Recruiting Diversity Michelle Rhee's campaign to diversify DCPS means wooing white parents.

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery

For years, John Derlega had looked from his window at the rusting façade of William Lloyd Garrison Elementary School on S Street NW near Logan Circle. Of course, he had never entered the building. A classic D.C. young professional, Derlega lived local but focused elsewhere. Then he and his wife had a child.

The couple wanted a public education for their daughter. But the District of Columbia Public Schools had a reputation for being a dreadful system with just a few exceptions. So they went looking for those exceptions and researching charter schools. “We began by going to open houses. We went to Ross [Elementary School] and Capital City Charter School,” says Derlega, 37, who is white and works as a nonprofit fundraising executive. “My wife made contact with the principal at Ross; I made contact with Capital City.”

And the DCPS made contact right back in a rather surprising way: The couple received an e-mail from Chancellor Michelle Rhee. “We were blown away to get direct e-mails from her,” Derlega says.

Mona Sehgal also received the chancellor’s attention. While the 17-year Foggy Bottom resident frequently passed Francis Junior High School near 24th and N streets NW, she never went in. But after she married and had her first child, she was scouting schools in neighborhoods she’d “never visited before” and entering the city’s lottery for out-of-boundary schools.

Meanwhile, Francis morphed into the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, with a pre-K through 8th grade academic program. She attended an open house where she met the principal and Rhee. “I told them if they put a class for three-year olds there, I would consider the school,” says Sehgal, 42, who is of Indian heritage. While Seghal was off exploring distant options, DCPS created just such a program at Francis-Stevens.

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“When I saw the notice, I said, wait, this is what I asked for,” says Sehgal. She and her husband, who is white, recruited other families, ending up with 30—enough for two pre-school classes. “And, for the 2011-2012 school year, we already have four or five new neighborhood families interested in the school.”

Much of what you read about Rhee these days involves her often acrimonious combat with mobilized politicians and unionized teachers. But over the past two years, the battle-hardened schools chief has simultaneously been on a charm offensive, having tea with new parents, drafting e-mails to school-hunting moms and dads, and otherwise recruiting folks who might previously have shunned DCPS. And the most conspicuous targets of that wooing are ones from the demographic that include Sehgal and Derlega: affluent, educated, and disproportionately white.

Rhee rejects the notion she’s focused on any particular group. Most of her career, she says, has been spent addressing the needs of poor African-American children. “If we can make sure our children in Anacostia are getting a great education, then we will be able to shatter all the excuses people have about poor children not being able to perform,” she says.

Indeed, much of her role as DCPS’ chief marketer has involved spreading the word about good schools beyond the handful of historically excellent Upper Northwest elementary schools. “What’s in people’s heads is that there are these six schools that are good. Everybody knows them. But increasingly, there now are some really solid schools—Barnard Elementary, J.O. Wilson [for example]—that are these gems.”

DCPS has developed compelling programs and enhanced school-based leadership at “recruitment schools” like Francis-Stevens, she says. Those are poised to “turn the corner.” Not unlike Ross, “Francis-Stevens can also become a school that has a lot of demand, if we do things right.” Rhee says DCPS has been conducting “strong outreach to families. I am trying to woo everybody back—not just white people.”

Still, a glance at the places where Rhee believes her luring of parents could make a difference in school enrollment suggests a certain type of community is front and center: Gentrified locales where demographics have shifted because of the influx of people like the Derlegas and Sehgal—but where neighborhood schools remain overwhelmingly African American, inconsistent with the new diversity.

Rhee’s campaign has included bus advertisements, radio spots, e-mails, conference calls, private meetings in the homes of current or potential DCPS parents, and pep-rally-style sessions at schools including Francis-Stevens. There, she didn’t appeal to parents’ liberal guilt but urged them to choose the school that would best educate their child.

“Not all of you are going to make that decision this year; some of you will and every year the number is going to grow and grow,” she told them. She’s certain a few years ago, the folks attending that meeting “would never think of sending their kids to DCPS.”

And just who was in that group?

“It was mixed,” says Rhee. “But I would say the group was predominantly white.”

It appears DCPS’ leadership is engaged in a real-time experiment to see whether it’s possible to integrate a school system by reaching out to a group that has traditionally rejected it as an option. They are achieving some success: Between 2007 and 2010, white enrollment in DCPS increased from 6 percent to 9 percent and Hispanic enrollment increased from 11 percent to 13 percent. During that same period, African-American enrollment dropped from 80 percent to 76 percent, according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

A lot of people might be uncomfortable with the experiment and its results. But the statistically complicated, politically toxic, and morally vexing question is: should they be?

Our Readers Say

"Derlaga says the DCPS staff, including Margery Yeager with the Office of Transformation Management, have been sensitive to the dynamic that will greet families like his. For example, there was a conference call held for parents to discuss how to enter a new school community."

Is the call Derlaga referred to a standard call that all parents had an invitation to join - after all there are thousands of new children in DCPS this year - or was it a call for families who are the numerical minorities in certain schools?

And did Wells really say "many of the newcomers in the Ward 6 schools are “sophisticated” and are “navigating issues far better than those before them..."? I'm not new to ward 6 and think I'm somewhat sophisticated... Trying not to read too much into either statements and hope a WCP staffer will follow up and/or clarify them.
If you live in a certain neighborhood your children are entitled to attend that neighborhood school, period. It seems that people are complaining that having parents that live in the neighborhoods of schools are "pushing out" kids from outside that schools' boundary. Honestly, it is amazing that something like the out-of-boundary lottery exists. We certainly never had anything like that in the city where I grew up.

And it does not seem that Rhee is trying to attract people with higher SESs while ignoring the problems in other schools, if she was she would be worthy of a lot of the negative comments stated. But that truly does not seem to be the case.

As a 22yr old college grad that has just put down roots in DC (so I might be wrong about this), isn't it a GOOD thing for Ellington to move to Union Station? I have lived in DC for the past 3 months and have not yet set foot in Georgetown because there is no Metro stop. But I go to the Union Station/Capitol area at least once every two weeks because of the Metro. And if the goal is to attract children from less affluent homes, is it not a safe assumption that they may be at least somewhat more Metro dependent than other children?
"Appearing before the Citizens Association of Georgetown, Rhee announced she would make changes that wouldn’t “turn” the school overnight but would boost options for Ward 2 residents."

That's not an accurate description of the events. I know because unlike Keenan Keller, I was actually at the meeting in question. She was responding to a question asking about the problem of neighborhood children bailing out after elementary. She used Deal as an example of a school that the neighborhood had developed a confidence in. She then stated that the neighborhood clearly didn't have enough confidence in Hardy to send their kids there. So what she was talking about "turning around" was the neigborhood's perception of the school.

Other than that, I think this is a great article that balances both sides of this very difficult question. You're right to say that the heart of the problem is not that Black children will get pushed out of the "out-of-boundary" schools as more White children buy into the system, but rather that the Black children have no other good option in their own neighborhood. That's the real tragedy.
In-boundary kids with affluent high income parents are squeezing some out-of-boundary kids from some strong DCPS schools. There are fewer spaces in some schools for kids from other parts of DC. However, some schools in other parts of the city are getting much better, so there are more strong schools for out-of-boundary kids to choose from.
The number of good schools is growing, so the number of spots in good schools is growing too. More good schools is a good thing.

Convincing highly educated affluent parents, of any color, to send their kids to DCPS and keep them there through high school will make DCPS stronger and make our city a better place to live. These are the parents who are more apt to donate time or raise money for schools. They are on average more skilled at pushing the political system to support schools. They are on average better at working with teachers and principles to make their schools stronger and their kids tend to be better students.

Kids with affluent highly educated parents will get better test scores, but they will also help make their schools better and help improve the test scores of other kids.
Great nuanced article.

