Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Education


As DC grows, Anacostia gets left behind

After decades of decline, DC's population is growing again. But parts of the city like Anacostia are still losing people, showing that revitalization has yet to take hold everywhere.

The population of Anacostia between 1990 and 2012. All data from the Census Bureau, graphs by the author.

While many neighborhoods across the city have grown in population and prosperity, Anacostia has lost nearly five hundred people and more than 140 housing units since 1990, according to newly released Census data. Meanwhile, the median household income has declined by $3,000, from $35,545 in 1990 (in 2012 dollars) to $32,262 today. There are fewer homeowners as well. In 1990, 32.8% of Historic Anacostia's 986 housing units were owner-occupied, whereas today just 29.9% of the 854 units are.

There are fewer housing units in Historic Anacostia now than in 1990.

These raw numbers reflect the abundance of abandominiums within the neighborhood, including both single-family homes and apartments. More than a hundred units have been vacant for more than two decades, while others have been razed.

The drastic contraction in the available housing stock over the last two decades has led to the subsequent flight of nearly 15% of the neighborhood. In 1990 Anacostia counted 3,018 people, 437 more than in 2012, when 2,545 lived in the Historic District.

Although social media campaigns and advocates of the creative class have increasingly touted the neighborhood over the past half-decade, economic opportunities remain a dream for many residents. Of 1,799 people over 16, just 54.9% are in the labor force, compared to 58.4% of 2,130 people in 1990.

The percentage of people in Anacostia's labor force.

With the growth of white-collar information services in DC, blue-collar independent tradesmen living in Anacostia say they are at a double disadvantage. They don't have the education the information economy demands, and they are often shut out from joining existing contracting teams on local multi-million dollar public works projects. The neighborhood has its own day-laborer class of junkmen and uncredentialed tradesmen who may not fit into the formal economy.

The percentage of Anacostia adults with high school diplomas.

Even though the neighborhood economy has remained stagnant over the past 20 years, and private capital is hesitant to invest and develop, Anacostia's human capital has slowly increased. Today, 79.1% of Anacostians 25 years old and over have their high school diploma, a dramatic increase over 49.7% in 1990. More than two decades ago less than five percent of Anacostia residents 25 years and older had a college degree; today it is 8.2%.

These numbers do not paint a complete picture, but they show Historic Anacostia to be a neighborhood dominated by low-earning renters, the same as it was in 1990.

In commemorating the March on Washington last summer, President Obama invoked "the corners of Anacostia" as an example of persistent inequities. While the areas and environs of 14th Street NW, 7th Street NW, H Street NE, and 8th Street SE have exponentially grown over the past two decades, Anacostia remains largely stuck in time, slowly fading away before the eyes of anyone watching.


What if we ranked schools based on their walkability?

Parents often choose schools for their kids based on test scores. But as more families seek out an urban lifestyle, what if we ranked schools on a kid's ability to walk there as well?

Locations of the region's most walkable high schools. Blue are schools in a "Walker's Paradise," red are "Very Walkable" schools, and green are "Somewhat Walkable." Click for an interactive map.

Studies show that kids who live in walkable neighborhoods get more exercise and are at reduced risk for obesity. Being able to walk to school teaches kids independence and a stronger sense of community as well.

So where are students most likely to be able to walk to and from school? One indicator is a school's Walk Score, a measure of its walkability. To find the region's most walkable schools, I looked at the Walk Score of 95 public high schools (both neighborhood and magnet) in the District, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland, and the city of Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia. Here's a spreadsheet of all of the schools.

There were 22 schools in the "top 20," which I've mapped above. (Three schools tied for 20th place.) Not surprisingly, nine of them are in the District. But there are also six in Montgomery County, two each in Prince George's and Arlington, and one each in Alexandria and Fairfax. Seven of them are outside the Beltway.

Four schools were in the "Walker's Paradise" category, Walk Score's highest ranking. School Without Walls in downtown DC, came in first with a Walkscore of 97, followed by Columbia Heights Education Campus (94), and Woodrow Wilson High School in Tenleytown (92). Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Montgomery County made fourth place, with a score of 91.

Of course, Walk Score isn't a perfect measure of walkability. It only measures an address's proximity to commercial and institutional destinations, not the homes where students might be walking from. And it doesn't consider the actual pedestrian experience. Seneca Valley High in Germantown, where a student died crossing the highway outside the school last year, placed 13th on the list with a score of 72.

Rockville Town Square is the de facto cafeteria of Richard Montgomery High School (Walk Score 65), located a few blocks away. All images by the author.

