Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 13 Children Left Behind

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

This chapter starts in 2008. It’s the Fenty era and Michelle Rhee is the first, and so far only, Asian American DC school chancellor. The chapter name refers to President Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ program.

The author covers the poor education students received in 2008. It didn’t improve. I covered Dunbar’s PARCC scores in 2019 and they are depressing.
PARCC by Race

PARCC Scores 2018-19, % meeting & exceeding expectations
Black White Hispanic Asian
ELA 2018-19 16.5% N/A n<10 N/A
Math 2018-19 .5% N/A n<10 n<10
Males ELA 13.4% N/A n<10 N/A
Males Math .9% N/A n<10 n<10

ELA- basically covers English and Language Arts, that would be reading and writing. And Math is math, numbers, adding, subtracting, figuring out sales tax or a 20% tip. Less than 1% of Dunbar students were proficient in Math.

The chapter covers the school from the 1980s to the aughts. The author mentions the school’s challenges as well as a few success stories as it is not all doom and gloom, despite dismal academics.  But there was a clear academic and cultural difference between pre-desegregation Dunbar and post.

That difference also showed up in a division in the alumni association. The old Dunbar alumni who were held to higher standards and expectations had trouble connecting with the younger alumni. It is not as if the Old Dunbar did not help the New Dunbar students. There were scholarships and a story about a student who was accepted into Amherst College revived a Amherst-Dunbar connection and money flowed to the student.