Candace, the problem is that people pursue out-of-boundary schools because the schools in their own neighborhoods are worse. For the most part this wasn't a problem as the people living in those neighborhoods could afford to send their own kids to either private schools or other schools further afield. So no, not period. Parents are entitled to get their children the best education they can within the public sphere. I'm sure if you were in the situation of having a young child without the money to afford private education that you wouldn't settle for a poor school in your neighborhood when a better one is just across a "boundary."

And you missed the entire point of the Ellington move. The suggestion was that the move is kicking a predominately Black school out of white Georgetown and into more mixed Union Station, but this is another issue entirely.

Totally agree - more needs to be written about the disportionate attention that the schools in gentrifying neighborhoods receive.

Mike is your entire comment based on hypotheses and conjecture? "On average"? Of course one is more skilled at "pushing the political system" when one has the financial capital to make a larger impact in both campaign coffers and local economy.

The problem what this whole article is about, is the Black/White divide. Its not just racial but economic. Look at the last Census average income for Blacks is something like half (maybe even less) of Whites income. So yes, having rich well-educated families involved with public schools is a great idea - but what about groups without cash reserves and who historically used the system in the first place?

Really, the only thing that is going to happen in DC is greater inequality, economic, educational, and social, as well as resentment.
It's desegregation and should be lauded. It's funny that the presumption now in some circles is that it's only diverse if it's all black. What?! I've had people tell me Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery County schools aren't diverse, which is completely laughable when kids of every conceivable ethnicity attend these schools (including lots of foreign born, not well off kids). DC public schools need to be desegregated. It will improve race relations and expose more kids to people of different backgrounds.
Also- Ward 2 should absolutely have a local highschool (Ellington). Can you imagine if there wasn't a community highschool in Ward 7 or 8 and what the outcry would be?!
Hello Citypaper,

In the name of transparency, do you know if the rumor regarding jonetta's daughter working for the dc government is true or false.
Great piece, Jonetta. One thing that is worth noting is the parallel of Hardy to the Georgetown metro station debate.

Hardy was always one of the better schools among DCPS institutions, yet Ward 2 residents had little interest in sending their kids there until the new building was opened and Principal Pope reinvigorated the culture there. While the financial equation is drawing more Ward 2 kids to DCPS, as you note in the article, there is an element of the upper middle class not wanting any competition. In other words, it is a case of class segregation efforts, with parents like the ones at Key realizing their kids may not be able to compete for admission with kids across the city, so the solution they perceive is not to let kids outside Ward 2 even have a chance of competing against those the neighborhood.

We like to think we Democrats are "progressive," but only to the extent that this doesn't challenge us personally...
Wbill12. The rumor about my daughter is not true. My daughter is self-employed. I answered your question not because it has anything to do with this article or any of my work, but because I don't like my daughter caught in issues surrounding my business. Feel free anytime to write me at my email address, should you have another rumor about me you'd like to explore.

Thanks for reading. jonetta
@Candace, shut up, get out of our city and go back to the "city where you grew up"
This article says 2 things Rhee must go and entitled persons need to get with the program
This article states: “Rhee can continue to grind out small percentage increases over the next several years by doing what she already says she’s doing—improving the teacher corps.”

Please, there is no indication that Rhee has improved the teacher corps (She’s fired and RIFd some, but scores went down after that. There’s been no statistical evaluation showing that a change in teachers caused any change in scores). Nor is there an indication that Rhee or any one person has “grinded out” score increases.

Read below for documented evidence that scores have been going up slowly for over a decade and under six superintendents (and 3 mayors). Here is the evidence, with a link to the office NAEP data. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, is a national measure, done in schools across the country every two years. The last one was in 2009. (The DC-CAS is the local standarized test, given every year, and on that test, elementary scores went down in 2010.)

Rhee does not own rising academic achievement in DC and should not be misrepresented as if she does. I know it’s become the party line. It’s so easy to say “scores are up! But I hope newer more “sophisticated” DC parents entering the school system would want more complete and nuanced information.

Source: nces dot ed dot gov slash nationsreportcard slash states slash (then click on “District of Columbia”)

DC NAEP MATH SCORES
4th grade Math
1996 – 187
2000 – 192
2003 – 205
2005 – 211
2007 – 214
2009 – 219

8th grade Math
1996 – 233
2000 – 235
2003 – 243
2005 – 245
2007 – 248
2009 – 254

DC NAEP READING SCORES
[reading scores dipped a little between ‘02-’03 (4th grade) and ’02-’05 (8th grade) but rebounded and improved before Rhee arrived in July ’07. The tests were taken in the spring of ’07.]

4th grade Reading
1998 – 179
2002 – 191
2003 – 188
2005 – 191
2007 – 197
2009 – 202

8th Grade reading
1998 – 236
2002 – 240
2003 – 239
2005 – 238
2007 – 241
2009 – 242
Clearly Rhee's campaign to diversify DCPS is wooving white parents, especially firing wrongfully terminated veteran/African American Educators. Rhee's famous quote in Fast National Magazine February 2010, "I got rid of teachers who had had hit children, who had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"

Rhee manufactured a Reduction in Force - October 2, 2009 and stated that she had $29M - $34M dollars to fund a new Washington Teachers Union Contract in 2010. This is definitely a case of discrimination as well as fiscally mismanagement. Justice Must Prevail for the 266 Wrongfully Terminated DCPS Educators under the Rhee Administraton SY 09-10! No Due Process and Rhee must be held accountable!!
Interesting article. I'd argue that the decrease in percentage of african american kids in DCPS is mostly the growth in charter school enrollment between 2007 and 2010. Charters in DC are nearly 100% non-white, and probably 95% african american.

I wish more discussion about DC schools would be more about class and less about race! In general, schools fail because too many children in the neighborhoods live in poverty and have bad home/community lives. It's much more about class than race. There is a very small black middle/upper class in DC these days, and an almost nonexistant population of poor whites, however, so I can see why people focus on race.
Rob, Increasing the number of highly educated affluent parents will help improve DCPS schools. Encouraging them to send their kids to DCPS is a great way to improve the schools.

There are many other reasons DCPS is improving including, more funding, better facilities, better administration, elimination of poor teachers, better management of current teachers, hiring of better new teachers and a declining percentage of kids from very poor homes. These are some of the reasons it s easier for DCPS to teach our kids and why test scores are gradually going up.

The question becomes will students from highly educated affluent parents improve schools enough to offset the negative effects on "displaced" students. I believe the answer is yes, although that's a net yes. There are specific kids who won't get into the school their parents want and they will end up at weaker schools, but the system overall will improve the net benefit to kids with less affluent parents.

Francis is a great example. A pretty bad school that's becoming pretty good. A net benefit for everyone and becoming another option for out of bounds kids.

The population of kids entering DCPS is changing. The percentage of very poor kids is declining, but that's not a function of the schools, that's a function of changing city demographics.

You wrote, "Really, the only thing that is going to happen in DC is greater inequality, economic, educational, and social, as well as resentment." That's certainly a possibility, but trends in the city point in the other direction. The city and schools are improving. For so long we have had so much economic, educational, and social inequality and the resentment level has been very high, but it is getting better. Murder rates are way down. Investment in the city is up. Our city is growing. More people want to live here. Even in a lousy national economy people generally feel good about the direction of our city.
When you have a discussion with Chancellor Rhee, is surely different when you have a discussion with Michelle. I am the first one to tell everyone...when I first met Chancellor Rhee in the scheme of things as PTSA representative...we DID NOT HIT IT OFF. There was a cooling-off period on both parts as the email dialogue was becoming venomous. Then one meeting it was just us two...Mark and Michelle, the tide turned and I am one of her greatest supporters. I too am like Cherita...might not agree with everything but there's an improvement and a future that I can see for DCPS as being great.

