draws from all sections of the city, but also has an extra preference for kids from the 2 feeder schools in that area, whose students are almost all lower-income. Not every kid from those feeders gets in, but more do than if the admissions only looked at test scores.

What steps do you think DC could take to foster diversity while also maintaining and even increasing the educational quality of its schools?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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"Raleigh found that the 35% threshold was a good one to include many kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who could benefit from being a part of a school with more privileged kids, but not so much as to create overconcentration and diminish the outcomes for the highest-performing students."

This is an explicit suggestion that poor students not only perform worse than rich students, but are detrimental to their education.

If this is really the case, why would any parent support economic diversity in their school?

by Michael Hamilton on Jul 23, 2012 10:18 am • linkreport

@Michael Hamilton

It's not poor students per se, but rather an overconcentration thereof, that is understood to have a detrimental effect.

Dropping 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 disadvantaged kids into Bullis or Landon isn't going to have an effect; in fact, there frequently are these types of kids at such school, in the form of athletic prospects. They do not have any tangible detrimental impact - if they did, they would be gone pronto. But as the percentages start creeping up, the likelihood of detrimental effects decreases.

The more general reason any parent should support economic (and other) diversity in schools is that while we can - and have - segregated our schools, we cannot do so with all of society in the same way. Did for a long time, but that doesn't fly anymore. Warehousing poverty has been shown to have a detrimental social effect on all but the wealthiest. So it is in parents' - and their kids' - self-interest to move society away from de facto ghettoization.

by Dizzy on Jul 23, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

It hardly seems necessary at this point. Wilson has a 43% poverty rate. Aside from the magnet schools, you know what high school actually has the lowest rate of children getting free or reduced-price lunches? Youth Services Center, the school for criminals and wards of the state, at 31%. Meanwhile, we have amazing schools like Banneker (49% poverty, 0% white) with test scores consistently above 95%. We have a long way to go before we start worrying about having too few poor kids in the public schools.

by Tom Veil on Jul 23, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

This is an explicit suggestion that poor students not only perform worse than rich students, but are detrimental to their education.

No, it suggests that economic diversity is a reasonable goal and there's plenty of evidence supporting that it works. Speaking from my own experiences, had there not been an economic mix during my own middle/high school years, I can imagine that I would not have fared as well. Most of my friends were not from my immediate community. Rather, they were mainly from middle/upper middle class environments.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

We have a long way to go before we start worrying about having too few poor kids in the public schools.

But, who made that argument? DAl didn't.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

"Eastern, at Stadium-Armory, does not yet have many well-off families sending kids there, but that is poised to change."

Oh? That would be great, as I live a block and a half away. But I'm not sure it will happen in time for my oldest (now in 3rd grade).

It's a tough problem for me. Every day at 3:30 to 5 my block is faced with gangs of school kids walking down the street, letting out from Eastern, Eliot-Hine MS, and a few nearby charters.

Most of these kids (especially the somewhat older Eastern students) are well behaved and civil. But enough are not, breaking windows, vandalizing cars, throwing rocks, fighting with each other and quite a bit of other behavior that is frankly unacceptable.

MPD, Tommy Wells and his staff, and the schools themselves (to varying degrees) have been proactive in dealing with the issue, but it crops up again every fall. It's a tiresome local issue, and only a small distraction in what is otherwise a great neighborhood.

But I don't see how I could send my children to schools which produce students that are happy to call a 2nd grader "cracker" and bash my face in (not theoretical, btw). The level of resentment and outright hatred against white people is disappointing, but I'm not going to put my kid in the middle of it. Even if (and I fully believe it is) a small percentage of the total student body.

So, yeah, that's going to work against diversity.

by Tim Krepp on Jul 23, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

If you have good schools, people of all walks of life will want to send their kids there. If the schools are terrible, everyone will want to leave, and the only ones left are those without options.

Diversity is good, but less important than academics. The attitude and tolerance to diversity in the schools is also more important than numbers. Unfortunately, people focus on diversity by some numbers without addressing underlying issues of quality and learning environments.

by SJE on Jul 23, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

SJE is exactly right. Diversity is important, but it shouldn't be the core mission of a public school. My kids went to a good elementary school west of Rock Creek Park, whose mission statement had diversity as its first point. For the past 30 years a majority of the students had come from outside the school's geographic boundaries. As the school improved, confidence in DCPS increased under Rhee and private school tuition continued to rise, more and more neighborhood families sent their kids to the schools. This produced some understandable tension with some out of bounds parents, even though all of the students were grandfathered into the school. Indeed, proposals for more academic enrichment programs were met with skepticism, if not outright hostility by some parents. Indeed one said at a meeting that she wanted the school to be a good school, but not necessarily a great one -- her fear was that, as the school's academic offerings and repution improved, more in-bounds families would go there. so

by Ralph on Jul 23, 2012 12:46 pm • linkreport

Cambridge MA does something like what you're talking about. They have a pretty complicated school assignment system that tries to keep the percentage of disadvantaged children low at each of the schools.

