Thoughts on DC Education

Because of some posts I’ve written for the DC Area Mom’s Blog about school and education, the Spouse (aka the Help) decided that private school is in Destructo-kid’s future. Just how far in the future is the question. I’m willing to give public Pre-K and elementary school a chance.

Some time ago there was an ad for a gay dating site in the Shaw metro. I would look at the bear and the dweeb and wonder, who is the customer and who is the product? I ask the same question with DC schools, who is the customer and who is the product? Are kids the customers? Are parents? The more I read it seems more that elected politicians are the customers, and test scores are the product. There are various stakeholders, of which parents are one. But as a parent, I don’t feel like I’m really the customer and my child’s education and development is the product.

Similar to public transit. I’m a rider, not a customer. I know the $2.35 to get me from work to home does not cover the full cost of my ride. That’s covered by the various governments the WMATA system covers. And even then, that fare is really paid by my employer the US Government. If I really were the customer, WMATA would do more about safety and quality.

The Truxton Circle Book Group is reading The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City. There’s a part in there about urban schools I wanted to share:

This explains why, for example, not only have taxes gone up, but things like schools and other basic services have declined so badly in places like California. Traditional primary and secondary education is not important to industries where California is betting its future, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and biotech draw their workers from the best and brightest of the world. The source globally, not locally. Their labor force is largely educated elsewhere. Basic education and investments in poorer neighborhoods has no ROI for those industries.

This sounds horrible to say, but because DC gets its talent from elsewhere, it has little incentive to really invest in the kids of Washington and help them become the accountants, lawyers, and middle class of the future. My incentive to invest in Destructo, is that I’ve seen the Medicare funded nursing homes, and I pray he is kind and well off enough to help mommy & daddy avoid those places. Also I love Destructo, and he’s getting a little less destructive each day. Louder, but less destructive.

Last thought, when I moved to the DC area, the public schools sucked. I dare you to tell me that the DCPS circa 1995-2000 did not suck. Say what you will about Michelle Rhee, but she was a needed shock to the system. My fear is even with the charter and out of boundary options, DC education could go back to sucking. I also have my doubts about funding. Because the city is not dependent on a home grown local workforce, there is little incentive to spend funds wisely to really get the kind of future worker needed. I look at the per-pupil spending and some of the worse performing high schools schools get the most per student funding.

and then you will quietly move away

The message I’m hearing is that if you want a high quality public school education for your children, you should move. Quietly. If not quietly, apologize profusely, publicly state your commitment to traditional and neighborhood public schools, maybe mumble something about needing more space, and move to an overwhelmingly middle or upper class neighborhood. There, the minorities are in the minority, other involved parents are in your demographic, and no one is going to make you feel guilty about being a tax paying, college educated homeowner.

Don’t send your kid to a charter

I love charters. They are the thing that kept many people in the city after they had kids. I had neighbors who stayed longer because of charters and moved because of charters (kid #1,#2 or #3 didn’t get in). It stays with you when a family puts their house up for sale soon after the March/ April lottery results come in. And it’s reinforced when I notice families with 2-3 year olds sell or move in late Spring and early summer.

The anti-charter/ pro-DCPS voices are making parents feel bad about charters. Charters aren’t transparent. Charters funnel money and good students/parents away from neighborhood schools. Charters have a powerful lobby. Charters are connected with current/historical segregation. Simply charters are morally suspect and you’re a horrible person if you support them.

And some of that is true. Charters could stand to be more transparent and publish the same data as DCPS schools. With nearly half of DC students attending charters, yup that money isn’t going to DCPS. Involved and conscious parents are going to choose certain schools for their kids. Compared to other pro-traditional schools organizations with older and deeper ties to DC’s political body, the powerfulness of FOCUS is questionable. And even traditional school districts are getting more segregated.

However, I don’t see the anti-charter school push moving parents towards neighborhood schools. Maybe to DCPS schools WOTP (West of the Park- Rock Creek) as one notable blogger has done. And even when some parents decide to take a chance on their neighborhood school, their presence isn’t necessarily welcomed.

Step back, move away from the school

The Post has an article about PTOs, Parent Teacher Organizations and the problems of inclusion with racially mixed parent groups. What the article leaves out is not every DC public and charter school has a PTO. Dunbar doesn’t seem to have an active PTO, nor does Garrison Elementary. It makes it look like this is a DC, East of the Park problem.

So I guess racial harmony exists over in the burbs and WOTP? Because those areas never seem to pop up in gentrification stories, where most of the Washington Post’s readership lives. If involved parents want to avoid this stigma, they should… I dunno, move to the burbs and WOTP?

