Strong Start Program

Logo for OSSE Strong Start ProgramThere is a disclaimer at the end.

So I had some interest in Bill B22-0203 – Infant and Toddler Developmental Health Services Act of 2017 or Act 22-453, Birth-to-Three for All DC Amendment Act of 2018 when I saw it mentioned on DCist. Perusing through the amended version of B22-203 I noticed a mention of Strong Start, a program Destructo-Baby participates in, so let me give you the low down on it.

Because of several factors (long hospital stay, being a premmie, and some prenatal things) our adoption agency social worker and later a pediatrician suggested the OSSE Strong Start program. So I filled out the application and got our social worker to sign off on it (I could have used the pediatrician). Eventually they got back to me and had an initial interview in our home. This was followed by an evaluation by an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Destructo-Baby was about a month under baked, so he qualified because he was developmentally delayed, compared to babies who pop out at 40 weeks. Looking at his report he needed to be 50% delayed or 25% delayed 2 areas. He was 3 months at the time, so he was delayed in everything, because he was developmentally 2 months.

So what did this mean? For the past 10 months he’s had monthly, and early on bi-monthly visits with a occupational and physical therapist. Some of the visits were at our home, but later several sessions were at the day care. At our home the therapist gave us tips and activities to work on to strengthen the baby. As first time parents, those tips became priceless.

Strong Start is a great program and it only costs us our sick leave. Our precious, precious, precious sick leave. I love my son. I also love my annual leave and my sick leave. Those visits at our home were in the day, during the work week, so yeah, that had its cost in leave. That’s why I began pushing more visits over to the day care, who were happy to accommodate whichever therapist.

This program does not (as far as I can remember) consider parents’ income. Which is good because trying to see the developmental specialist through our HMO has been darned near impossible. Destructo’s doctor is aware of this, and isn’t too concerned because he’s been working with Strong Start.

Disclaimer- If we don’t get renewed for the next year, that’s fine. He’s a little behind in a few things, but not so much that we’re concerned. He’s in the system and if things get serious, I know who to contact. This post is just to share our experience.

Pretty Good Thanksgiving- DC Schools

Formerly Frozen Turkey in Road

We had a pretty good Thanksgiving. How about you?

I, the Help and DestructoBaby trekked out to the hinterlands known as Beltsville, MD to have Thanksgiving at a relative’s house.  DestructoBaby was the life of the party. His presence gave us an opportunity to talk about the DC school system and clear up some misunderstandings…. Hopefully.

The Lottery- You don’t have to pay for it. I have no idea where they got the idea that one had to pay to participate in the school lottery. It’s not like the other Lotto where you buy a ticket and hope to get money. As far as I can tell there is no application fee.

Waitlists are a thing. They were amazed when I mentioned the waitlist for Mundo Verde was over 1000.

Charters are free. They know charters are different.  One of my relatives is a retired Maryland teacher, and I know PG County has some charters.  I really don’t know the difference between PG and DC charters, except in DC charters are a big deal. But yeah, charters, like the regular public schools are free to residents.

Yes, Seaton is that school near Shiloh Baptist. They attend Shiloh so yeah, that’s an operating school when they aren’t there.

Aren’t they all out of the way? Okay this one confused me. They know where my house is. They know where Seaton is. I’m not sure why they think it’s out of the way. Despite being able to pick 12 schools in the lottery, I can only think of 5 or 6 we’d apply to and most of those are in walking distance or along the Help’s commute to work. It must have been those stories about kids with long commutes to school.

Gentrification and Schools

I’ve been in the DC area since the mid 1990s. I remember when a friend described sending your child to DC Public Schools (DCPS) as a form of child abuse. So I really don’t think current residents have an appreciation of DCPS improvements and the options that DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) provide.

210 P St NW Open House
View of a charter school and a public school from a new development.

So I found an announcement for a talk about “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” interesting. Interesting as in curious, not interesting as in actually showing up. The event has a Facebook page if the topic is of interest to you.

Despite DC’s demographic change in the last few decades where the African American population is no longer above 50%, Blacks remain a huge majority in DCPS schools. The percent of AfAm students dropped only from 71% in the 2011-2012 year to 62% in 2016-2017. Still a majority. The Latino and white student population rose from 15% & 10% in 2011-12 to 20% and 14% in 2016-17.  And considering 75% of students participate in the DC school lottery, and that has many students commuting across the city (and some from Maryland… bastards) to goal of “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” curious.

Now I’m not saying anything against integrating schools. Integration is good. I’ve known some adult white DC natives whose parents sent them, purposefully to their neighborhood DC school at some point in their childhood, and they turned into amazing adults with professional jobs. And I’ve heard from DC Charter school parents about trying to make school events more inclusive, a good thing. I can’t say how those efforts worked out because I didn’t have kids nor married at the time, and thus didn’t really care.

If all things remain constant our little man could go to the neighborhood school Seaton (but I’m aiming for Mundo Verde). He can join the 1% multi-racial demographic. Maybe when we get closer to Kindergarten, I’ll find events like this more interesting.