But in a system like DC's, that's just not possible right now. The problem is that even if every child in DC went to public schools, there wouldn't be enough advantaged kids to spread out to prevent the concentration of disadvantaged kids. A city like Cambridge or, probably, Arlington (VA that is) has the economic demographics to do something like that. For the foreseeable future, DC does not.

Couple other things:
-Personally, I think Cheh's middle school proposal was all about making Deal more in boundary. Several of the elementary schools that feed to Deal have high out of boundary levels. That's why Deal is so full, yet still has a 40% out of boundary population. So if the goal is more diversity, this isn't the means.
-If Evans becomes mayor, expect to hear a lot about moving Ellington. He wants to recreate Western High.
-Small quibbles: Hardy is in Georgetown and Ellington is in Burleith.

by TM on Jul 23, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

I am familiar with a public HS in a very diverse inner city that has a specific quota system to ensure diversity. To be clear, this is a magnate school known for 100% college acceptance rate, high number of AP courses, and multiple state and national recognition. To apply, 8th graders have to take the PSAT (this national test is normally given to HS juniors). The students are not “geniuses” by any means, and the curriculum, though accelerated and likely more challenging due to higher expectations, is not very different from the city-wide standard.

The quota system is as follows: 25% Black, 25% White, 25% Hispanic, and 25% Other (usually Asian, specifically Indian and Pacific Islander). Typically, the competition makes it difficult for “White” and “Other” students, with a larger number of them not making the top 25% of their respective groups. Nevertheless, by senior year, “Black” and “Hispanic” percentages have decreased and “White” and “Other” percentages have increased due to dropouts, expulsion, and transfers.

Due to the desirable nature of the academic program, anti-intellectualism is non-existent. If anything, there is more elitism against other public schools in the district. The socio-economic levels were quite diverse Due to an inner city during a period of 20 years of slow gentrification, the socio-economic levels were quite diverse and not always an accurate predictor of academic performance.

As for diversity, many have friends that cross racial boundaries, while others stick with their clique, which are often defined by race. Though, one can’t ignore the many groups that are defined by their school activities and sports, which are often cross-racial.

While the quota system is a bit strange, the school’s application process is highly competitive, pulling students from various neighborhoods, some as far as a 45-60 min bus ride. In applying, students and families were readily accepting that they were being forced into a quota system, where Asian students who rank 30%, may be more intelligent than the Hispanic students who rank in the 25%.

Would it make sense to apply the quota system city-wide for DC? Would it be imperative that each school have a specific track (college-prep; math and science; vocational)?

by cmc on Jul 23, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

Cambridge MA does something like what you're talking about. They have a pretty complicated school assignment system that tries to keep the percentage of disadvantaged children low at each of the schools.

According to a friend who lives there, San Francisco has a similar system. Kids are ranked by the level of educational attainment of their maternal parent, and those with the highest ranking are bussed to the lowest ranked school.

As TM mentioned, for DCPS this would be a fool-proof strategy for driving all children of educated parents out of the system.

The only conceivable solution to the problem of DCPS is that poor kids as a percentage of all students has to come down. Either by increasing the number of middle-class kids, reducing the number of poor kids, or both.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

I don't think that DC needs to move its magnet schools, it needs more of them.

by grumpy on Jul 23, 2012 1:20 pm • linkreport

But I don't see how I could send my children to schools which produce students that are happy to call a 2nd grader "cracker" and bash my face in (not theoretical, btw). The level of resentment and outright hatred against white people is disappointing, but I'm not going to put my kid in the middle of it.

In other words, you don't feel comfortable putting your child in an environment where the students are the products of homes that allow them to call a 2nd grader a "cracker." My oh my, I imagine that you'll be sending your kids to the nearest convent real soon. Wouldn't want them to be a part of DCPS which "produces" kids like the aforementioned.