Private School Snob?

It’s expensive, so move.

There is someone out there to make you feel bad if you choose private schools.

  But Matthew’s kid is still very young and not all private schools are “fancy”.

…. I should write a blog post about all the private predominately black schools in DC. I digress.

I’ll end with this: Can pro-traditional DC public school advocates draw middle class parents to DCPS without sending the message, move to NoVa or parts of Maryland? Yes, DC Charters are the competition, but so are the surrounding jurisdictions of Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Charles, and Howard Counties. Not so much PG County Schools. I’ve heard no one come out and say directly they’re moving because of schools. But when you notice people with kids start mysteriously disappearing when their eldest hits a certain age (2-3 or middle school), it’s hard not to conclude, they are moving because of schools.

Mari’s Top Math Schools for White Boys

So I wrote I’d post this later.

This comes out of my interest in looking at scores for African American boys based on what I read in the Diverse Schools Dilemma. The author’s main point was for middle and upper middle class white parents, instead of looking at a school’s test scores overall, look at measurements for white students when they are the minority. The idea was to say that minority-majority schools aren’t necessarily bad for white students. In other words, white families don’t need to move for a good education for their kids.

I decided to switch it up for my son. He’s bi-racial, and there really isn’t any data for bi-racial boys. He’s half white, half black we think (adopted), therefore I looked at data for African American boys. That was my earlier post.

For poops and giggles, I decided to look at the data for white boys, to compare. But limited it to PARCC math scores between 2016 and 2019, because I didn’t feel like doing that much work. I limited it to schools that had 50% or more boys scoring 4+ (met or exceeded expectations). Then I took the top ten for that category (ex. Grade 3). These are my results.

Brent Elementary School
Capitol Hill Montessori School @ Logan
Deal Middle School
District of Columbia International School
Eaton Elementary School
Hardy Middle School
Hearst Elementary School
Hyde-Addison Elementary School @ Meyer
Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS
Janney Elementary School
Key Elementary School
Lafayette Elementary School
Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School
Mann Elementary School
Maury Elementary School @ Eliot-Hine
Murch Elementary School
Murch Elementary School @ UDC
Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
Ross Elementary School
School Without Walls @ Francis-Stevens
School Without Walls High School
School-Within-School @ Goding
Shepherd Elementary School
Stoddert Elementary School
Stuart-Hobson Middle School (Capitol Hill Cluster)
Washington Latin PCS – Middle School
Washington Latin PCS – Upper School
Washington Yu Ying PCS
Watkins Elementary School (Capitol Hill Cluster)
Woodrow Wilson High School

There are a few things I noticed. There aren’t many schools where a lot of kids of European decent (I’m just going to write WB- white boys from here out) are failing. Also this does not include schools where WBs are fewer than 10, like Seaton. For both AA boys and WBs, some top schools are top schools with 5 stars because of girl power. I made another table just for African American students (boys and girls) and some schools that were great for African American girls weren’t necessarily great for the boys. If you compare the lists for boys, there are some schools that are good for both, BASIS DC, Shepard Elementary, Deal Middle School, Hyde-Addison Elementary School @ Meyer, Lafayette Elementary School, School Without Walls High School, and Stoddert Elementary School. Lastly, there are a number of DCPS schools on this and the other list. But more DCPS schools on this list than the other.

Why the difference? I don’t know. I have some opinions, but that’s another post that I don’t want to write.

Mari’s Top Schools for African American Males

I’ve been putting most of my education posts on the City Mom’s Blog. There is a post I have planned but it needs data and the format for it doesn’t fit City Moms. So I’m dumping it here.

A book review inspired me to look deep in the test data particularly for African American boys. So looking at schools (pulling from OSSE’s data for 2016-2019) where there were 10 or more Black boys taking the PARCC test, where 50% or more met or exceeded expectations. If there were more than 10 schools that came up I picked the top 10 or 11 if the last two were even.