DCPS v DCPCS

Views from Dunbar High School

So one night I decided to test my spouse, the Help, about schools in DC. Sadly, despite all our conversations about schools, we were not in agreement about the nature of schools and our choices.

I created this table for the Help, maybe it will help you too.

 

DC Public School (DCPS) DC Public Charter School (DCPCS)
Free to DC students Free to DC students
DC Government owned buildings Mix (former DCPS buildings, rented commercial space, etc) and locations can change
Available to in boundary K-12 students. Out of boundary & Pre-K must enter My Schools DC Lottery New students must enter My Schools DC Lottery regardless of address
Has wait lists for popular schools Has wait lists for popular schools
Aftercare costs $850.50 for 2018-2019. Before care availability varies. Many have before and after care. Costs on a sliding scale.
More than 1/2 of students are in the DCPS system 47.5% of students are in DC charter schools
Quality varies by school Quality varies by school
State Board of Education members are elected DC Charter School Board members are nominated by Mayor

 

So the schools question- We lucked out no reason to move, now

Yeah, Babyman is less than a year old and I’ve got the next 17 years planned. But you know what they say about plans.

We will be playing the DC School Lottery in 2 years. I’ve got my first choice in mind, even though Babyman has a better chance of getting into Harvard than Mundo Verde.  So what if he doesn’t get into Mundo Verde, it would not be the end of the world because we happen to be in the boundary for Seaton Elementary, which isn’t that bad.

Actually, it is a bit better than the first elementary school I attended. I looked up my old elementary schools (yes, schools) using Great Schools. GS may have its faults but it allows me to compare my nieces and nephews schools with DC schools. Being in DC can warp ones view of things. My other elementary schools have transformed in the (mumble) forty some odd years since I’ve attended. One is a magnet school the other is some sort of community center. My old elementary school scored 4 out of 10, only because it rated highly on race (34% black, 34% white) everything else was 2 out of 10. The former all black elementary school I attended, which is now a magnet school, scored 10 of 10. Racially it is now 15% black, 62% white, 12% Hispanic, and that’s also rated 10 of 10. Students scored 97%-100% proficiency in math and english tests.

Seaton compared to Munde Verde, if you were just going by test scores (Seaton -math 47%, ELA 31%, Mundo Verde math 42%, ELA 44%) are close enough. I’m attracted to Mundo Verde’s bilingual programming and yes, its proximity to my house. Looking at the 2018-2019 waitlist data, the 1,702 long waitlist is, something to keep in mind. The only problem with Seaton, for my needs as a parent, is the lack of a before school program. Munde Verde has before and after care programs.

We really won’t know what his educational needs are until he gets older. Right now his interaction with books involves trying to eat them. He’s giving off a mechanical engineer vibe, in that he seems like he wants to know how things work…. and then he tries to eat whatever it is.

So our in boundary school is acceptable enough that it doesn’t warrant moving out if we don’t get our desired lottery choices. If the boundary changes, then yes, we’d have to consider other options if we don’t get our preferred school. You know what’s cheaper than daycare for a baby? Pre-K Catholic school, and that’s an option.

I Question Surveys- DC Schools

So I just got off the phone with some survey company about DC schools.  It was on our land line, the number we give to people & companies we don’t want to bother with. Most of the time we don’t answer the land line and let the answering machine take it. However, there are times when we do pick up the phone (when I have a feeling it’s IT or B) and just now it was an operator who wanted to do a survey.100_0724.JPGFirst, these phone surveys, the results you may see in the Washington Post or other publications, are too damned long. There was a moment where I thought, ‘okay, I have to eat dinner and I want to hang up.’ I know 10-14 minutes doesn’t seem that long, but I’m not getting too much out of it and a majority of the survey operators struggle with clear English (which means I have to struggle to understand them). So for me it is long and painful.

Second, I sensed bias in the questions asked. Thank you library school and whatever reference class regarding user questions! Whoever made up the survey wanted to remind me about the Antwon Williams scandal (bypassed the school lottery) and seemed to have a slight bias against charter schools.

And lastly, “I honestly don’t care” and “I really don’t have a clue” are never an option. There was a name, I think it was Scott Bridges, but with the thick accent I couldn’t be sure. I was asked how I felt about the person. I knew a Scott Bridges, he moved out of the area, I doubt he would appear in a survey, “don’t know” would have been my real answer, but that was not available. However, if I had those options, I’d make for a boring survey data point because it would almost be completely neutral and that does not sell newspapers or generate clicks. The survey operator did ask if I was a voter and my likelihood of voting in the November elections (highly likely) so it could have been a poll for a pol. Considering how few DC voters bothered to drag their butts out to vote, maybe this will count for something.