BTW, DAl didn't offer diversity as a cure-all but one of the solutions to the problem of a poor-performing school system.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

I'm going to have to stand up for @Tim Krepp. I don't care what type of family (race, socioeconomics, etc.) a kid comes from - if he/she calls 2nd graders derogatory racial terms and wouldn't think twice about bashing my face in, I have no interest in my children attending school with such kids. I believe that there is extreme value in having a diverse student population. But there is a limit to the BS I'm willing to put up with.

by NorCalinDC on Jul 23, 2012 1:53 pm • linkreport

In other words, you don't feel comfortable putting your child in an environment where the students are the products of homes that allow them to call a 2nd grader a "cracker."

No, he doesn't, and I think that's a perfectly acceptable parenting decision. Trying to convince middle class parents to do otherwise is a losing proposition.

by JustMe on Jul 23, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

In other words, you don't feel comfortable putting your child in an environment where the students are the products of homes that allow them to call a 2nd grader a "cracker." My oh my, I imagine that you'll be sending your kids to the nearest convent real soon. Wouldn't want them to be a part of DCPS which "produces" kids like the aforementioned.

There are a lot of DCPS schools, and public charter schools, where the students (of whatever race) don't come from homes that encourage or permit this type of behavior, or the thought process that is behind it (whichever direction it goes).

But no, this isn't an acceptable environment for my kid, or any other kid. And @Tim Krepp's post made pretty clear that this wasn't a one-time incident, but a repeated behavior of which this was just the most egregious manifestation.

Are you seriously suggesting that this is something he, and other parents, should just accept as part of DCPS - just the cost of doing business?

by dcd on Jul 23, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

Are you seriously suggesting that this is something he, and other parents, should just accept as part of DCPS - just the cost of doing business?

Did you read anyplace where I made that suggestion?

Tim, poor Tim, admitted that "most" of the student body are responsible and only a small fraction of them are not. That "suggests" that the school is not responsible for churning out bad and "racist" students.

Bad students are the price of doing business with any schoool public or private. We just read the horror story of the teenagers who bullied the elderly bus monitor calling her names I can't imagine calling any adult..especially a senior. Would most parents want their kids to be associated w/a school that "produces" kids like that disrespectful crew? Likely not. Is it a reality they can escape? Not in this lifetime.

Maybe more of you have had experiences similar to poor Tim Krepp's experience. Maybe by the time his 3rd grader makes it to high school, Eastern will (as DAl suggests) have more middle class families. He already admits that most of the students are well-behaved and similar now. Imagine the progress made 7 years from now.

Oh wait, all of you would've bailed by then. Moot point.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

Are you seriously suggesting that this is something he, and other parents, should just accept as part of DCPS - just the cost of doing business?
Did you read anyplace where I made that suggestion?

Lets rewind the tape:

In other words, you don't feel comfortable putting your child in an environment where the students are the products of homes that allow them to call a 2nd grader a "cracker." My oh my, I imagine that you'll be sending your kids to the nearest convent real soon.

Seems pretty clear to me: HogWash wasn't making the suggestion at all. Clearly as an alternative you can send your kid to a convent.

Bottom line is, I'm not sending my kid to a school that has a population of uncontrolled delinquents either. Fortunately middle-class parents have options. The parents of poor kids usually do not. Which is why--when dealing with juvenile crime--the continual focus on the juvenile criminal is so frustrating. The focus should be on the needs of the majority of good kids that are subject to the disruptive (often violent) behavior of the few bad apples.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport

Bad students are the price of doing business with any school public or private.

Just to address this misapprehension directly: there are plenty of schools, public and private, where violence, bullying, and general dickishness are not tolerated. These ills are exacerbated by poverty, but they're also allowed to flourish under bad school management.

You give as an example the school bus incident. You do understand that if such incidents were commonplace, they wouldn't be making the 5 o'clock news, right? You might just as well point to the Aurora shooting as an example of how the movie going experience has become less pleasant.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 3:38 pm • linkreport

Clearly as an alternative you can send your kid to a convent.

Or you can homeschool them!

Just to address this misapprehension directly: there are plenty of schools, public and private, where violence, bullying, and general dickishness are not tolerated.

Based on what Tim wrote, there is no indication that the "school" endorses nor coddles this type of racist, violent behavior. In fact, he never mentioned that these incidents happened at school. This seems like an instance of poor home training...not the school.

The focus should be on the needs of the majority of good kids that are subject to the disruptive (often violent) behavior of the few bad apples.

Sooo, are the "good" students Tim mentioned poor or middle class? you know, the group who represents a majority of the good kids?