Great communicator is the Chancellor but a racist, absolutely not in my presence. I can say I have heard more disparaging remarks from whites in regards to the black support and asian leadership. Believe me, Allen Lew does not escape the wrath of the whites...who want their schools remodeled to their specifications. LOL

Pointing out the obvious, the majority of the firings so-far have been african-american females. Yet, some of her closest confidantes and business associates are of the same genre. But again, the majority of DCPS was run by predominantly black women, so the firings were just a result of their own numbers.
Has anyone listened to Michelle Rhee's talk in front of new teachers? If you have not read it or listened to it, you should. It is quite disturbing, borderline racist, and in general totally offensive.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/08/michelle_rhee_first-year_teach.html?referrer=emaillink

This is not the person we need running our schools. She is incompetent, ignorant, and arrogant. We don't need more people like this running institutions. Let's hope Fenty loses.
It's fascinating that some people seem to think Washington's "history" started only in the 1960s.
An intellectual, probing, and balanced article in the City paper. I am amazed. No sarcasim, ennuendo, nor rumor mongering. Awesome.

Please keep it up! If you keep that tone, then maybe readers will keep a respectful tone. Then we perhaps we wouldn't have to sort thru personal attacks and distinguish them from legitimate policy issues.

This article mentions, “Sousa Middle School in Ward 7, where the principal, Dwan Jordan, has increased test scores, enhanced the teacher corps and added a music program among other things.”

It fails to mention that Jordan fired most of his teachers AFTER they pulled off a huge score increase, or that his new teachers didn’t keep up the increases. It also doesn’t mention that teachers old and new consider Jordan to be a tyrant. Just google - Jordan Sousa Washington Post - and see for yourself.
Mike says, "elimination of poor teachers, better management of current teachers, hiring of better new teachers."

This is what Rhee and the news reports say, but there is no data-driven evidence of this. Please keep that in mind before making blanket statements like that.

Many of the recent hires are completely inexperienced teachers. During the RIF, teachers were not let go based on effectiveness - Rhee-devised measure of effectiveness (IMPACT) had not yet been used.

With a huge turn-over in principals, there is no evidence that teachers are "better managed" than before.

Just today in the Post letters section there is a letter from a DCPS teacher who received two very different scores on the two parts of his evaluation. Here it is:

D.C.'s teacher evaluations are overly subjective
Thursday, August 26, 2010; A12

I am a teacher in the D.C. public schools, and I just got my IMPACT teacher evaluation. On a scale from 1 to 4 (with 4 being the highest), my final score is 3.18. My evaluation has two components: an objective component based on student test scores and a subjective component based on the opinions of people who have evaluated my job performance. On the objective half, my score was 4.0, but on the subjective half, it was only 2.36.

There are lots of ways to interpret this huge discrepancy. The evaluators may not have followed the directions correctly; the directions the evaluators were given may not have been correct; the evaluators may have falsified the numbers for some reason, etc.

You can understand why D.C. public school teachers are concerned about this IMPACT evaluation system. It looks like the school system doesn't have a clue about what a good teacher looks like.

Glenn Campbell, Washington

As citizens, I think we deserve to know the frequency of this kind of discrepancy and what it says about the evaluation mechanism.
It seems that everyone who supports Rhee's vision is new-ish to DC, affluent, or nearly affluent enough to benefit from Ms. Rhee's "reforms" in DCPS. It also seems that everyone who protests Rhee's vision is a long-time DC resident who has been (and still is) waiting for Ms. Rhee's "reforms" to start benefiting his/her children...before said children graduate from DCPS.
This article is excellent. It is thought provoking, informative and superbly nuanced. Thank you Ms Barras.

The balancing act of separate but equal - equal but separate, has been the ultimate challenge for a long time and especially since Brown v Bd of Ed. Safe, adequate housing opportunities and neighborhood schools, good nutrition and health-care, race, class, legacy etc are all tied together and the answer on the best way to provide a fair opportunity for all is never a simple one. The only thing for sure is that without the foundation of a good education no other part of the American dream is legally possible.

In an ideal world things would be equal but we do not live in an ideal world - yet. So, until we achieve educational equality for all of our children, we must constantly challenge the status quo. All that went before isn't necessarily bad and all that is new is not automatically good.

Time will tell if we are on the right track and if Rhee is the answer for DCPS at this time in DC history. If she is correct then we all benefit; if she isn't then we must take what was good from her time as Chancellor and hope that the next person will improve upon her methods. It's what makes Democracy great, we can challenge, change and still move forward and no one is irreplaceable.

Stay tuned...and may civil discourse continue.
I don't think the most important problem raised by Rhee's efforts will prove to be white parents outbidding black parents for slots at improving schools.

In my experience, the problem is young, white, very affluent newbies indicating that they will not consider sending their darling dumplings to their local DCPS until the school rids itself of kids they don't want their kids associating with.

There was some of that at Hardy. Rhee met with the Key Elementary School parents (white) and not with the parents of current Hardy students, and ousted Principal Pope. That must have felt like the Key parents getting their way through Rhee, and seemed like a threat to toss out out-of-boundary kids from Hardy because Key parents were not comfortable sending their kids there if those out-of-boundary kids would share the facility.

Same thing on Capitol Hill. Councilmember Tommy Wells and Rhee shut down Hine and locked out students at Eastern HS (many of them the same kids who'd been screwed at Hine, now being screwed out of Eastern). It must feel like newbies on the Hill will only consider Eliot-Hine Middle School and Eastern after it had been disinfected of the current student population.

It is great when newbies arrive and demand more rigor and higher standards. It is not great when newbies arrive and say, "Get rid of those dangerous other kids and the principal and staff that meets the needs of those others, then we'll consider sending our kids there."

That's different than competing for slots in attractive schools. That's more like taking over, acting entitled, and enforcing "The Plan."
My only problem with Rhee's strategy is that it's a top down approach. She's focusing on improving the schools that are in the best neighborhoods while almost giving up on other neighborhoods, pushing the responsibility of education onto charter schools (where any success is a result of the work of individuals running the school, not anything DCPS has done).

While I understand the need for more class diversity in DCPS, it does leave the most vulnerable children in our city with few options. The well-educated and affluent will always be able to find a way to send their children to good schools, but this just isn't so for the children who attend out of boundary schools and don't have the same resources.

If she also focuses on improving the schools in the worst neighborhoods, less people will feel they need to attend school out of boundary, and it would reduce competition for the ever shrinking numbers of out of boundary slots. She would avoid the race issue completely if she focuses on providing for the children who have the least. It focusing on the children with the least is not shoving them into charter schools, but providing schools in the regular DCPS system that meet their needs.



SG- the local high school for Ward 2 is Wilson SHS. All residents west of 16th street have Wilson SHS as their school. Until now, there has been little interest for these residents to attend a public school, so Wilson had a huge capacity and thus the boundary is so large. They still manage to attract out of boundary students and were featured in the Newsweek's Top 100 Public High Schols. Ellington is a magnet school, only for students who excell in Arts and have a high GPA and test scores.

As for Hardy, it just sucks that people with money always get to take what they want. If they decide they want Anacostia, they'll take it. It just hasn't happened yet. The poor will always be at the mercy of the rich, regardless of race.

The reason Rhee is courting these parents is to bring up the test scores. There is no better guarantee to have kids scoring Proficient and Advanced than to court kids who have Au Pairs and parents with high level degrees.
Trulee pist - very well stated.

I'm all for young parents staying in DC and sending their kids to their neighborhood schools. It’s their perfect right. I'm against any sense they may have that they are doing something good or noble for the city or for the cause of integration.

