Posts about Education
Save up to splurge on holiday shopping with this upcoming plethora of free events around the region.
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 NW.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com!
And please welcome Andrew Watson, one of our new event curators! Erin, the other, will be posting next week. Thanks Andrew and Erin!
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.
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!)
Over the past week, we've looked at how demographic changes and flight are making Montgomery County Public Schools a segregated system. Today, let's talk about ways to fix it.
I started working on this series last year, when my brother began looking at Northeast Consortium high schools to attend this fall. I'm a proud product of MCPS and Blake High School, but it's clear to me that both the school system and the county need to change if they want to remain competitive regionally, nationally and globally.
The de facto segregation of MCPS has been an issue for decades. But school and county officials have often ignored it or responded with weak or ineffective solutions. We can't keep isolating our low-income and minority students in the system's worst-ranked schools. And we must ensure that middle- and upper-middle class families see every school, not just a privileged handful of campuses, as a valid choice for their children.
Integration is good for students and economic development
Education researcher Richard Kahlenberg has found that students of all backgrounds do better in mixed-income schools, while middle-class parents are 4 times more likely to participate in parent-teacher associations, making the school community stronger. Not surprisingly, teachers and administrators in high-poverty schools are more stressed out, making it hard to attract good faculty, which further reduces performance.
In a 2010 study of Montgomery County, policy researcher Heather Schwartz found that low-income students living in subsidized housing in high-income neighborhoods did better in school than students living elsewhere. It found that throwing more money at high-poverty schools, which is the policy of superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr and his predecessors, can only go so far.
Strong schools make strong neighborhoods, and vice versa. That's why Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker took over the school system this year. He knows the county needs good schools to draw middle-class families and businesses.
A 2006 Caltech study found that the magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School helped prevent or even reverse "white flight" from surrounding neighborhoods, and may have even played a role in the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring. If Montgomery County wants to revitalize communities like Glenmont or White Oak, schools like Kennedy and Springbrook must become attractive to higher-income families again.
So, how do we get there? Here are 10 things MCPS and Montgomery County can do.
Things MCPS can do
Embrace each school's differences. With 149,000 students and 202 campuses, no 2 MCPS schools are alike. Let's run with it.
Some schools offer special programs, though they're hard to tell apart, and many are limited to students in a school's catchment. Instead, let's make each special program the school for that subject or interest, like engineering at Wheaton or arts at Blake, and open them to students from around the county. This gives families a real reason to pick schools outside their neighborhood, while giving those programs the critical mass they need to support specialization.
Empower principals and teachers. Starr says more oversight from the central office can turn around the district's lowest-ranked schools. Let's give principals and teachers more support and more autonomy as well.
Principals should have the power to shape their school's programs to compete for students. They should also be able to weed out poor teachers and nurture good ones. Great principals and teachers in struggling schools should get performance bonuses, so they're not lured away to higher-ranked schools.
Give students and families real choices. MCPS officials say they get thousands of transfer requests each year but approve very few, insisting that parents prove a "unique hardship" first.
This helps prevent middle-class flight, but it also keeps low-income students in high-poverty, low-performing schools while denying the reality that a neighborhood school may not be best for all families. Allowing students to attend public school anywhere in the system will give low-income students a way out while encouraging schools to specialize.
Change school boundaries to improve balance. Today, students living in the affluent town of Kensington attend Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, which is 4 miles away and gaining students. Why not send them to Albert Einstein High School one mile away, which has more low-income students, is expected to shrink in the coming years, and is becoming a sought-after school?
This would undoubtedly be an unpopular decision, but it would reduce the cost of transportation and improve socioeconomic balance. And there are other cases like this around the county. There's no real reason why this shouldn't happen.
Bring back "controlled choice." The Northeast and Downcounty consortia were supposed to encourage integration, but when affluent families in the Sherwood and Bethesda-Chevy Chase clusters balked, MCPS took those schools out, defeating the consortia's entire purpose. It's time to bring them back, as well as eliminate the "base areas" that force most consortia students to attend their neighborhood school, whether or not they want to.