Some of these schools also have high academic ratings, like Richard Montgomery and B-CC in Montgomery, McLean in Fairfax, and Banneker in DC, all of which top the regional rankings in the Washington Post's Challenge Index. But there aren't a lot of them, and they're in expensive neighborhoods. Many of the schools on this list are low performers; forced to choose, parents will usually always pick high test scores over a kid's ability to walk to school.

My parents were no different. As a student at Wilson in the 1970s, my mother walked to lunch at Steak 'N Egg Kitchen or to catch the 30 bus to her job at a clothing store in Georgetown. But I went to James Hubert Blake High School near Olney (Walk Score 11, or "car-dependent"), where nearly everyone drove, and gruesome car accidents were a fact of life. I once begged my principal for open lunch, but it wouldn't ever happen: the nearest place to eat was over a mile away on a 40mph road with no sidewalks.

What else do you see in these rankings? And did you walk to school?


Events roundup: The weather outside is frightful

But you won't hate going out in the storm for any of this week's events!

Photo by on Flickr.

Delightful discussion on DC education: Our friends at Greater Greater Education are hosting a forum with Councilmember David Catania tonight, Monday December 9, to discuss all things pertinent to public education in DC.

Come by the Hill Center, located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, tonight at 6:30 pm to ask a question or to listen to a good discussion. You can register here. Head over to GGE for more information about this event.

After the jump: Streetsblog hosts a happy hour, Maryland's candidates for governor talk about transportation, and see a film about how to design cities for people.

We've many places to go!: Purple Line NOW! is hosting a transportation forum with Maryland's gubernatorial candidates. All three Democratic nominees, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Delegate Heather Mizeur, and Delegate Jolene Ivey speaking on behalf of Attorney General Doug Gansler, will attend, as well as Republican candidate Delegate Ron George.

The forum is tomorrow, Tuesday, December 10, from 7 to 9:30 pm at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, located at 7995 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Reserve your seat(s) here.

All the way home you'll be warm: Join Streetsblog DC readers tonight, December 9, for a happy hour at the Passenger, DC's transportation-themed bar. The happy hour starts at 5:30 at 1021 7th Street NW. You can RSVP here.

As long as you love transportation so: Also tonight, DC's Transportation Plan Advisory Committee (TPAC) meets from 6 to 8 pm. TPAC is comprised of DC residents who advise moveDC, the District Department of Transportation's effort to plan the city's future transportation network.

This public meeting is at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 2000 14th Street NW, in the second floor public meeting room. Please bring your state-issued ID to enter the building.

The lights are turned way down low: On Thursday, the Inter-American Development Bank hosts a screening of the film "The Human Scale - Bringing Cities to Life," about Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. Afterwards, there will be a panel discussion with Jeff Risom, partner at Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, who will talk about designing cities for people.

The screening is on December 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the bank's Enrique Iglesias Auditorium, located at 1330 New York Avenue NW. For more info, check out the event description.


Events roundup: Free-for-all

Save up to splurge on holiday shopping with this upcoming plethora of free events around the region.

Photo by ZakVTA on flickr.

Panel and party for local producers: Join Smart Growth America, Think Local First DC, and Elevation DC for Production in the City, an event celebrating local manufacturers in DC. Get a local perspective on production during a panel discussion and shop the pop-up marketplace with over 20 local producers, including Gordy's Pickle Jar, Cherry Blossom Creative, and Capital City Mumbo Sauce.

This free event happens this Thursday, December 5 from 5:30 to 8:30pm at the Yards Boilermaker Shops, located at 300 Tingey Street SE, and you can register to attend here.

After the jump: Reserve your space now to discuss all things nerdy with the Lobby Project, add two more exciting urban events to your docket for this Thursday, and remember to join the GGW and GGE crew for two upcoming discussions.

Get nerdy in NoMa: This Tuesday's free event from the Lobby Project, "Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: Better Cities," appears to already have "sold out." Make sure you register here for the next and equally-as-free event in the series, "Crafting Local Brews and Spirits," happening on Tuesday, December 17. Both events take place from 6 to 8pm at 1200 First Street NE.

Hear new thoughts on New Urbanism: Also on December 5, you have the option of heading to Arlington's RoundAbouts Speaker Series for Victor Dover's talk on New Thoughts on Streets and Cities. A charter member of the Congress for New Urbanism, Dover's projects include the Columbia Pike revitalization plan and code, and Plan El Paso, which the Natural Resource Defense Council has hailed as "America's Best Smart Growth Plan."

Of course, it is free, in the Founders Hall Auditorium at George Mason University's Arlington campus, located at 3301 Fairfax Drive. The event goes from 6:00 to 8:00pm and you can RSVP here.