Affluent people left the city schools 50 years ago of their own accord - to big new houses in the new affluent, mono-racial suburbs, with new schools. They could get around in their big new cars and breeze to work in the city in no time on the great new highway system.

Times have changed and that set-up doesn't look so attractive any more.

Fine, affluent people - move back in, but please know you’re doing it in your own self-interest.

If you also think of yourselves as being progressive and civil-rights minded, please also consider the families who have been in the city all along, who don’t have the choices you and your predecessors have had and who also have the right to a good public education for their children.
This is the PLAN OF GENTRIFICATION!
Rhee and that punk azz Fenty are players in this game.
The whole design is to get Blacks Out if DC and whites in.
This is going according to plan.
Black people better wake up and stop sleeping.
How do I get a job working for a union or interest group where I can just sit around and post on blogs about Michelle Rhee all day long?
@Skipper,

It appears that you already have such a job.
I live in the Trinidad area and my daughter goes to an out-of-bounds school. Once in your child is there until you make a decision to take them out, or they are removed for disciplinary reasons. I wouldn't consider sending my daughter to our neighborhood elementary school, because the parents and children in the area are not as invested in their children's education as I am. Many of them expect the school to teach their children everything, and don't check or correct their children's homework, give them good lunches, make sure they get to bed early. There is a lot more going on then just whites moving into the city. I don't understand why people are complaining about people who live in an area sending their children to a school in their ward. If your child is attending the school out of bounds they will still continue to attend the school. You don't want your child to attend a diverse school? Lowering this discussion to blacks being displaced by whites has no business in this conversation. It's really about the fact that DCPS has become more attractive to middle class parents, and because it is becoming harder and harder to send kids to private schools, public school is becoming more popular. Honestly. Send your kids to what ever school you want public, charter, private whatever. It is your right, and your decision, but don't blame Rhee for these perseived slights to blacks. ????
Funny... no one speaks of the lack of diversity in the hierarchy of the DC Public Schools administrative offices. From what I understand, once above the 7th or 8th floor there is a conspicuous absence of color.
gtovryorselvs - what you may not realize is that if enough in-bounds families fill out the school your kids are in, there won't be room in the future for parents like you who want to send their kids to a school with kids from families with similar values - regardless of race.

People like you would have to move in-bounds to go to the school your daughter is attending now. You'd also have the option of a charter school, anywhere in the city - no bounds issue - but there is a lottery, which you would have to win to get in.

Unless there are changes in your in-bounds school, people like you could be out of luck in a few years.
I worked for DCPS before Michelle Rhee came in and stayed for her first year (and no I was not fired, I left on my own account because of tremendous job dissatisfaction) and the demographics in the leadership team and other offices have changed to exact polar opposites. Back in 2006, I was one of the few non African-American people there (I am not white, but still considered a person of color) and now, it is predominantly white. Furthermore, my old team consisted of 5 women -4 of color and one white. When Michelle came in, she replaced our supervisor with a white male that was less qualified than all of us. We all had teaching experience and advanced degrees, plus institutional knowledge and this guy had nothing. He was just a New Teacher Project person that she deemed suitable. Needless to say, he was a disaster and is no longer there either. As a matter of fact none of us are. I think the problem was not really racism but the idea that everyone and everything from the "old" DCPS was garbage and that her team were superheroes. Unfortunately, old DCPS was black and the superheroes are white (or Asian).

Count me in- yes, she has K. Henderson and Richard Niyankori on her team, but that's pretty much it.
Efavorite writes,

"Mike says, "elimination of poor teachers, better management of current teachers, hiring of better new teachers."

This is what Rhee and the news reports say, but there is no data-driven evidence of this. Please keep that in mind before making blanket statements like that."

I don't work in DCPS, so maybe I'm not the best source of analysis, but I did graduate from DCPS and I have 2 kids in the system. The anecdotal evidence I'm seeing is very good. I'm not very familiar with the data, but schools opened this week and I did not hear about any schools getting closed by fire marshals, missing text books, classes with crazy student to teacher ratios. The facilities keep getting better each year. Since my kids have been in the system I have also seen a big change for the better in teachers at my older kid's school (lots of strong new young teachers) and a very modest change at my younger kid's school (which was much stronger to begin with).

However, I have also heard about a teacher I think is great getting a poor classroom evaluation. It is my understanding the poor score from the classroom was from an evaluator who was not qualified to evaluate that kind of class and visited on a day when the class was behaving poorly. The teacher is still teaching and I sure hope this year goes better.

It must be scary to be a teacher with a new untested evaluation system, but the increase in pay should help mitigate some of that fear. As a parent and a former student who saw how bad some DCPS teachers were I like the idea that teachers are being evaluated and tested to rigorous standards. Some decent teachers may sill lose their jobs, but its a risk I am willing to take.

Also in response to Efavotite's comment #34 responding to gtovryorselvs you are not considering that schools across the city are improving so there will be more strong schools to choose from. A net increase in spots at strong schools is good for everyone.
Trulee pist...

You are so right on point regarding Eastern Senior High School and Hines. Here it is the Thrill on the Hill and the Pride of Capitol Hill have gone through a cleansing unbeknownst to them...plainly put a forced enema. What I witnessed yesterday at the groundbreaking only solidifies the point...that the stroller brigade has picked out the rugs and drapes for Capitol Hill. You see they have already sacrificed McKinley Tech...that was suppposedly had been the Anthony Williams pagan-offering to the future in white education. But what happen, none other than NCLB and what didn't confuse people just frustrated people. We all know that whites can't stand being frustrated, so in essence blacks went to McKinley.

How can you phase out Eastern and embrace the closing of Hines? Yet, you will move an entire student body from Wilson to UDC and back again. You will move the entire Woodson student body into a brand new facility in 2011. Again, there's not enough white students on Capitol Hill to make Eastern solvent. It appalled me...when I personally witnessed not one white (from the neighborhood) who was in attendance at the symbolic ribbon cutting did not interacted with the black students at the groundbreaking.

Did I hear that if people wanted a tour of Eastern that they should contact Councilmember Tommy Wells office... That is surely different, what purpose does DCPS serve again regarding school facilities. Considering with Lew's confirmation that if it was not Fenty...Eastern would have been torn down and rebuilt from the ground-up. I am telling you I am learning more and more about DC people all the gosh-darn time.

I am too ptfo.
Rob,

Another observation not only absent of one color. Feminity and effeminity is running rampant, it seems that masculinity has been fired or temporarily postponed. Designers, make it work.

Disappointed,

What about Ntaki (Principal Leadership Director)? What about Lisa Ruda? It was just as bad with Janey...he had the 5-heartbeats or the education version of "new edition." How can't remember the young-bucs who worked for William's administration jumping ship and coming to DCPS and vice-a-versa.

Vance had the characters from "Harlem Nights" and Ackerman gave you the black version of the "Golden Girls."

Count me in,

I admit that Michelle is much different than Chancellor Rhee as I guess Michelle is much different than the First Lady Mrs. Obama...and I know that Michelle is much different than the Michelle Fenty, Esq. But isn't nice now and then to see the true giiiiiiiiiiiirrrl in action and not always this veneer.
Former Hardy and Ellington parent here. FWIW I'm white and upper-middle-class.

WRT Hardy: As far as I know Rhee has never said publicly that she wanted to make Hardy more of a neighborhood school. She told Hardy parents at a meeting I attended that Patrick Pope, Hardy's highly competent principal, was being reassigned to develop an arts magnet middle school. No one believes that she moved Pope just to develop a new school that DCPS can't afford right now. People generally believe that she got rid of him to please well-to-do in-boundaries white parents who somehow couldn't grasp that their children could attend Hardy any time they wanted. Although there is an arts-related application to fill out, in-boundaries kids are still guaranteed a spot at Hardy. It's not that hard to figure out.