You might just as well point to the Aurora shooting as an example of how the movie going experience has become less pleasant.

Way to go Oboe. Way to go! Keep it consistent.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

Based on what Tim wrote, there is no indication that the "school" endorses nor coddles this type of racist, violent behavior. In fact, he never mentioned that these incidents happened at school. This seems like an instance of poor home training...not the school.

There's a difference between "endorsing" or "coddling" and doing things like implementing zero-tolerance bullying policies and the like. There are crappy suburban schools and systems that don't take such things seriously--and there are crappy urban school systems that don't.

Sooo, are the "good" students Tim mentioned poor or middle class? you know, the group who represents a majority of the good kids?

I'm not sure if you're being ironic here, but I though it went without saying that the "good students" who represent the overwhelming majority of all kids come from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Way to go Oboe. Way to go! Keep it consistent.

If you come across an argument, feel free to present it.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

Bad students are the price of doing business with any school public or private.

I cannot say emphatically enough how much I disagree with this statement. "Bullying and violent kids will happen at every school and there's nothing we can do about it" is one of the lowest bars you could possibly set.

by worthing on Jul 23, 2012 4:08 pm • linkreport

I cannot say emphatically enough how much I disagree with this statement. "Bullying and violent kids will happen at every school and there's nothing we can do about it" is one of the lowest bars you could possibly set.

Absolutely. It's of a kind with the argument that you shouldn't complain about people pissing and defecating in your front yard because "you live in the city". It's the outlook of a defeated people.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

In response to Tom Veil, curious as to the source of the 31% of students at YSA being on free and reduced lunch. All the students at YSA are wards of the state and are provided with all their meals. They are on a bit of a different category. As you are comparing it to Banneker in your post, it seems important to understand your source. Thank you

by Cathy Reilly on Jul 23, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

Bullying and violent kids will happen at every school and there's nothing we can do about it" is one of the lowest bars you could possibly set.

And you can continue to disagree w/this phantom idea you just offered. Fortunately, I never said such. Take what I actually said, not what you assumed I was saying. If there's a question, it's better to just please ask.

It's the outlook of a defeated people.

I would counter this "WTF accusation" but am certain it would be deleted. "A defeated people hunh?" Nah, i'ma save DAl the headache.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 4:19 pm • linkreport

I hear busing students around town achieves this goal.

by Neutrino on Jul 23, 2012 4:28 pm • linkreport

Fortunately, I never said such. Take what I actually said, not what you assumed I was saying.

I think one of the problems that crops up here perennially is that everyone else seems to understand what it is you're saying except you.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

@HogWash: If there's a question, it's better to just please ask.

Okay, then this is me asking, because I clearly missed your point. I didn't initially feel a need to ask a question because it seemed quite straightforward. What do you mean when you say Bad students are the price of doing business with any school public or private?

by worthing on Jul 23, 2012 4:38 pm • linkreport

What do you mean when you say "Bad students are the price of doing business with any school public or private?"

It means that it's difficult to find a school in which there is not a miniscule number of bad actors..those whom any parent wouldn't want to negatively influence their child. I hear the horror stories from friends and colleagues who have to deal with such bad actors...that one student the parent (in one way or the other) warns the kid to stay away from. For those w/girls, this whole "mean girl" thing seems to be a big issue...and this bodes true irrespective of race or income.

Where your assumption went off the rails is when you suggested that I believe there's nothing we can or should do about it. A "solution" was never discussed.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 4:58 pm • linkreport

Are you seriously suggesting that this is something he, and other parents, should just accept as part of DCPS - just the cost of doing business?

Did you read anyplace where I made that suggestion?

Uh, yeah. When you wrote,

My oh my, I imagine that you'll be sending your kids to the nearest convent real soon. Wouldn't want them to be a part of DCPS which "produces" kids like the aforementioned.

that's a pretty clear suggestion that "kids like the aforementioned" are inescapable in DCPS. Then, for good measure, you wrote,

Bad students are the price of doing business with any schoool public or private.

Which, to be fair, you're correct, isn't a suggestion so much as an explicit statement.

I'm not so sure what's controversial about Tim's statement, anyway. I live within 30 yards of a reportedly up and coming DCPS elementary school. By all accounts, the principal is great, in-bound enrollment is expanding rapidly, and there's a long wait-list for the first time in forever. Yet based on the consistent behavior of the students that go there - fights in the alley, throwing rocks at our neighbor's dog, the language used (screamed, actually), to name just a small portion of it - there is no way I would send my kid there. There are other options where this type of behavior isn't an issue, or is much less prevalent. If I can eliminate one potential barrier to my kid gettign a great education, why wouldn't I (or Tim, or Oboe, or anyone else)?

by dcd on Jul 23, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

Clearly as an alternative you can send your kid to a convent.