Top Schools for Black Boys PARCC Math

Barnard Elementary School
Benjamin Banneker High School
Center City PCS – Brightwood
Center City PCS – Congress Heights
Center City PCS – Trinidad
DC Prep PCS – Benning Elementary School
DC Prep PCS – Benning Middle School
DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School
DC Scholars PCS
Deal Middle School
Eaton Elementary School
Hope Community PCS – Lamond
Hyde-Addison Elementary School @ Meyer
Ketcham Elementary School
KIPP DC – Heights Academy PCS
KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS
KIPP DC – Promise Academy PCS
KIPP DC – Quest Academy PCS
KIPP DC – Spring Academy PCS
Lafayette Elementary School
McKinley Technology High School
Payne Elementary School
School Without Walls High School
Sela PCS
Shepherd Elementary School
Stoddert Elementary School
West Education Campus
Whittier Education Campus

Top Schools for Black Boys PARCC ELA

Barnard Elementary School
Benjamin Banneker High School
Capital City PCS – High School
DC Prep PCS – Benning Middle School
DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School
Deal Middle School
District of Columbia International School
Eaton Elementary School
Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS
Hope Community PCS – Lamond
Janney Elementary School
Key Elementary School
Lafayette Elementary School
Langdon Elementary School
Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School
Mann Elementary School
McKinley Technology High School
Shepherd Elementary School
Stoddert Elementary School
Two Rivers PCS – 4th St

Just for fun, I’ll post the top schools for White boys in math in DC later.

Schools in Shaw- Public, Charter, and Private

Believe it or not, there are private schools in Shaw. I found three.

Ujamaa-1554 8th St NW. This is an African-centric school. According to one source, it is a K-9 school. But looking at their alumni testimonials the school did teach at the high school level. Website

Emerson Preparatory– 1816 12th St NW 4th Floor. According to the school’s Wikipedia page it moved to the Shaw neighborhood in 2017, from Dupont Circle. It is a private day high school. Website

St. Augustine Catholic– 1421 V St NW. This is on the north end of Shaw and is the remaining Catholic School, because once upon a time Immaculate Conception at 8th and N had a school. Like Ujamaa, it is predominately African-American. It is a pre-K to 8th grade school. Website

Public Charter
There are several, so this is just a basic list.

City Center-Shaw-711 N St NW. Grades: Pre-K4 to 8. Website
Friendship-Armstrong-111 O St NW. Grades: PK3 to 6. Website
KIPP-Grow-421 P St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to K. Website
KIPP-Lead-421 P St NW. Grades: 1 to 4. Website
KIPP-Will-421 P St NW. Grades: 5 to 8. Website
Meridian– 2120 13th St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to 6. Website
Mundo Verde– 30 P St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to 5. Website

DC Public
These are the DCPS schools physically in the bounds of Shaw, not the schools that service students in Shaw.
Cleveland Elementary– 1825 8th St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to 5. Website
Dunbar High– 101 N St NW. Grades: 9 to 12. Website
Garrison Elementary-1200 S St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to 5.  Website
Seaton Elementary– 1503 10th St NW. Grades: Pre-K3 to 5. Website

Did I miss a school?

Black education, DC, and a middle class path

My male cousins on my mom’s side of the family are doing okay. One lives in Manhattan with his wife and 3 kids. Another, he moves around a lot, but once when he worked for the state of NC, his salary was like a quarter of a million dollars a year. I think he left to make more money elsewhere. He’s a finance guy. Their parents, my aunts and uncles, were teachers and civil servants raising their kids (my cousins) in Afro-American middle-class bubbles. I like their results and would like to re-create that for my own son.

Education was a part of their success. Not being Humanities majors also helped, as they were math and science people who currently have math related careers. So I attended a meeting about Black education in the city, wondering if I might learn something that I could use to help re-create and re-affirm my son’s membership in the middle class and beyond.

ehhhhhh, not really. But what I did get out of it was a hope that the Charter vs DCPS fight might die and find a way to work together. Kids like my son, who have two involved parents and live economically stable lives, aren’t a priority, or even a consideration. And why would they be when a large number of African American students struggle because of their neighborhood and or home life?

So I will have to go my own way and find a different path for Destructo-toddler, since I’m the only one interested in him. This may even mean figuring out how to create our own bubble.

I’ve been playing around with school data. Charter school data, DCPS data, parochial school data, random group data, and think tank data. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ll need to start saving money in a 529 for private high and maybe middle school. Next month over at the City Mom’s Blog I’ll go into a little more detail about the reasons why. To sum it up, I’ve concluded the outcome for black males is better in private school. But even that has its own problems, besides cost of tuition.

I feel no one is asking, ‘what is Black academic success and how do we replicate it?’ I feel that the question is ‘how do we support this institution’ with the assumption that if the institution or if a certain profession is supported then academic success will follow.

I’m rambling. I’ll stop here.

Too Much of a Good Thing: Charters

Kipp- MontgomeryIt would help not to have too many charters. I like school choice, but I also believe you can have too much of a good thing. Yes, you can have too much chocolate, too much fun, and too many clothes. When the DC Public Charter School Board approved 5 new charters, I thought, that’s too many more charters.