Ms. Rhee was willing to meet with a white parent group in Palisades before announcing Mr. Pope's removal but did NOT meet with the mostly-black Hardy parents until she was ready to announce it. Therefore, she has given the impression that she cares more about white parents than black parents. I have no idea whether this is true. However, whatever her intentions, she did things that allowed this perception to take hold, indicating a level of inexperience and naivete that is quite breathtaking in anyone who supposedly has been in the trenches in major city school systems. Rhee has lost the trust of the Hardy community and Hardy has lost a good principal. This didn't have to happen.

WRT Ellington School for the Arts: Shortly after the Hardy fiasco, it was leaked that DCPS was studying the feasibility of moving Ellington to the Logan school swing space near Union Station. For those unfamiliar with Ellington, it has received thousands of dollars from *private* donors to upgrade its facilities so that they are suitable for students in music, art, dance, theater, etc. It appeared as if DCPS was willing to turn over these specialized facilities to neighborhood students with no interest in the arts while the students that needed them would be forced into a small substandard facility. Furthermore, this study came as a complete surprise to everyone associated with Ellington -- administrators, teachers, parents, students. Additionally, both Fenty and Rhee were slow to respond publicly with any kind of reassurance that Ellington would not be moved without consulting the community. This only happened later when a joint letter was released by Ellington administrators and DCPS, giving the impression that it may have only been pressure from the Ellington community which stopped the move.

Because of the secrecy around this plan and the previous experience with Hardy, it looked to many like this was another attempt to get black students out of Georgetown. I have no idea whether this was the case or not. However, I am thoroughly unimpressed with the Chancellor's inability to make changes in a transparent way that involves the community. If she is not trying to move black students out of Georgetown, she is certainly doing a terrible job of conveying that to the community.

Your article suggests that that has been her plan all along. If so, those of us who committed to DCPS when it was not so popular with most of the white middle class deserve better treatment than this. At the very least, we deserve an honest answer about why Mr. Pope has been removed from Hardy. And if it has not been her plan, we deserve a Chancellor who knows how to encourage, inspire, and bring together those of us who care about public education rather than needlessly creating upheaval in schools which are already working well.


It seems so many "Old Guard" Washingtonians are put off by what they consider brash behavior by Michelle Rhee. I'm a fourth generation African American Washingtonian, who went primarily to public schools in the District, and to that I say, "So what?" She is interested in reforming schools now. After so many years of neglect in DCPS, isn't it time someone moved with alacrity. If you have children in DCPS, because you couldn't afford to send them elsewhere, my guess is you'd be more concerned about getting your child the best possible education, not making Old Guard Washingtonians feel important, special, included or otherwise "warm and fuzzy." I fully support her efforts to racially balance schools (presuming that is a strategy). Its akin to mixed income housing - everyone benefits. I'd rather her cater to the educational needs of children than to the fragile egos of adults.
John L. Murphy, you rule.
As a Hardy parent I would note a few things that I think undermine Rhee's argument. Mr. Pope was replaced by four people, a principal and three vice principals. Cuts were made in other areas of the school to pay for this extra, highly paid staff. Schedules are a mess and parents have been told not to expect finalized schedules until 9/6, two weeks after school has started. Discipline had become a problem at the school with kids wandering the halls and finally, There are students sitting on the floor in some classrooms for lack of space. My child is being deducted home work points for a summer assignment sent through the principals private e-list that many of us didn't know about and for some reason she chose not to use the PTA list that existed. Parents who could have taken their children back to private school, and the Key parents who compained initially applied to Deal as that was the school du jour.
Just like with any other political appointee, Michelle Rhee is not doing us a favor. She is getting paid top dollar to do this- not to mention making herself famous in the meantime. I can see the million dollar book deal and speaking engagements that will follow this. She is not some kind of benefactor. Some will win and some will lose with her reforms, and then someone else will come along and dismantle what she built for good or bad.

Sashay-- Lisa Ruda is white.
Mike – I’m happy to hear about the good schools opening experience – that is different from your earlier point: "elimination of poor teachers, better management of current teachers, hiring of better new teachers."

Also, the facilities plan started under Williams, and is being carried out under Lews (outside of Rhee’s bailiwick) and will continue with whomever is the next Mayor. It’s a good thing, and not in the least related to Rhee as chancellor.

As to the new “strong young teachers” – that sounds good too, but keep in mind that for the first time in years, elementary DC-CAS scores went down. The cause of that is unknown at this point, but if scores gone up – certainly Rhee would be getting (and taking) all the credit. It could be that those new teachers, who are energetic and smart, are not very good teachers yet. Most teachers aren’t so good their first couple of years and the more inexperienced teachers we have, the few experienced teachers there are around to help out the newbees. Also, the more competition there is among teachers (or any group of employees), the less likely they are to cooperate with each other. This is common sense which is borne out in research. Teachers are generally not in favor of performance pay – instead, they want good working conditions and supplies.

I must say, I can’t understand why you’re willing to take the risk that some decent teachers could lose their jobs. Bad teachers could always by fired (and everyone always knows who they are)– if administrators took the time to do it. Now there’s a system that can get good teachers – in some cases based completely on a few classroom observations during which the teacher must adhere to a strict set of procedures.

Regarding my response to gtovryorslvs, I hope schools are improving throughout the system. Some people here, including gtovryorslvs, are saying that is not the case.
@Mr. Murphy

I would agree with you if I thought that what Rhee is doing is in the best interests of our children. However nothing that she has implemented is directly tied to student learning or improving student outcomes. Everything that she has done is related to teachers. None of the tests that students take have an impact on them. The tests don't dictate whether a child advances to the next grade or whether they graduate from high school. The tests only impact teacher evaluations.

There is no evidence that these standardized tests have any validity outside of themselves. In other words, because a child does well on a particular test does not have any relevance to anything outside of that test. The greatest movement in improved test scores has been for those children who were close to being proficient but didn't quite make it. Now, many of those children are testing proficient on DC CAS, which is very nice, except we're not really sure what that means.

Another test, NAEP, which efavorite mentions above, is a nationally recognized test. And while efavorite used the numbers to show improvement over the years, the fact is that this test currently shows that less than 20% of students in the fourth and eighth grades are proficient in reading and math. This is in stark contrast to the DC CAS test, which the city pays for, and indicates that twice as many students in those grades are proficient or higher.

Rhee just wants you to pay attention to the numbers she produces, except in cases, such as this year when they went down. Also, she doesn't want to explain to you what they mean because we're supposed to all assume that they have some kind of external value, which there is no proof of.
Great comments here. If in fact diversity is Rhee's claim, her approach started and continues to deplete the system of veteran Black principals and teachers who are also over 45 and credentialed.
Since I can remember there have always been issues of disparity in educational programming in the District of Columbia school system, and I am 63 years old. I witnessed many parents having to send their children to other neighborhood schools, often across town, to get them into educational programs not offered in their respective neighborhood schools. That way of life has always been a matter of course.

I give Chancellor Rhee credit for at least trying to correct some of what has plagued the D.C. school system for decades; however, she can't fix everything to everyone's satisfaction, nor should she have to. All that she needs to do is what is right for everyone regardless of race, color, or ethnicity.

The culture of DC has transformed in the past 35-plus years. We hire outsiders to shape our institutions to save us from ourselves, and when that doesn't work criticize the person and the change and then look for the next replacement to become a victim of our pending dissatisfaction and outrage.

With that said, when will the nonsense cease? Every parent of a child(ren) in the District of Columbia should expect the best for them, regardless of color, culture or the neighborhood where they reside. Children in far-southeast should not receive any less educationally than children who live west of Rock Creek Park, upper northwest, or northeast DC; although there are a few souls who might take exception to that statement--but it is what it is.