Know your competition. Springbrook High principal Sam Rivera once met with private school families to talk about why they chose their schools. Why? Because it helped him learn things that his school could do better or differently, while exposing parents to a public school they may not have considered otherwise. MCPS has a good reputation, but a little self-awareness wouldn't hurt.
Things Montgomery County can do
Encourage economic development in East County. When young families move to Montgomery County, they seek areas with shopping, jobs and transit in close reach. Bringing those amenities to areas like White Oak that currently lack them may draw more middle-class families to local schools.
Build more affordable housing on the county's affluent west side. Montgomery County's vaunted Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit program doesn't just provide affordable housing, it gives low-income students a chance to attend the county's best schools. We need to make it easier to build MPDUs in places like White Flint, which feeds into top-rated Walter Johnson High School and will gain thousands of new homes in the coming decades.
Build more market-rate homes. Red tape and neighborhood opposition makes it hard to build new homes in Montgomery County's close-in neighborhoods, meaning middle-income families are often priced out too. We need to make it easier to build, whether it's a new townhouse development in downtown Silver Spring or accessory apartments that can help cover the mortgage.
Push MCPS to make changes using power of the pocketbook. The school system takes up nearly half of Montgomery County's $4.8 billion yearly budget. If MCPS isn't getting the results that county leaders and residents want, the Board of Education and Superintendent Starr should hear about it, or they shouldn't get extra funding.
None of these changes will be easy to implement, but they at least deserve serious consideration. The quality of our schools affects everything from student performance to economic development. We've given MCPS a free pass for being a "great school system" for too long. It's time that parents, students and community leaders ask them to deliver.
Last week, we talked about how de facto segregation has made Montgomery County Public Schools a system of haves and have-nots, and at how watered-down attempts at integration made it worse. But for superintendent Joshua Starr, the real answer is making teachers better at teaching and students better at learning.
"I could come up with ways of mixing and matching kids from different backgrounds and different races and different stripes in schools," says Starr, "but unless you actually change what teachers do with kids every day, you're not going to get a different result."
I met Starr in his ground-floor office at the Carver Center in Rockville, a former black high school that's now MCPS headquarters. 50 years after the end of official segregation, an "achievement gap" persists between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts. Starr calls it a "moral and economic imperative." His official Twitter account says he's "committed to public ed for social justice."
Focus on teaching and learning, not on demographics
Before coming to Montgomery County in 2011, Starr was the schools superintendent for Stamford, Connecticut, which began busing students in the 1970's to encourage racial diversity in each school. However, it had little effect on academics.
"The tracking of kids was pernicious and incredibly problematic," he said, referring to the grouping of students by academic ability. Disadvantaged students were often placed in the lowest classes. "The education the black kids and poor kids and Latino kids got was horrific compared to what white kids got. While we integrated schools, the classrooms were not integrated."
Starr tried mixing kids of different races and backgrounds regardless of skill level and found that minority students performed much better. MCPS began trying this before Starr arrived with some success in some of the county's lower-income schools, but as he pushes for expanding it, some parents complain it holds high-achieving students back.
Another attempt at closing the gap is "project-based learning," which teaches students collaboration skills and critical thinking though exposure to real-life scenarios and new technology. The first school to try it is Wheaton High School, one of the system's poorest and lowest-ranked.
"There are kids that I saw when I was down there who were presenting their projects, 9th graders, 10th graders, that far exceeded what anybody in the county's done," Starr said. "When they graduate college, they will be highly sought-after as employees." Teachers at top-ranked Whitman High in Bethesda are studying Wheaton so they can bring the program there.
