Twelve Years Later…. at Big Bear

Big Bear Cafe April 27, 2007

Today, because it’s Friday and because we came up with lame excuses not to go to work, the Help and I are having a day date. We decided to start it off by having breakfast at Big Bear. It was great. I had french toast and a pot of English Breakfast tea as we sat inside with the Washington Post and the ambiance of the place.

I observed a family, where the father saw two separate friends/ acquaintances. He chatted with one, who came over and joked with the man’s elementary aged kids who were out of school for a thing.

Outside there were people. Some sat alone, tapping away at their laptops. Others gathered with a friend or two. And there were two workers fixing the paving thingamabobs.

About twelve years ago I stood in almost the exact space I was sitting at with my spouse. Big Bear in April 2007 was a possibility. I have a couple of pictures from an open house they held back then. The owners invited neighbors in to take a look at the place and nosh. Then, it was just going to be a coffee shop.

While I sat, I was comparing the feel of the place, then and now. Now it has a rhythm and a rep. It has a certain neighborhood vibe. I noticed parents, besides the one I mentioned earlier, with their kids on the way to school, pop in for a coffee. It just felt comfortable. It wasn’t full of promise or possible failure. It was, what it was.

The physical building and space has also changed. The patio is like part of the building, where people can sit (and battle bugs) under a canopy of grape vines behind walls of plants. The walls have art and shelves of booze (they make a good Old Fashioned) that weren’t there before. Oh, and there is a very tiny functional kitchen. The kitchen was very tiny in 2007, but not as functional.

2020 Michelin Guide Bib Gourmands in Shaw

Laotian spaghetti and meat-sauce

Michelin has their guide out on-line and there are a few Shaw and Shaw adjacent places on the list.

Chercher1334 9th St NW. There are two locations. I’m assuming they are talking about the one in Shaw.

Hanumanh– Normally at 1604 7th St NW but they are undergoing some “unexpected” repairs. So they are on 14th St for now.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace1612 14th St NW.

Red Hen1822 1st St NW. Not in Shaw but in walking distance from our house, so Shaw adjacent as far as I’m concerned.

Royal501 Florida Ave NW. Another Shaw adjacent place but is actually Shaw adjacent. You can sit out side and look longingly across Florida Ave and see Shaw.

Supra. Georgian food y’all. You can argue that it’s in Mt. Vernon.

Tiger Fork922 Blagden Alley, NW. We keep meaning to go here.


Unconventional Diner- 1207 9th St NW. Once again we can argue about where this is, Mt. Vernon/Shaw. I’m going to link to their OpenTable page because their website has been hijacked.

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.

Truxton Circle Property Owners, 1933

Okay the pages for Squares 507 to 510 East are crap. But the pages for Squares 519-521, 550-555, 614-618 and 668-670 (the NE Truxton) are readable.

What is it?

The National Archives has images of some of their stuff in their catalog. So I pulled out parts that pertained to Truxton Circle, here (for a better image of sq. 507-510E), and here. This is just more evidence for the history of Truxton Circle. If I (or someone else, hint, hint) decide to cross reference this list of property owners with a city directory or the 1930 Census, we could see who were landlords and who were homeowners. All sorts of questions could crop up from the data.

Anyway, here’s the pdf.

Truxton Circle 1933 Property Owners by Mm Inshaw on Scribd


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.

Same old house, new and improved and expensive

A minor irritation I have with some essays on gentrification and housing is a complete failure to acknowledge investment and disinvestment in physical structures.

This is an August 2004 PropertyQuest picture of 1504 3rd Street NW. I have an earlier one from 2003.150X3rdSt.jpg

Anyway, it sold in August for $765,000. According to the data on Redfin, it sold in 1991 for $76,750. Between 2001-2006 this shell of a house kept getting listed and delisted. I’m not going to do any in-depth research to determine if it changed hands in that period, but in December 2006 it sold for $250,000. Then in 2007 it sold for about $450K, by this time it had definitely been renovated. This year it came back on the market and sold in the mid $700K range.

When someone takes this house and other houses in the neighborhood and just sees prices, what are they thinking? Do they think the rise in price is just arbitrary and an effort to keep lower-income households priced out?

What I witnessed was investment coming into the neighborhood. That house in 2003-2004 was a shell, unfit for human habitation. That was a result of disinvestment when it wasn’t worth it for the owner to maintain the structure.  Shaw had experienced a lot of disinvestment. After the riots in 1968, many businesses didn’t return. Some residents and landlords just abandoned the neighborhood because it wasn’t worth the money to them to fix the damage.

To take a shell from being unfit to being desirable takes capital, investment. Someone paid to buy cabinetry, flooring, windows, paint, drywall, electrical wires, PVC pipes, HVAC system, framing, appliances, and a roof. Plus the labor to install these things. Having renovated my house and another property, I can say this is not cheap. At the very least $100K went into making the house livable.

Well the house was already renovated by 2007, can I justify the $300K-$400K price hike between 2007 and 2019? I can’t tell if the rear deck was already there, but it was the neighborhood that changed in the period that made it more valuable. What happened between 2007 and now? Big Bear, a few blocks away opened up. Then the Bloomingdale Farmers Market about a year later. Nightly gunshots became less of a thing. There are a handful of sit down restaurants within walking distance, 3 that have had or have Michelin mentions. Two with 1 Michelin star within, biking…longer walking distance. Also, other houses in the neighborhood have been renovated and owners have a financial incentive to maintain their properties. But does that justify the price increase? How much is a safer (2019 TC is way safer than 2004 TC) neighborhood worth? How much is it worth to have places to take friends/dates that are a nice stroll back to your place? Schools have improved, and as a parent, it is worth a few thousand to have a plethora of Pre-K choices in walking distance.  As a homeowner, there is a disappointing difference between what you can refinance and what is a possible sales price. The improvements in the neighborhood have allowed us to refinance the house to fix it up, but the value to bank says the house is worth was much, much lower than what was selling around us. But all that is meaningless if all you care about is keeping the price of housing down.