I don't need to point out in details what ails us because we know the cure. The problem is some of us don't want to cure the disease, we rather treat it with continuous whining and fingerpointing; instead of participating in real problem solving which requires reaching out as true citizens to each other. The mere thought of doing that scares the life out of some of us, because it's too easy and requires critical and constructive thinking, and disallows whining.
"As a 22yr old college grad that has just put down roots in DC (so I might be wrong about this), isn't it a GOOD thing for Ellington to move to Union Station? I have lived in DC for the past 3 months and have not yet set foot in Georgetown because there is no Metro stop."

Oh, naive young man, welcome to the dangers (and twisted logic) of the political third rail in Washington, DC politics -- the perceived racial slight.

When Tony Williams became mayor he proposed moving UDC from its barren plaza and brutalist buildings at Connnecticut and Van Ness to the Saint Elizabeth's site in Ward 8. He reasoned that the school would be closer to more of its students, the Van Ness site could be sold and redeveloped at a nice return to the city (funding UDC modernization) and, what's more, St. E's really looked the part of an ivy-covered campus. Cries of outrage resulted. Those Ward 3 residents had a secret plan to evict the (nearly all black) students of UDC from Northwest, the same offense taken when it is suggested that Duke Ellington HS could benefit from a more modern campus and more central location than its present site on the edge of Georgetown.

Yet when some benefactor bequeathed a Foxhall Road estate to be used as a mayoral residence, the same crowd howled that it was unfair and "disrespectful" to put the mayor's home in Ward 3, when it shoudl be in a locale that was more reflective of the "community." (The offer was subsequently withdrawn and the Foxhall site sold off to a developer.)

Racial politics in DC -- everything gets twisted around and there is no way to win.



Firstly, welcome back jonetta rose barras. Finally, City Paper has an editor who has gotten back to Journalism 101. Excellent reporting.

Secondly, I am Black. I don't have any youth. But, I have friends who have taken their children out of private schools. Black folks. Why? Rhee is the "Great White Hope" for any parent who wants their child to excel as the best student at a low cost.

Is the problem that Michelle Rhee is Asian? Black people and whites and every other race have to "get over it."Let's get real, the entire world knows that Asians are trained to excel at what they do. Thank God! They got rid of all those Darwins' genetic myths about white supermacy. They perfect discipline, study habits and a feng shui environment. But, the American parents are lazy. They don't want to do the elbow grease or providing the formidable foundation. Most young parents are extremely lazy when it comes to perfecting their child's study habits.

Indeed, we are embracing cultural difference. For example, I didn't understand why Asians rarely or never spoke to you. They always avoided eye contact, until I realized that is their upbringing, nature or cultural habits. Are we surprised that the Chancellor doesn't fit the norm of media stereotypes? She stares you down and takes you out. We must accept the reality that she is making progress. More praises to the whites for understanding she is not here to win a popularity contest. We can't forget that a lot of teachers were horrible and can't hide. Of course, Rhee is human and make mistakes. But, she is not afraid to do what she is hired to do.

If Rhee was any other race and doing what she is doing we still will have a backlash. Check out all the movies about educators from Sidney Poiter, Dorothy Dandridge, Morgan Freeman, Eva Mendes, Edward James Olmos, and so forth. People hate to face the truth.

We can't hide it anymore. Plenty of Americans are just fucking dumb. Hello! President Bush is a prime example. Now, we have an educated President and we can't accept it. Remember Clinton, he is brilliant. If you don't believe we are getting dumber everyday, watch when Jay Leno expose it with his jaywalking. Most youth and some teachers are always failing the basic questions. For example, what is the capitol or your state? Let's not talk about "Are you Smarter Than A 5th Grader?"

Pardon, my French, "Fuck the Bullshit!" We need smart children who can function as civilized adults.

Hey! Michelle Bring back Physical Education and watch how many will scream about "Is she saying our children need to exercise." No! Dummies. The First Lady is begging all of us to follow her example.

Keep hiring Jonetta to write her arse off. Forget about all that fluff stuff as front news. People love informative in-depth reporting. Tell it like it is. Welcome back City Paper to what I have loved about your rag, for decades.

OH! By the way, I wish I had a Michelle Rhee when I was in school, I would know my punctuation marks and grammatical mistakes. I wouldn't had 18 years old in a 7th grade and dodging fights and bullets in the hood schools. We had good teachers, but, those fucking bad kids who were preying on us made us fearful to show how smart we are. You have to fight all the time. Let's not talk about elementary school. I don't think a 12-year-old should have been in the third grade. I am the black pot calling the aluminum pan a worthless piece of metal for stirring up tasteless crap. Where is the spell check? Maybe, I am mad because the dummy syndrome is contagious.
@Bill

Oh Bill, thanks for your simplistic interpretations of racial politics. While the UDC architecture is certainly ugly, is there really a reason to move it? Had UDC moved to St. Elizabeth's, it would've been kicked it out since the Department of Homeland Security is taking over. Is there some information out there that tells us that most UDC students are from Anacostia anyway?

Why would Duke Ellington benefit from being moved? Would the school be better than it is now? Is there a building for it to move into that is appropriate for a performing arts school? Especially one that has had a recent renovation?

Can you please tell us who this crowd us who opposes all of these things and at the same time opposed a mayoral residence? I'd love a list of names.

Perhaps we could say that it is best to have the metro go through georgetown so that it is more convenient for people to go to, no? It seems that this area of the city has prevented a great deal of transportation infrastructure from being built. This is the real impediment.

Thanks in advance for responding to my questions.
http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov.

Only 8 out of 87 DCPS Elementary Schools made AYP this year. 2 of the eight were 2 Special Education Centers…Mamie D. Lee & Sharp Health Center.

Two (2) out of 34 DCPS middle and high schools made their AYP targets. No DCPS middle school made their DC CAS AYP targets for this school year.

The NCLB data (DC CAS) indicates that over 57% of our DCPS students are NOT proficient in math and that 56% of our DCPS students are NOT proficient in reading this year.
Readers of the local ed plogs and comments to articles by MSM journos look forward to Efavorite finding some Black educators in DCPS and public charter schools to favorably write about. Because test scores are weak and unreliable indicators, she's have to visit schools or interview samples of students and parents.

If Rhee wasn't smart enough to understand weighted averages that account for the majority of gains in recent NAEP scores in DC, then she has people around her to explain them to her. Yes, that applies to the weighted averages that cause chancellors like Rhee and (former) school principals like Hardy MS's Patrick Pope to recruit parents and kids. Because contrary to cant, in the short run, most of what this year's scores AND achievement are about is what the students brought with them from home. Even the simplest (football) coach understands that.

RE: Hardy MS. The number of white students attending Hardy has been 45 (+- 25) for the last thirty five years. The number of AA students grew as school capacity tripled in two large steps, from 110 to over 330. Over that period, there has been NO substantial change in the disaggregated academic achievement or HS preparedness of the students who emerged from Hardy.

Relative safety from violence is always primary when the risk of violence at other places is high. School quality is secondary. At Wilson HS, another near-Ward 3 school with a majority AA student population, there has been no good reason for enrollments exceeding 1500 students EXCEPT the desire of AA students, parents, and guardians to have students attend a low-violence school in a low-crime area. The Wilson HS attendance boundary could have been altered to promote (or prop up) enrollment at four other under-enrolled DCPS high schools, but that didn't happen. There hasn't been a comment on a WaPo or WCP education article in which ANYONE protested that the doubling in size of Hardy MS and the continued growth of enrollment at Wilson HS effectively bled off students from neighborhood schools. That's because of Rhee. Nobody complained during the Williams reign either.