Or you can homeschool them!

Or you can move to the burbs. Granted the burbs have their own problems like the Fairfax student who was expelled for buying a single capsule of a legal synthetic marijuana product and then committed suicide after his life went into a tailspin. But I'd take that kind of problem over having my kid get beat up any day.

by Falls Church on Jul 23, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

"According to a friend who lives there, San Francisco has a similar system. Kids are ranked by the level of educational attainment of their maternal parent, and those with the highest ranking are bussed to the lowest ranked school. As TM mentioned, for DCPS this would be a fool-proof strategy for driving all children of educated parents out of the system."

No joke. Some friends, longtime residents in San Francisco, finally threw the towel in and moved the 'burbs because they were so dissatisfied with the SF public schools (which years ago were excellent). They felt that SF cares little about families with kids anymore -- as one put it, municipal services increasingly seem geared toward single gay men with dogs.

by Sally on Jul 23, 2012 5:38 pm • linkreport

that's a pretty clear suggestion that "kids like the aforementioned" are inescapable in DCPS.

And for some strange reason, you seem to disagree that these sort of kids are inescapable in a city's school system.

I'm not so sure what's controversial about Tim's statement, anyway.

Beats me. I certainly don't think so. Equally, I don't know what's controversial about saying that these sort of kids are inescapable. Obviously, people seem to disagree which led indictments that I am a part of the "defeated people."

There are other options where this type of behavior isn't an issue, or is much less prevalent.

This type of behavior apparently isn't prevalent. At least according to Tim's own words. It's also worth nothing that Tim's issue is that the "school" is producing these rogue students. I disagreed and offered up the parents are producing them. Not sure why that's controversial either.

by HogWash on Jul 23, 2012 6:31 pm • linkreport

The reality is that DC has focused its efforts on attracting young professionals, those right out of college, childless couples, and the affluent. Most of the new developments, especially condos and apartments, seem geared to those without children or families.

I think DC has quietly given up on improving DCPS. DCPS is a nonstarter with most affluent parents in Wards #2, 3, and 6. Those with the means will send their kids to schools like Landon, Georgetown Day, Sidwell, St. Alban's, National Cathedral, and Georgetown Prep. They aren't going to send their kids to DCPS.

DC probably realizes that there will always be young people and childless couples who will keep coming. I'm 34, but some of my colleagues who live in DC have told me that they plan to move to either Fairfax or Montgomery Counties once their children are ready to attend school. They don't want to deal with the substandard DC school system.

I do agree that there should be more magnet and academically gifted programs in other parts of the city. But I suspect what will happen is that it will create an outcry from those east of Rock Creek Park. Mayor Williams proposed moving UDC to Anacostia from upper NW and there was an outcry over it.

I also agree that there is a problem with racial diversity in magnet and gifted programs. The only solution I can come up with is identifying children very early on and then preparing them so that they can do well at a magnet or gifted program. I think a lot of the problem is that many of these kids and their parents aren't aware of the programs, don't know how to prepare, have self-esteem issues, and just don't think they can get in there.

by Rain17 on Jul 23, 2012 6:55 pm • linkreport

I will say one other thing about "behavioral problems". I went to a school in the affluent suburbs and there were kids with behavioral problems. There were kids in gangs. And there were kids who did drugs and abused alcohol. But their parents were able to cover it up better. And of course there is always the fact that the suburban teen who gets in trouble has "committed a youthful indiscretion", while the kid at the low income school is a "thug".

by Rain17 on Jul 23, 2012 7:04 pm • linkreport

The suburban teen who gets in trouble has "committed a youthful indiscretion", while the kid at the low income school is a "thug".

Funny, I went to school in the suburbs, and if a kid cussed at a teacher, he was suspended. If he got in a fight more than once, he was removed from the general school population.

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schoolodex/schooloverview.aspx?s=s0480

Perhaps it's different in other, more dysfunctional school districts (and John Hughes movies)...

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 7:16 pm • linkreport

I think DC has quietly given up on improving DCPS. DCPS is a nonstarter with most affluent parents in Wards #2, 3, and 6. Those with the means will send their kids to schools like Landon, Georgetown Day, Sidwell, St. Alban's, National Cathedral, and Georgetown Prep. They aren't going to send their kids to DCPS.