Miss L Ainy: Friday 6/22/2018

View inside commerical spacePot Pop Up Po-po-ed

So 1712 3rd Street NW got busted by the MPD for hosting a “Marijuana Pop Party” yesterday. It was a problem, mainly because pot stinks. But it wasn’t the real stuff. When I was last sitting out on the ANXO patio with the Babyman, I could smell the fake pot which smells way worse than real pot. There were 11 arrests, fewer arrests than the other pot pop ups (you kids and your pop up whatevers) the DC Police busted around town.

Daycare Lawsuit Continues Forward

I don’t have anything to add to this in that I’m just keeping an eye on it. I have already expressed my concerns in an earlier post. The city is trying to throw the case out.

and yes I do see the humor that DC is requiring a college degree when

25% of DC Teachers Don’t Have Certifications

meh.

So the Washington Post reported as well on DC teacher certifications. My honest response is *shrug*.

Many moons ago when I had nearly finished up my economically useless History graduate degree, I interviewed for a teaching position at a traditional private New England girl’s boarding school. The expectation was that the new teacher would learn that school’s style of ‘teaching’ on the job. You don’t need teaching certifications to teach at expensive private schools. You do need to know your topic.

Because of the Babyman, we’ve been exploring education options. So we’ve been talking to co-workers and friends who have been to private schools. Apparently the key to a high quality education is scary nuns. I don’t think scary nuns have to be certified.

BACA on Langston School

100_0404.JPGThe Langston School on the unit block of P St NW has been vacant, and crumbling for years, possibly decades. The building is in such bad condition, charters who get 1st dibs on DC school buildings have given it a hard pass.

So after decades of nothing from the city, the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) has decided to attempt to tackle the problem.  Take a look at the BACA Resolution in Support of Development Proposal for Langston School. To sum it up, BACA says it has been vacant for too long and is hurting the surrounding area, and maybe the National Peace Corps Association seems interested in it, please let them buy it.

 

OSSE please continue to investigate, but do it right

When I’m feeling particularly lazy and the Help is willing, he will drive me to work. On the way there we pass by a charter school where I play a game, reading license plates. In previous years there were more Maryland license plated cars dropping off kids at KIPP. But as there is more attention paid to suburban parents using DC taxpayer funded schools, there are slightly fewer MD cars dropping off kids at KIPP in the morning. But there are still enough to warrant a closer look.

I was happy when I saw that the city was looking into one premier DC public school. Good start, I thought, thinking it was only a matter of time before the city worked their way over to KIPP. The waitlist for KIPP on P Street is way too long for MD kids to be taking spots from DC kids.

Recently, some Duke Ellington School of the Arts parents and guardians who received letters from OSSE about residency requirements sued, as is their right. Apparently the city violated its own policy. I also sympathize with having to deal with bureaucratic stupidity. However, I have witnessed too many morning drop offs of kids from Maryland and Virginia cars in front of DC charter schools, so there are parents committing fraud.

Above me on my bookshelf are the ashes of a woman who committed a similar fraud 30 odd years ago with the Help. My late mother and father in laws used a friend’s address to get the Help in better school because the high school for their address was supposedly drug infested. And recently on a message board I read about a Maryland school system calling area landlords to confirm addresses. It seems people are using fake leases. I understand the reason why. But no kid who actually lives in the District of Columbia should lose out to kids who have representation in Congress.

Babies, babies and more babies

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

So we found out two more couples in our general area (two block radius) are pregnant. This is in addition to a colleague of the Help who lives nearby, who recently had a boy. So add those pre-people to the little people who currently occupy our street and we’ll have ourselves an awesome Halloween in a year or so. At one point we had a nice number of toddlers and little kids (5) on our street and it made for fun Halloweens, because they would bring some of their pre-K school friends and have a mass of cuteness go from house to house and it is so fun when you know the kids.

Many years ago, the same thing was breaking out in our two block radius where I was hearing so many wives were getting pregnant, I joked that there must have been something in the water. I might (my memory is fuzzy) have told this to a fellow who was living with his girlfriend, and he laughed nervously. They later married and had a couple kids. So once again, there may be something in the water.

That batch of kids, and their parents, eventually moved away. At the time charter schools were not as valued by the city government and citizens as they are today. The voices saying how charters were so bad were the loudest. Now charters are a part of the system and there are more of them. When my neighbors moved, some of them moved because they did not get into the school of their choice, and at the time, there were not a lot of choices. Some of them moved to be in the boundary of the schools of their choice. And some moved because one of the parents got a job that moved them.

But this time, it’s different. There is the BloomingdaleKids Yahoo group(est. 2009), which has been a wonderful resource for free and cheaper than new stuff, and a way to get rid of stuff. There are more daycares. There are now two daycares above the Shaw metro station (one on S the other on 7th& R-ish) and I see newer child care centers popping up in other locations around town. This time the school lottery is for DCPS and DC Charter Schools, all in one and you can put your child’s name in for 12 schools. There are more charters to choose from and the DCPS schools are improved. There are more reasons to stay and not move as kids get closer to kindergarten. Middle school… that’s a different story.

In the meantime, yay, babies.