Great article and great comments. My wife and I are evil white gentrifiers and proud parents of a newborn. We're also committed to public schools and to the District, so we are inclined at this point toward DCPS. Rhee's moves to recruit and accommodate people like us are welcome, and so too are the groups of parents standing up to Rhee over her bad decisions.
“[Rhee] talked about there was some confusion about the application process,“ says Candy Miles-Crocker, an African-American parent-leader and Ward 5 resident. “All of that was smoke and mirrors. The folks in Palisades didn’t get interested until Hardy had a new facility. When we were at old Hamilton school, no one wanted to come. The timing was suspicious.”

Ms. Miles-Crocker may have recent birthyear as an explanation for incomplete knowledge and reporting. When Hardy MS was at Hamilton, (near Trinidad), it didn't attract AA enrollment increases either. Hardy was closer to the AA population for two years, and its AA enrollment DECLINED. Yes, enrollment at Hardy of Ward 3 kids declined when Patrick Pope's sudden closure of the school on Wisconsin Ave put their kids on buses for commutes to their neighborhood school as long as seven miles and two hours per day.

Local parents have wanted a stronger Hardy middle school for decades. Some went to Deal MS, also majority AA. Then, there were signed reports from local parents whose registrations for their local MS were rejected by the office personnel Mr. Pope supervised. Ms. Miles-Crocker plainly resents that local parents could send their kids to Hardy by right without jumping through the admissions hoops everyone else went through, which EXPLICITLY could snare students with past behavioral or academic issues. Her chronology is wrong: the hostile treatment of local parents by Hardy staff preceeded the transcendence of the Pope. It's been going on for thirty+ years.

Want to class-bait? Walk up from Stoddert ES and hang out with some other of the locals-to-Hardy you are suspicious of. Hardly a high-income WASP feeder school.

Resentment of white attendance at Hardy MS was even more acute twenty years ago when enrollment capacity was just 180, the school was in Ward 3 on Foxhall Rd. There were far fewer slots back then and out-of-boundary school attendance in DCPS was rare and even more jealously guarded / protected / corrupt.

Maybe Ms. Miles-Crocker belonged to this group I was surprised Barras acknowledged the noisy importance of, the "longtime residents who knew how to navigate the system often circumvented low-performing or unsafe neighborhood schools by getting their children in out-of-boundary slots at facilities in other wards...."

Hardly heroic, Ms. Miles-Crocker.
Really great article!
I don't quite understand people arguing that Hine should have stayed open. It was being used at, what, mayb 20% capacity? It's a massive building, in terrible shape. Apparently the building was built but the idea of even basic maintenance was just too difficult for DCPS to contemplate.

It was a huge money pit. Sitting on ridiculously expensive real estate. With abysmal student performance.

The value of that real estate didn't translate into any benefit for students. Their teachers and facility still sucked, and the fact that they were next to Eastern Market and trendy restaurants couldn't change that.

In case some haven't noticed DC is in a big fiscal hole.

It made perfect sense to take the massive $$$ value of the Hine site and translate that into a huge tax revenue for the city, rather than the barely functioning money pit that it was.

That's the very definition of responsible government.
It's about money people. In order to spend money, the city has to make money. Fenty/Rhee, and Williams before them realize that the middle to upper classes generate the tax revenue that allows civil and capital improvements. A certain amount of that tax revenue has to go back to the money generators. Young professionals have been hooked, moving into DC by the droves, but without decent school systems, they won't remain once they have families. What will the businesses that cater to that crowd (tax $$$) do then? A dollar does not buy what it used to, and demand for certain standards of living are expected (demands that cross race and/or economic background). Federal funding doesn't cut it. If you feel underserved, look at government spending by ward then look at tax revenue by ward. If you feel that Rhee is focusing on mid/up classes, you're right, for good reason. But the wealth is being spread and will continue to be spread. If not, then complain.
Rock&Roll, you should probably ask your friend what they will do if Michelle Rhee (for whatever reason) is no longer here? Then who will be their next great white hope? Or will they send their kids back to private school?
@patrick,

Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty were not the first people to know that you need a tax base. This is common sense. perhaps you did not live in a city in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. If you had, you would know that pretty much every city in the country suffered because middle class and upper class people moved to the suburbs. It's nice to have you back.

And the "wealth" is not being spread evenly throughout the city. Despite basic claims of even dollar amounts spent in each ward, the spending is not even. Wealthier wards are having more money invested per square foot then poorer wards. Despite Ward 8 and Ward 2 being roughly even in school spending (in terms of straight dollar amount), Ward 8 has twice as many schools and many more school aged children. This is not even spending.
@Indeed

The most obvious is sometimes the first to be overlooked. I've been reading comments on this blog in regards to the upcoming election for months now, and most commentators opposing Fenty/Rhee seem to discount financial administration, revenue, where the majority of the money comes from, and what it takes keep that income flowing. Their complaints trend towards not receiving what they feel is their fair share. No where in my post do I say that all the wards are receiving even spending. I said, "the wealth is being spread and will continue to be spread. If not, then complain." See Nikita Stewart's article in the WP from 6/6/10, "Spreading D.C.'s Money Around" for some figures. Again, some money has to be spent on those wards generating the most tax dollars. If not, that indeed would be a crime. Is this administration perfect? Hardly. But things are trending upwards, as this article suggests.

Coincidently, your comments make you sound like a complete dick. Don't patronize people you don't know.
"I've been reading comments on this blog in regards to the upcoming election for months now, and most commentators opposing Fenty/Rhee seem to discount financial administration, revenue, where the majority of the money comes from, and what it takes keep that income flowing."

So have I and I haven't noticed that. To each his/her own opinion.

PS it's hard to take your comments seriously when you directly insult someone who has a differing point of view.
You're absolutely right. Opinion is subjective.

I wouldn't insult anyone I didn't know. I just said that patronizing tones make the guy *sound* like a dick. Read each of his posts on this thread.

"perhaps you did not live in a city in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. If you had, you would know that pretty much every city in the country suffered because middle class and upper class people moved to the suburbs. It's nice to have you back."
@patrick

This is just the comments section of an article in the citypaper. You shouldn't take anything personally on here. I don't know anything about you besides what you write. And where you say things about giving credit to Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty for wanting to raise city revenue, I pointed out that this is not a new thought. That's it. Cities have been trying to raise revenue for a long time.

I am certainly not an omnipotent being. But when people put things out there that I think should be challenged, I will challenge them. Just as you have challenged me. We're not going outside to fight. Again, it's a comment section, nothing more.


I am not arguing that wards with more wealthy people shouldn't benefit from spending. I'm merely pointing out that considering need, space, number of children, etc., wealthier wards are getting more than their fair share.
@Indeed

Sorry I misinterpreted. Debate is good, and unfortunately words get mistrued. It is nice to see an overall concern for the well being of our city.
@patrick

I understand taking some of these things personally because we are all individuals, and take our own words very seriously, but I could not possibly know anything about you. So keep posting and don't let any slights get you down.
The guy who gave his name as James W. Preston, Sr. is a suck up. Don't go for the okie-doke, he was Fenty supporter then for some apparent reason the Fenty camp didn't embrace his idealogy. So he switched to Gray but on the day of Eastern's ribbon cutting he was following Fenty around like a male servant. As you said you're 63 years old...enjoy the 37 years until you become 100. Don't respond or I will tell everyone your nickname.
I think this hold school system is a mess. I have lived here in Washington, D.C. all my 59yrs and I was educated here. This system has not change not one bit. The money has always gone to the white commuinty and the black people have suffer as a result. What do you think is going to happen to all the children that where labled dumb under the Rhee system.They have been displayed as miss educated or plain Stupid for the world to see. Great future Miss Rhee for all of our kids.
There is an interesting issue raised by this article. Sure, everyone who prefers to send their children to their neighborhood school, should, ideally be able to do so. However, it is not a LEGAL right.