One other thing, the fact that there are a lot of affluent (or at least upper- middle-class parents) with their elementary school age kids enrolled in DCPS in Ward 6 would seem to contradict your point. And the trend is upward, not downward.

by oboe on Jul 23, 2012 7:18 pm • linkreport

Really? So Capitol Hill parents are actually sending their kids to public schools?

by Rain17 on Jul 23, 2012 9:48 pm • linkreport

@Rain17: Not sure what you are getting at -- maybe I should readjust my irony knob for your posts?

But let me state the obvious: some capitol hill parents, wealthy or not, have ALWAYS sent their kids to public schools. And they have succeeded: Walls (the best HS in DC) has always had a Cap Hill cohort.

by goldfish on Jul 23, 2012 10:29 pm • linkreport

If Tim or Oboe's kids are being bullied at school, and/or their kids are getting a poor education, and the school is doing nothing about it, they should move. Too many school districts think we should suck it up. Perhaps a tough school might build character. Yeah, I hear that. Then again, you can build character in a good school. My kids life is too important to be part of some social experiment. Nope: we will move, and take our kids and our taxes with us.

by SJE on Jul 23, 2012 10:51 pm • linkreport

I think DC has quietly given up on improving DCPS. DCPS is a nonstarter with most affluent parents in Wards #2, 3, and 6. Those with the means will send their kids to schools like Landon, Georgetown Day, Sidwell, St. Alban's, National Cathedral, and Georgetown Prep. They aren't going to send their kids to DCPS.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by affluent. If you're talking a 7 figure income, then sure, many of those kids are going to private school. That's not a DC phenomenon, though - plenty of kids who go to Sidwell, Landon, Georgetown Day, Cathedral, St. Alban's, etc. live in Montgomery County. But if you're talking around $250,000/year (which is affluent by any rational definition of the term), lots of those parents send their kids to DCPS or charter schools. The JKLMM Schools are over-enrolled and not accepting ANY out of bounds kids. Deal is already overcrowded, and getting worse. Wilson has few, if any OOB spots anymore. Parents in that income bracket who don't live in the JKLMM districts enter the lotteries of 6-8 charter schools and desparately work the phone lines and wait lists to try to get in. The notion that no affluent parents send their kids to DCPS is a myth, and an increasingly silly one at that.

DC probably realizes that there will always be young people and childless couples who will keep coming. I'm 34, but some of my colleagues who live in DC have told me that they plan to move to either Fairfax or Montgomery Counties once their children are ready to attend school. They don't want to deal with the substandard DC school system.

I always laugh when I see that, because I said that for the better part of 15 years, first as a single, then as part of a childless couple, then as the parent of an infant and toddler. Everyone, or nearly everyone, does. Then you start to investigate specific DCPS schools (which are really what matters for your kid, not the entity "DCPS"), or specific charters, and look at other options, and poof - here we are. This is not to say that we'll never move, but for now, I'm happy with the education my daughter is getting.

Point being, take with a grain of salt all those people who swear they're moving once their kids are ready for school. Many will move - but many won't. And more are staying in 2012 than stayed 10 years ago.

by dcd on Jul 24, 2012 7:52 am • linkreport

I attended public schools that had similar initiatives, and from my prospective, it was an utter failure. Forced economic integration at schools only highlights cultural differences earlier in life for kids. The rich kids get a first hand look at the endless cycle of poverty, and the poor kids realize they will never become rich because their parents have zero resources and in many cases, don't give a damn about their kids education.

The overall quality of education definitely goes down as teachers adjust expectations after having to deal with nightmare classes for 1/3 of every day. Students are given B's for showing up and not being disruptive, and A's are awarded for doing ANY work.

by JP on Jul 24, 2012 8:38 am • linkreport

@JP: So you advocate complete class stratification of schools? If that comes to pass, Marxism will rise -- for good reason.

by goldfish on Jul 24, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

Goldfish: I can't speak for JP, but if the result of "economic integration" is that the rich kids don't learn, then the rich kids will go elsewhere. You end up with the same class stratification, just through a different route, but also cause other problems, such as losing the middle class and wealthy parents to other jurisdictions. Montgomery, Fairfax and Howard Counties thrive on the educational dysfunction of DC and Baltimore Public Schools.

The primary goal of the education department should be education. Integration enriches that education. But it seems to be a substitute for quality.

by SJE on Jul 24, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

@DCD, Point being, take with a grain of salt all those people who swear they're moving once their kids are ready for school. Many will move - but many won't. And more are staying in 2012 than stayed 10 years ago.