In May, Starr named Watkins Mill, Kennedy, and Springbrook high schools "Innovation Schools," making them testing grounds for "new and innovative strategies" to improve student performance. They were selected along with 7 elementary, middle, and alternative schools based on their low student performance rates and past attempts at improvement. They'll partner with the central office to design "school improvement strategies" for each campus, while principals would get extra coaching.
"We know that just by virtue of living near Walter Johnson High School, everything's going to be okay," Starr says, referring to a school in Bethesda. "Walter Johnson needs support too, and they're going to get it. But Springbrook needs a little bit more."
Integration the community's job, not the school's
Will better teaching be enough to fix the system's troubled schools? Starr can't integrate his classrooms if the schools aren't integrated to begin with, which he blames on the county's larger demographic trends.
"The students in the school are an outgrowth of the neighborhood ... it's just this natural progression," he says, noting that people have their own reasons for choosing private schools or moving to a certain neighborhood. While working in Stamford, Starr commuted from Park Slope, an affluent neighborhood in Brooklyn. Today, he lives with his wife and 3 kids in Bethesda, home to the school system's top-rated, but least-diverse schools.
After decades of trying to integrate its schools, MCPS needs outside help. "I don't decide housing policy. I don't decide transportation policy. We're a function of a community's decisions about how it wants to organize itself," he says. "My main job is 149,000 kids and their increasing diversity, and the needs that they have and what I need to do to get those kids what they need, wherever they're going to school and whoever they're sitting next to."
During his brief tenure, Starr hasn't shied away from controversial statements. He's called for a moratorium on standardized tests and expressed skepticism towards charter schools, even though the project-based learning program comes from one.
School reform advocates accuse of him of protecting the status quo, and MCPS officials suggest they weren't looking for massive changes. "We have a good thing going here, and we were not looking for candidates who were going to change direction," school board member Christopher Barclay told the Washington Post in 2011.
"Most people choose MCPS," Starr says. "The choice program we have [the Northeast and Downcounty consortia], it's working. Most people get their first choice and people are very satisfied with the choices they get."
It's great that Starr wants to give all students a great education regardless of background. But the isolation of poor and minority students in several schools, particularly in East County, suggests that many middle-class families aren't choosing them. That threatens both the system's future and the county's. MCPS can't fix it alone, but admitting that they have a problem would be a good first step.
"America has issues with race and it will always have issues with race," says Starr. "Montgomery County's a very progressive community. People are deeply committed to equity. There's a lot of evidence that in this county and this school system, people are able to live together."
"They don't seem to be able to go to school together," I reply.
"Issues of race have to be addressed if we are going to realize our full potential," Starr says. "That's in the school system as well. How you go about doing that becomes part of the challenge."
Tomorrow, we'll look at ways to meet that challenge in our final post.
As a teacher at Washington Latin Public Charter School, one of my greatest challenges is motivating and inspiring the young minds that enter my classroom each day. However, I've found a remedy in DC History, a class that engage students about the cultural, social, and political history of their city while preparing them to one day lead it.
When the semester starts, students are largely ignorant of basic facts about DC. I give a short, ungraded pre-test with 15 questions, such as:
- "Who is the current mayor of Washington?"
- "How many rivers are there in DC?"
- "True or false: DC has a congressional voting representative."
I don't give this test because I want to prove my students' ignorance. I want to know what they know, which informs what I should teach and how I should teach it. Besides, students should know the facts of their city's past because it forms a foundation for an understanding of this city's present.
Knowing that there are two rivers in this city, for example, is a prerequisite for knowing that the Potomac River once cut through the heart of Washington, and was never intended to be the border between DC and Virginia. Part of the reason why the Federal District retroceded land they took from Virginia in 1846 was to protect the slaveholding interest in Alexandria.
If you don't know about the history of slavery in Washington, you probably don't understand the city's racial past. And if you don't understand the city's racial past, well then what do you really know about the "Chocolate City," whose latest mayoral election in large part broke down along racial lines?
Students grapple with life in the "federal district"
It's especially exciting to engage students about DC's unconventional relationship with the federal government and what it means to their lives and their identity.