Meet transportation techies: Are you a techie looking to make innovative contributions in transportation? Join Mobility Lab for their Transportation Techies meetup: CaBi Hack Night. This debut event will highlight tools and apps built using open data from Capital Bikeshare and encourages attendees to share any programs they may have created using CaBi open data.

The event is this Thursday, December 5 from 7 to 10pm at 1501 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100 in Rosslyn. You can RSVP here.

Greater Greater Events: And don't forget about our two upcoming events involving the GGW and GGE teams.

Warm up for whichever Thursday night activity you choose with David Alpert and a talk on blogging and civic engagement. To join, make your way to Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies Downtown Campus, located at 640 Massachusetts Avenue NW, this Thursday, December 5 from 4:30 to 5:30pm.

Next Monday, December 9, join Greater Greater Education for an Evening with Councilmember David Catania, where we'll discuss public education in the District of Columbia. The event runs from 6:30 to 8pm at the Hill Center at Old Naval Hospital, located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. You can register here. Whether or not you can make it, please submit your questions for the panel in the comments box here.


Events roundup: Bikes, beers, and beekeeping

Speak up for bike lanes in Alexandria tonight, and then after Thanksgiving, discuss education with David Catania, talk about civic engagement, and learn something new and nerdy.

Photo by Will Vanlue on Flickr.

Support King Street bike lanes: Come show your support tonight (Monday, November 25) for bike lanes on King Street in Alexandria at November's Public Meeting of the Traffic and Parking Board. The meeting is 7:30 pm in the Council Chambers at Alexandria City Hall (301 King St, 2nd floor).

The Alexandria Spokeswomen, a group making Alexandria more bike-friendly for women, is having a happy hour before the meeting. Join them at 6 pm at Daniel O'Connell's Bar (112 King Street) for some food and drink, and then go testify.

After the jump: hear from and talk with David Catania, Harriet Tregoning, and David Alpert.

Education forum with David Catania: Greater Greater Education is hosting a forum with DC Councilmember and Committee on Education chair David Catania. GGE editors will moderate the discussion, and audience members can pose questions.

The forum is at 6:30 pm on December 9 at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Eastern Market Metro). RSVP here. Can't make it? You can submit questions on GGE and Twitter.

Nerds in NoMa: Learn more about your favorite nerdy topics, like transportation, beekeeping, and brewing in a series of free events at The Lobby Project (1200 First Street NE) from 6-8 pm.

The first one features Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, and Jordan Mittelman from BicycleSPACE on Tuesday, December 3, 6:00 pm. RSVP here. Other talks take place on December 17, January 14, January 28, February 11, and February 18.

Talk about the future: Hear Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert give a talk about "new dimensions of civic dialogue" as part of a series of public talks organized by Georgetown's Urban and Regional Planning program. He will discuss how blogs have raised awareness and attracted more people to civic engagement, as well as how we can engage community members that have traditionally been neglected from this process, especially those in lower-income and minority neighborhoods.

Please come share your thoughts with David on December 5 at 4:30. You can RSVP here.

As always, if you have any events for future roundups, email us at!

And please welcome Andrew Watson, one of our new event curators! Erin, the other, will be posting next week. Thanks Andrew and Erin!The Editors


Events roundup: Happy hour tonight, Catania December

Tonight (Thursday) is the next Greater Greater Washington happy hour! Also, mark your calendars for a Greater Greater Education forum with David Catania on the evening of December 9, and a late afternoon talk with me about growing civic engagement on December 5.

Photo by Lisa Bunchofpants on Flickr.

We've been rotating happy hours between DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and now it's DC's turn again. This month's happy hour is at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, 639 Indiana Ave. NW from 6-9 pm. It's right across 7th Street from Archives Metro, a short walk from Gallery Place or Federal Triangle, and also on the 30s, 50s, 70s, D, P, and X Metrobus lines. There's a CaBi station nearby at 6th and D.

You won't see me because I'll be spending my time putting a baby to bed, but Dan and the other editors and contributors are lots of fun!

After the jump: Stand up for King Street bike lanes Monday, and talk with David Catania about education on December 9 and me about civic engagement on December 5.

Defend bike lanes in Alexandria: The proposed King Street bike lanes in Alexandria have been coming under some intense and often crazy attacks. You can speak up for the lanes this Monday, November 25 at 7:30.

The Alexandria Spokeswomen, an organization working to make the city more bike-friendly for women, is having a happy hour just before the hearing at Daniel O'Connells Bar, 112 King Street, at 6. Have a few drinks and then head over to actually push for safer cycling infrastructure.