I'm always thrilled to read stuff like this. It reminds me that progress has been continuing. That's great news and I believe will eventually make the system a much better one.

The rich kids get a first hand look at the endless cycle of poverty, and the poor kids realize they will never become rich because their parents have zero resources and in many cases, don't give a damn about their kids education.

Soooooo, care to share from which "side" of stands you watched?

by HogWash on Jul 24, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

Families who don't care about education is a problem. It shocks me when I hear about kids who live in houses without books, when you can buy used books for pennies or get them free from the library. Even if the majority of families (who do care), their kids are held back by the disruption of those kids who don't care, or by a school system that does not hold them to higher standards. This is primarily an educational issue, not an integration issue.

by SJE on Jul 24, 2012 11:04 am • linkreport

Families who don't care about education is a problem. It shocks me when I hear about kids who live in houses without books, when you can buy used books for pennies or get them free from the library.

It's a really be problem. But you should be less "shocked" that there are kids who grow up in homes w/o books. There are a lot of parents who don't read them..and not just those who don't care about education.

This is primarily an educational issue, not an integration issue.

Well sorta. There are kids, who given the opportunity, rises above their station even w/o the full support of their parents. We read stories about them everyday. So there are indeed benefits to economic integration that may be more of an aid to those who are trying to move themselves up than those who have already reached, "that deluxe apt in the sky."

by HogWash on Jul 24, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

@SJE: if the result of "economic integration" is that the rich kids don't learn, then the rich kids will go elsewhere.

The charters are the end-run around this problem, because now if a kid from a poor family can get out of the bad school in his/her neighborhood, and get a slot in a better school. The amount of money necessary for school mobility has become cheaper -- now all parent needs is a hoopdie and the time to shuttle junior across town, instead of a down payment on a house. Result: the really bad schools empty out, and DCPS can not justify them, so they get closed; and the better schools expand. Being rich has lost some of its advantage.

Obviously the well-off families will find other strategies to regain that advantage. In the mean time the charters are a means for DC to shed the worst schools without the pain of a trilogy of 4-act operatic political fights with DCPS. At the end of the day, DC schools become more competitive with the suburbs.

by goldfish on Jul 24, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

Obviously the well-off families will find other strategies to regain that advantage. In the mean time the charters are a means for DC to shed the worst schools without the pain of a trilogy of 4-act operatic political fights with DCPS. At the end of the day, DC schools become more competitive with the suburbs.

yes, I'm definitely seeing this happening. One of the reasons for the charter system is that it allows DC to retain middle class families that would otherwise leave for the burbs, taking their tax base with them.

by JustMe on Jul 24, 2012 11:52 am • linkreport

"One of the reasons for the charter system is that it allows DC to retain middle class families that would otherwise leave for the burbs, taking their tax base with them."

It is often claimed that charters don't improve the educational outcomes for kids. I'm not sure that this is true, but I don't think its the right answer. As goldfish's answer shows, if parents feel that their kids are not getting a good education, the charters give them the opportunity to change that without moving, which is a good in itself. It troubles me that those who advocate for DCPS often assert that there should not be charter schools. In that situation, the burden should be on those opposing charters to explain why DC residents should be denied choices.

by SJE on Jul 24, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure DC is that concerned about middle class families leaving for the suburbs because there are plenty of young professionals right out of college, childless couples, and retired couples who will more than make up for the loss in the tax base. I think that part of DC's plan is to focus on attracting those demographics because the schools are not as good as they should be.

by Rain17 on Jul 24, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

Families who don't care about education is a problem. It shocks me when I hear about kids who live in houses without books, when you can buy used books for pennies or get them free from the library. Even if the majority of families (who do care), their kids are held back by the disruption of those kids who don't care, or by a school system that does not hold them to higher standards. This is primarily an educational issue, not an integration issue.
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Here is the other problem. It's not that those parents "don't care about education". Part of the problem is that many of them simply don't understand or are aware of what educational opportunities actually exist. Or it could be that they do want decent educational opportunities for their children, but just don't know what resources are out there or what they need to do.

But there is also the fact that these parents are probably in low-wage jobs. They probably don't get benefits and are barely making ends meet. Unlike their affluent suburban counterparts they don't have as much flexibility to be involved. For example, in many white-collar jobs, people can work alternative or compressed work schedules. They can take a half day off to volunteer at their school. Or they can take time off to volunteer for their kid's sports team. They have the flexibility to be more involved.