I’ve been pouring through a lot of public and charter school data, for the fun of it. There are sucky DCPS schools and there are sucky charter schools. One would hope that the sucky charter schools go away, but like evil robots, they become self-aware and fight their termination. Try a cool idea, succeed and continue, or fail and close.

I looked at the application of one of the approved schools, the Social Justice School. In their statement of why the school is needed, they stated,”Social Justice School meets the needs of a diversifying District where most schools remain highly segregated. We will pursue educational justice as an intentionally integrated community” and further in the piece mentions the need for high performing middle schools. They admit they cannot control who applies to their school (and gets in via the lottery) but they plan on borrowing recruitment techniques from highly sought after charters. For a school that doesn’t seem to have a real world example elsewhere to point to I’m doubtful. But try an idea, and see if it succeeds. If it doesn’t, close it.

I also looked at schools that didn’t make it. Like the Arabic Language School and BOLT Academy. They both seem like really cool ideas, one teaching a language that is in need and the other being a study abroad school, but they had weaknesses which lead to their rejection.

A little less than half of DC students attend charters, but DC still needs DCPS schools. Many DCPS schools do serve a need, just not all. DC Charters serve a need, but let’s not get silly with flooding the market with too many schools when you’re not closing the low performing ones quickly enough.

Fooling Around with Data: Neighborhood schools vs unneighborly schools

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been fooling around with DC Public School (DCPS) and DC Charter School data. Now for my childless friends there are reasons to be nominally aware of what’s going on with DC schools. If you’re in a sought after boundary you could sell your house for more than a similar house just on the other side of the boundary (ex. Deal Middle School). If you have friends or neighbors you like (or don’t like) with kids, schools can mean they stay or go. Your neighborhood can get clogged with SUV driving parents dropping kids off or swarms of teens converging on your neighborhood metro station. For neighborhood policy wonks schools can mean keeping a middle-class tax base from automatically heading to the burbs.

So let me start with some definitions and categories. In-boundary– aka school catchment area, school attendance boundary or zone is a geographic area determining which school kids are assigned. What I’d call magnet schools, DCPS calls city-wide schools. Then there are the selective high schools like Duke Ellington and McKinley Tech. Outside DCPS there are charter schools, a bunch of independent schools, of varying quality, that are free for District of Columbia students.

Anyway, the DC Policy Center has a really cool graphic regarding in-boundary schools on one of their blog posts about in-boundary and charter schools. I have strong negative feelings about their real estate related papers, but regardless, they have very nice graphics.

I was having fun but noticed the data was from 2016-2017, so I went hunting for newer data and found a bunch of ‘fun’ Excel files.

If you really want to know peoples’ values, look at what they do, and that’s been fascinating.

For school year 2017-2018 there were only 4 schools (all elementary) where over 90% of the students attended their in-boundary school. Deal Middle School, the school Mayor Bowser referred to when promising Deal for All, only had 78.9% of the students in the boundary. Deal is also the largest middle school in the city. It is more than three times as big as the next biggest middle school and twice as big as most education campuses, which mix middle and high schools. But abut 20% of students who could go to Deal, the best DCPS middle school, their parents decided, “nah, we’ll pass.”

What’s up with that?

I was having fun looking at the percentages of different schools from the DC Policy Center data and then looking at the 2017-18 Public School Enrollments per DCPS excel sheet. The weirdest thing, I thought, was with schools where a majority of the students came from the boundary but most of the kids in the boundary went to other schools. And those other schools weren’t necessarily charters. It’s like parents saying, “we believe in public schools, just not the one we’re assigned.” And when some lose the school lottery, they move.

Neighborhood schools v unneighborhood schools

The neighborhood school would be the in-boundary school, not necessarily the nearest school. Looking at the excel sheet I mentioned above, if 10 or more students attended a public (DCPS/charter) school other their in-boundary school it was listed. There are some kids in the Seaton boundary going to Cleveland and Garrison elementary. But those are only about a dozen or so kids per school. In the Dunbar boundary, a chunk (total Dunbar enrollment 617) of 128 attended McKinley Tech and 109 attend Wilson. McKinley isn’t that far (by bike) from Dunbar and from what I can tell a huge chunk of kids in the Dunbar boundary make up the student body (128 out of 620). Considering the huge portion of Ward 5 Dunbar’s boundary consists of, McKinley might be closer, since it is further east. Also considering Ward 5 is served more by the red line, you may as well stay on the train for a Wilson, in the middle of the Van Ness and Friendship Heights stations at Tenleytown.