The US Constitution describes the Founding Fathers' intent to place Washington City under the supervision and "exclusive" legislative rights of Congress. After all, it was mostly filled with government officials. But it's unclear what they envisioned for an additional 600,000 people, a body of Americans still without Congressional voting representation.
Philosophically, the Founders had a deep mistrust of centralized power, and this was embodied in Article 1, Section 8, which says that Congress shall have power to "exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District...as may...become the Seat of the Government of the United States."
Regardless of what Madison and the like intended, students in my class are hopelessly biased against Congressional oversight of Washington, DC. While fully aware of the idea behind limiting the power of the government, they recognize the implications of this decision in their own lives after a close look at what Congressional representation could offer.
"As a non-voting teen, the effect of the lack of home rule was almost imperceptible on myself to be honest," one student wrote. "Although the real life impact of what we learned didn't really seem to affect me individually while I learned it, it became quite obvious that every issue surrounding our lack of home rule would prove to be vitally important to our ability to take responsibility for ourselves and city as citizens of the capital of the free world and these United States."
Other students felt helpless upon learning about their status as DC residents. "It was extremely upsetting to think about the lack of ability that I as a citizen possess when it comes to trying to make a change in my city," another student wrote. "I was also confused. I don't understand why such a statute hasn't been lifted or abandoned seeing as this is no longer a city of government officials and workers."
Of course, being so close to the federal government has its perks. I often tell my students that if they learn nothing else, they should know and understand that every time the nation experiences a war or recession, DC grows in population and economically, as it has for centuries.
Consider the Civil War, for example. Before it began, there were calls to move the national capital to a city more fitting, one that could demonstrate America's burgeoning industrial might. Once the war was over, Washington's population had doubled, the first Washington DC streetcar company was incorporated, the city's hospitals had grown and modernized, and a new desegregated school, Howard University, was under construction.
Similarly, the Great Depression brought another surge in growth. While the rest of the country languished in unemployment, the effects of government spending under the New Deal triggered growth in the DC area. The same can be said for the recent economic recession, one during which Washington saw one of the nation's most stable housing markets, and lowest unemployment rates.
"Our responsibility to make the change"
By the end of the semester, my students know the facts about the history of DC. My most recent class this spring scored an average of 83% on a test that asked questions both similar to and more difficult than the ones mentioned on the pre-test above. But they also have a deeper understanding of the more complex issues surrounding its past and present.
Local history is a boon to student motivation because it informs what we know about our past, and therefore ourselves: we are complicated, divided, and unique. Moreover, students also learn about a place that they will one day take charge of.
"Learning about home rule is so important as a young DC resident, because soon enough we will be the new leaders in DC," one student wrote in a reflection on the course. "It will be our responsibility to make the change."
Montgomery County Public Schools are often regarded as one of the best school systems in the nation, with schools routinely topping regional and national rankings. But as the county grows more diverse, MCPS is becoming a system of haves and have-nots.
In recent years, MCPS has experienced dramatic demographic shifts. In 2000, MCPS was predominantly white. Today, 2/3 of its 149,000 students are racial or ethnic minorities. 42% have at one time received free or reduced lunch (FARMS), a measure of poverty.
But those demographic changes haven't occurred equally across the county. Despite claims to the contrary, a look at MCPS' own data shows that who you are and where you live in Montgomery County is the best indicator of what kind of education you'll get.
Increase in minority, low-income students concentrated in East County
Nowhere has the makeup of MCPS changed more than in the Northeast and Downcounty consortia, which were established in the late 1990's in an attempt to promote racial and socioeconomic integration in the county's east side. 8th graders living in the Northeast Consortium are allowed to pick between Blake, Paint Branch and Springbrook high schools, while in the Downcounty Consortium, they choose between Einstein, Northwood, Kennedy, Wheaton and Blair, which is also a magnet school.