The lower income parent is probably not in such a job. That parent may be in a job without benefits or leave. Or to be blunt said parent can't afford to take half a day off because he/she won't get paid. Even worse, in some cases, it may be the difference between being employed and being fired.

So I don't think that it's a matter of them "not caring" per se, but rather the result of multiple pressures parents like that face. I am grateful to have a good-paying job. But even with the salary that I make it's hard to make ends meet. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a janitor making $7 per hour in this area.

by Rain17 on Jul 24, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

"Forced economic integration at schools only highlights cultural differences earlier in life for kids. The rich kids get a first hand look at the endless cycle of poverty, and the poor kids realize they will never become rich because their parents have zero resources and in many cases, don't give a damn about their kids education."
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I grew up in an affluent DC suburb, but my parents weren't rich and didn't have degrees. I felt like we were poor, when in reality, we were middle-class. The town that I grew up in just skewed toward the rich.

I went to an expensive private liberal arts college that costs $50K now. When I was there it was around $30K. I took out loans, worked two jobs, and received scholarships. There were times that I was extremely jealous and resentful that some of my friends didn't have to worry about paying for school or that their only real "concern" was where to go for Spring Break. I saw how some kids were spoiled even when their grades were substandard.

What I learned from those years is that there are always going to be people with more money. There are going to always be people who "have connections" that enable them to get jobs with less qualifications or to jump ahead of others who aren't as fortunate. There are always going to people who, through the circumstances of their birth, will start on third base--and not at home plate trying to hit the ball to get on base.

From watching how these kids group, though, I did learn some life lessons that I will carry over to my children should I have them. Even though I'm likely to at least be middle class I'm going to make sure that my kids don't get spoiled. I'll save what I can and help with their college, but I'll make sure that they do work part-time and take out some loans even if I can pay for them. I say this because, if they are taking out loans, they have some ownership in their education. I saw how some rich kids truly took their education for granted. If I were a millionaire, and I were spending $50K on my kid's education, if he/she came home with a 2.5, I'd start to ask serious questions and wonder whether that money was being spent well. What I learned is that making sure that kids have ownership in their own education will lead them to work harder because they will be paying for part of the bill!

I disagree that poor kids give up. If a concerned adult or mentor intervenes early that kid can succeed. But you hit a key point. Self-esteem is part of the issue. Some of these poor kids feel like they don't deserve better and that no one expects anything from them. I think that if school systems directed the proper resources to empowering these kids, they would fare better. Or at least more would make it to college and to a decent livelihood afterward.

I do agree that parents can be a problem. But what I suspect, as I wrote in my last post, is that many of the parents are stressed as it is trying to make ends meet. The other point is that many of these parents are unaware of how to pursue educational opportunities for their children. They may want something better, but they are not sure how to navigate the bureaucracy for their kids. And they are unaware of how to prepare their children to succeed.

by Rain17 on Jul 24, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

Rain17: I agree with everything you say.

by SJE on Jul 24, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

Shouldn't diversity come naturally? If one is to believe that schools like Eastern is to become diverse over the years, then when is the due date? It get so frustrating to hear about the hope for diversity and the need for it. Everyone's is all for it, for the sake of not having an argument; as it is the political thing to say correct in mixed company. But no one is throwing away their hypothetical membership to NIMBY.

by CapricornMark on Jul 25, 2012 3:20 pm • linkreport

Capricorn: thats been my argument. The rich gravitate to the best schools, and the poor are stuck with the bad schools. If we bring up the academic standards in the schools in the poor areas, people will not flee those areas when its time to send their kids to school, and you will get more diversity. Similarly, a big aspect of home values is the school quality, and you would see some leveling in the home prices.

by SJE on Jul 25, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

Let's face it, caucasian DC residents don't want their kids going to school where there are few other caucasian students enrolled. And, don't tell me it's not true! If they really cared about school performance, then Banneker, the #1 ranked high school in the city would have more than 0 white students.

School diversity cannot exist in DC b/c DC is still highly segregated, and b/c ALL DC's caucasian neigborhoods are generally wealthy and MOST of DC's African-American neigborhoods are poor (with many notable exceptions, of course). So, caucasian parents generally can afford and prefer to send their kids to the many local private schools. But, even if they don't have the money, many will bend over backwards financially, b/c they don't want their kids being "the only drop of cream in the coffee" (an actual quote).

by Rez on Jul 26, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

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