I’ve mentioned that I’m agnostic when it comes to DCPS, but I get the idea of the neighborhood school. I get the idea of kids from the neighborhood going to school with other kids from the neighborhood. But only Mann, Janney, Key and Lafayette have a 90% plus neighborhood participation rate. When I look at where the kids in the Seaton boundary go, majority go to neighborhood charters or nearby DCPS schools. So they are sorta kinda still in the neighborhood.

Education Agnostic

First I fully support the Save Shaw Middle School effort. Regardless of what happens, the effort is needed. Because of efforts by parents and others to save the Shaw campus for Shaw families, I’ve learned what my in-boundary options look like. Seaton, our in-boundary school, currently feeds into Cardozo Education Campus for middle and high school.


When it comes to DC public schools (DCPS), I’m agnostic. I’m a product of several segregated and later sorta desegregated secondary schools, then post-secondary schools with the first name of University of [State]. I have worked with a variety of people who are products of public and or private schools, and known parents who have sent their children to a mix of schools or homeschooled for a variety of reasons. In DC I have witnessed how the option of charter schools kept families from jumping ship as soon as previous families had left.

100_0681.JPGI’m agnostic about DCPS, because I remember what things were like in the mid-nineties and early 00s.  DC schools used to suck. Parents were voting with their feet and the Cook school closed because of low enrollment. A lot of DCPS schools closed due to low enrollment. Then there was the explosion of DC charters, and many of them took over neighborhood school buildings that were doomed to close or had been abandoned. There is a complicated history of the Armstrong School, but it was empty, then a charter fixed it up (but that charter failed) and we didn’t have a crappy abandoned building sitting next to the building that looked like a prison (Dunbar). The Cook/Cooke school also in that part of the TC, was saved from the horrid fate of Langston, which has been abandoned and is falling apart, by a charter. So not even touching the education part, charters have been great in saving Truxton and parts of Shaw from the threat empty school buildings.

But getting back to education, I don’t desire to speak ill of neighborhood schools, but I cannot ignore what previous parents have done. In observing the choices former and current neighbors have made,  they don’t want what DCPS is offering. If they are true believers in public schools, they move. Either they move west of the Park (WOTP) or out to the ‘burbs where the elementary to middle school options are more palatable.

Right now Destructo-toddler’s education needs are unknown. But I am concerned about him as a bi-racial kid. If he sees himself as black as opposed to bi-racial, there are certain pitfalls that knee-cap the success trajectory of black boys where public schools unwittingly play a part that worry me. So unless the school environment he needs exists a few years before he’s supposed to attend that school, it is not an option.

I’m not a true believer in public education. I’m agnostic. When it comes to Shaw Middle, I admire those fighting. Neighborhood-wise, it is necessary to make it a neighborhood asset. But it does not exist as a functional school yet, and I can’t judge its value. Seaton is okay. Playing with (OMG we had so much fun with this spreadsheet!) SY2017-18 Public School Enrollments per DCPS Boundary Excel file, we could see that a lot of parents choose out of boundary schools and charters. You have to go west to find the true believers, but even they eventually lose the faith.

Shaw Middle School – Reprieve

If the Mayor want’s an empty school building to renovate there is one on the unit block of P St NW.

Just a quickie-

Thankfully, yesterday, the DC Council voted against Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to use the Shaw Middle School site for Benjamin Banneker High School. Parents of the elementary schools that surround the empty Shaw Middle School want it to be the stand alone feeder middle school. Currently, the Cardozo Educational Campus is the feeder middle and high school, and parents have said no to that, by voting with their feet.

You could make this about gentrification, but it isn’t. Banneker is a fine school. In fact it is a school one has to qualify for, like Duke Ellington. It is also predominately African American, so that’s where the weak gentrification thing comes in. Thing is, Banneker is currently up near the northern end of the Howard University campus….. not in Shaw. Actually, I’m not sure what neighborhood it is in, as it is too far east to be Columbia Heights and on the wrong side of Howard to be LeDroit. The Shaw Middle School building would theoretically be an in-boundary school for Shaw middle schoolers, should their parents decide to send them there. Banneker would not be an in-boundary school for Shaw high schoolers. No, the in-boundary high schools are Cardozo and Dunbar.

Okay, so for the time being, Shaw Middle School as a concept has been saved.

Yay.   There wasn’t anything guaranteeing that Shaw would get renovated though, just that it wasn’t going to get handed over to a selective school.

Now if the city is just itching to fix up a school somewhere, there is a building on the unit block of P Street NW, across from Mundo Verde I’d like fixed up or torn down.