Over the past 15 years, they've experienced massive increases in low-income students and drops in white students. Today, the 8 consortia schools contain almost half of the county's black, Hispanic and low-income students in a system with 26 high schools. Minorities make up at least 75% of the student body at each school. Nearly 80% of students at Wheaton and Kennedy high schools are on reduced lunch, while 10% of the county's black students attend Paint Branch.
The Northeast and Downcounty consortia and "Top White" school clusters. Click for an interactive map.
Meanwhile, 6 top-ranked high schools contain a plurality of the county's white students: Sherwood, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and the vaunted "W schools," Winston Churchill, Walter Johnson, Walt Whitman and Thomas Wootton. We'll call these the "Top White" schools.
Black, Hispanic and low-income students are a small minority at "Top White" schools, and in the case of Whitman, almost nonexistent. While they've all lost some white students in past years, the proportion of low-income students barely changed.
MCPS is growing, but white flight is occurring too
To an extent, these changes reflect the demographic shifts of the county as a whole, which became a majority-minority jurisdiction for the first time in 2010. MCPS is also growing, and demographer Bruce Crispell estimates that as many as 85% of the county's kids attend a public school, compared to 80% in 2000.
The proportion of white students in MCPS (solid lines) versus white kids living in the county (dotted lines).
If more students are attending MCPS, one might assume that it would look more like the county as a whole. But the gap between how many white students are in MCPS and how many live here is large and growing. Between 2000 and 2011, the percentage of teenagers living in Montgomery County who were white fell from 60% to 54%, while the proportion of white students in MCPS high schools fell from about 50% to 33%.
This suggests that white families either have left MCPS or moved to higher-ranked schools while other families take their places.
Your income level determines the quality of your school
Like most public school systems, MCPS school assignments are based on where a student lives. This results in what education analyst Michael Petrilli calls "private public schools": high-ranked schools that serve few or no low-income students because the surrounding neighborhoods are prohibitively expensive.
According to local agency MoCoRealEstate, the median sales price of a home in the Whitman cluster was $860,000 last year. That's compared to $330,000 in the Northeast Consortium and $322,000 in the Downcounty Consortium.
Home prices in each high school catchment versus the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch there.
Though MCPS boasts a high graduation rate, just 74% of students at Wheaton graduate within 4 years, below state and national averages. 1 out of every 8 students at Wheaton and Northwood drop out each year. But nearly all students in the "Top White" schools graduate on time.
MCPS officials boast that every school offers Advanced Placement classes, a sign of academic rigor, but consortia students failed 60% of their AP exams last year. While most high school students countywide failed their math exams this year, the failure rate was much higher in the consortia. 4 out of every 5 students at Wheaton failed their math exams, compared to just 17% at Whitman.
There's evidence that segregation has had a negative effect on student performance. A recent study from the County Council's Office of Legislative Oversight revealed that black, Hispanic and low-income students are falling further behind white and Asian students in performance on AP tests and the SAT.
It's not that low-income or minority students are inherently inferior. But they often lack access to amenities like early education that can't be made up at school, especially when that school is dominated by kids with the same needs. Studies show that students of all socioeconomic backgrounds do better in a mixed environment, which I'll talk about in future posts.
Montgomery's future depends on its schools
This isn't a new problem. A 1994 study from the Harvard Project on School Desegregation found that past attempts at desegregation were ineffective, but MCPS administrators were unwilling to admit it. "The county's progressive image has created a fierce resistance to serious analysis of rapidly changing conditions," wrote author Gary Orfield.
If administrators seriously want to help their low-income and minority students, they can't continue to ghettoize them in a handful of schools. Otherwise, MCPS will become a two-tier system, with a small group of highly-ranked, predominantly white and affluent schools, and another group of lower-ranked, predominantly poor and minority schools.
How did this happen? And what can we do about it? Over the next few days, I'll try to answer those questions, starting with a look at the the county's attempts at school choice.
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