Talk about education with David Catania: Our sister blog Greater Greater Education is hosting DC Councilmember and Committee on Education chair David Catania for a forum on December 9. It's 6:30 pm at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Eastern Market Metro).

Natalie Wexler and Ken Archer will pose questions to Catania about education, and audience members can too. What would you like us to ask? Post your question suggestions in the comments.

Talk about the future

I'm giving a talk on Thursday, December 5 at 4:30 about "new dimensions of civic dialogue." It's part of a series of public talks by various people in planning organized by Georgetown's new Urban and Regional Planning program.

I'll talk a bit about how blogs (like Greater Greater Washington and others) have drawn more people into the process of civic engagement. However, I also want to spend some time exploring how we can broaden the conversation beyond just the demographic of our core audience. We need to be engaging with communities that have traditionally been neglected in the process, especially lower-income and minority neighborhoods.

The changes many of us push for, like adding housing opportunities and amenities like shops and restaurants, can and should benefit new and long-time residents of those communities as well. But we have to make sure they will, not just say so. We can't just draw supply-and-demand curves and say that more supply will filter and keep housing affordable; we have to craft policies that actually ensure people with lower incomes benefit not just in the vague future but now.

And we have to understand what people want for their own neighborhoods. Greater Greater Washington has always sought to highlight voices from all around the region about what they want for their communities, and I'd like to do more to find these voices from our traditionally underserved communities.

If you're interested in this issue, please come share your thoughts with me on December 5 at 4:30. You can RSVP here. That page says the talk is by Shyam Kannan of Metro, and my talk is on 12/12, but we switched, so I'm on 12/5 and Shyam is 12/12. (And go see Shyam's talk, too!)


MCPS superintendent responds to my Post op-ed

On Friday, Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Joshua Starr responded to my Post op-ed about the inequities in the school system. But he didn't provide any real answers.

Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Last week, Dr. Starr spoke at the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, and chair Evan Glass asked him what he thought of my column. Dr. Starr said, "There's no shortage of self-professed experts on education because they went to school."

He later said he'd have a more thorough response to my column. On Friday, the Post published it:

To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, his report of our demise is greatly exaggerated.

Reed says that MCPS is "coasting on the system's good reputation" and is no longer "great," in essence because our schools have gotten more diverse and our students poorer . . .

Our focus is rightly on raising student achievement across the board, thereby narrowing achievement gaps and giving our students the best possible chance at success once they graduate. I believe one way to narrow those gaps is by working with every school community to focus on the needs of individual students, rather than simply putting more programs in place or trying to change housing patterns.
I'm glad that Dr. Starr decided to respond to my column. But between that and his comments on Monday night, it doesn't seem like he's taking my argument seriously.

While I did go to public school in Montgomery County, I don't claim to be an expert. Nearly all of the data I mentioned in the column, and wrote about in the preceding blog posts, comes from MCPS. Researchers from the school system, and from the County Council's Office of Legislative Oversight, have told me privately that the data is not only correct, but that the conclusions I drew from the data are valid.

On Monday, Dr. Starr told me he would respond to the "distortions" and "mischaracterizations" in my findings. But nowhere did he actually do that. In fact, he mischaracterized the core of my argument. MCPS isn't getting worse because it has more minorities and poor students, but because disadvantaged students are increasingly concentrated in East County and Upcounty schools. Closing the "achievement gap" becomes a lot harder when some schools bear the burden of giving disadvantaged students the help they need, while schools in the wealthier parts of the county are largely excused from it.

It's true that as the head of the school system, Dr. Starr doesn't have any control over land use or housing decisions. But he has to understand that inequities in the school system can create and perpetuate de facto segregation and hurt the county's economic development, as families opt out of schools, and in turn neighborhoods that they deem undesirable. Schools aren't the only reason why the median home price in the top-ranked Whitman cluster is as much as four times as high as it is lower-ranked catchments, but it is a major influence.

And if Dr. Starr wants to quote studies saying that "hopefulness" affects student achievement, he can't simultaneously ignore studies saying that integration does as well. He dismissed one of my recommendations to reduce segregration, making small changes to school boundaries. But there are many other things I propose that MCPS and the county can do to make every school great, and he didn't address any of them.

As I wrote in my column, Montgomery County has the resources to make every school great. But since I first wrote about de facto segregation in MCPS two months ago, I've heard from parents, community leaders, business leaders, school advocates, teachers, and even a couple of principals from all over the county who are frustrated with the current state of affairs, whether it's at specific schools or in the county as a whole.

They sound ready to engage Dr. Starr in a real conversation about the school system's future. Hopefully, he's ready too.

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