No Child Left Behind, though, obligates Rhee to allow a family living in Southeast D. C. with a child attending, say, Simon Elementary (whose AYP results were horrendous this year) to transfer to Murch and the school where Fenty's children attend. Yet, that is not seem to be encouraged under Rhee's regime. Could it be that in her zeal to cater to the wishes of whites in areas such as the one where Hardy is that Michelle Rhee is running afoul of federal law? After all, NCLB, gives a parent the inherent right to transfer from an underperforming school to a better performing oen. Read the law all you insensitive, privileged white folks and ignorant journalists. If Rhee is preventing these transfers from occurring in line with NCLB, she ought to be challenged for her violation of federal law. And this journalist ought to be ashamed of herself for perpetuating ignorance and not raising an important LEGAL issue.
This was a great article.
<i>what a beautiful world it could be</i>
I'm an "evil white gentrifier" married to a half black/half asian man who was born raised in DC and went to DCPS. Who knows what racial catagory our child is in, black, white, asian, other??? The fact that it matters to DCPS makes me not want to send my child there.
@Indeed wrote:

"I am not arguing that wards with more wealthy people shouldn't benefit from spending. I'm merely pointing out that considering need, space, number of children, etc., wealthier wards are getting more than their fair share. "

Perhaps you're right. Maybe in the future we should fund services in each ward through tax revenue by that ward. That way we'll make sure everyone gets their fair share.
Superiorscribe:

Excellent point. I've notice a token 2-4 slots be declared available at Wilson HS to students from failed schools. Jonetta might write a piece on sibling preference as a factor in out of boundary admission to DCPS schools and in set-asides for lotteries for over-subscribed Charter Schools. But WCP can't afford the research, no matter how hot the article would be. Think of a club in which neither line priority nor cash had any determinative effect, and all clubbers were admitted randomly and singly, not as pairs.

But NCLB and state standards have rendered the above moot: Most public schools DC, DCPS and charter, are failed schools. There are no legal rights to transfer to a different failed school. Rights to expensive WaPo / Kaplan tutoring, yes. But not to a failed public school.
Parents who cannot afford private schools or who have the money but who choose not to spend it on private schools have a perfectly sensible option: move to MD or VA. Not everyone can stomach the byzantine process and racially charged politics of DCPS. The exodus makes sense for many and denies the city of an important part of its tax base. Commitment to DC should not compete with commitment to the education of your children. When it does, we have to respect the decisions that parents make when they feel they are doing what is best for their kids.

All the focus on winning back what must be the relatively few parents wealthy enough to have private school as an option is fine. Does DC keep track of the not quite wealthy but solidly middle class and upper middle class parents who leave in droves right before their kids reach school age?

I am of the firm belief that no neighborhood can be truly great if it does not support its families. Well-functioning neighborhood schools are the centerpiece of what a family needs to thrive and it's what attracts other families, supports real estate values, etc. I would wager that for the vast majority of these individuals, the real competition to DC public schools is not DC private schools or charter schools: it's MD and VA public schools. A key threat to DC's tax base is the byzantine lottery process. Not enough outreach is done to families when their kids are infants and toddlers -- before parents are confronted with the question of what to do about education. It is so much cleaner and easier to just head for the hills.
Truxton Circle:
Our children would not neatly fit in any census category either.
The fact that DCPS is actively reaching out to and wooing parents who otherwise may have written DCPS off gives me hope for our next generation of DC natives.
@Dr. Pangloss

Nice one!
Great balanced piece. Well researched and well written - as usual. I just cannot buy into the cumbaya ending (witness the Sharpton/Beck divide even after all the years of hard work).
Parents selecting teachers?? (Can I assume they are a homogeneous lot - whatever the school - with the same mind set and values ?!). One can't help wonder if those who think that this Rhee-Fenty project will end in more gentrification (intended or not) have got a point.
Ms. Rhee is doing a job nobody in the real world would want or succeed at. The blacks will continue to make excuses for why their kids are not learning. Ten years ago it was the same, five years ago the same and fifteen years from now it will be the same. Why even try?
Diversity, is indeed, beneficial. There is no argument there. However, we should be careful when we compare the current "trend" described in this article, to Thurgood Marshall's fight to desegregate schools. If non black, and non hispanic families champion diversity so much, then those of them with a 20009 zip code should send their children to Cardozo. Are middle class white families being recruited for this school as well?
Jim Beck - Ms. Rhee is making an excuse for why some black kids aren't learning. She says it's all because of "Crappy" teachers (her word, not mine).

She accepts no other reason. And her solution? new, inexperienced teachers, right out of school with 5 weeks of summer training.
I think racial integration of DCPS is a good thing, so wooing white parents is fine. With just 9% of kids in DCPS being white, we clearly have a long way to go towards a racially balanced school system. But I don't see enough of the complementary initiatives to expand opportunities for African-Americans of all income levels. It is this sense that the pie is expanding for white parents, but shrinking for black parents, that explains the racial divide on school reform. Jonetta is right to say the schools are for everyone, but doesn't justice demand that we give greater weight to the needs of those who are less privileged?
Are you sure you are not GLEN BECK, Jim? (It sure sounds like something he would say). It's all about 'class' - and sadly, because the unfair history and of our nation, class also translates into 'race'. And there's the rub !
Rhee in her naivete (and she has little experience in this project of hers) thinks that replacing teachers can trump the myraid of obstacles kids in the underclass face. Although making such a pronouncement makes her look good (questioning her long range motives !). One needs to have holistic solutions to any social malaise - or any 'project' would fail (as has been proven in the past half century - with those pushing such projects and making our like robber barons only to move on to their next project).
As an aside: the big mistake both Rhee and Fenty have made is to have tied education reform to the mayoral race. Tagherlini (the weak budget director who bailed out), Nickles and Rhee are abrasive and divisive forces. All three of them have nothing to lose. They have no stake in this city and could always find another position easily - anywhere in the country. A young, inexperienced mayor gave them free reign and they may have destroyed him. Win or lose I doubt either of them would stay. And they would use all these 80 e-mails to prove that DC was ungovernable !
"She says it's all because of 'Crappy' teachers (her word, not mine). She accepts no other reason. And her solution? new, inexperienced teachers, right out of school with 5 weeks of summer training."

To be fair, the (relatively few) 'crappy' teachers blame it on the black kids. In my opinion, that's significantly more f-ed up.
Thanks for a good article. I'm one of the white parents with an 8th grader at Hardy. The problem with Rhee's approach is that she doesn't work with anyone one. We have a strong PTA and LSRT with black and white leaders working well together, in accountable, honest relationships. We drive our kids from all over the District in order for them to have an excellent set of teachers able to integrate academic excellence, music and the arts. Rhee didn't consult with us one iota until after she decided and announced that she was going to remove our school leader and re-place him with a half-time principal. When I spoke with her individually, I told her it was a mistake to remove Pope in such a way, that her unilateral actions would exacerbate racial divisions in the city, and that it would reduce the number of allies for school reform. She kept on interrupting me saying "I disagree. I disagree. I disagree. This will be better for your children." She didn't listen or explain any of her autocratic changes to me. So, I went to Mayor Fenty's campaign. I spoke to a variety of campaign staff members including John Falcicchio and sent John two follow-up emails. John simply replied, "I have not heard of any recent developments on this matter. Thank you for touching base." Educational and civic leaders in DC must recognize the ways historic, insidious racism is still institutionalized in DC government and educational system. At the same time, they must wisely lead and create a community dedicated to dismantling racism and to advocating justice for all.
I am an African-American, former DCPS school teacher who despises Michelle Rhee. All of that being said, I don't see anything wrong with wooing wealthy white families to DCPS. We need them. If they begin to care about our schools, things will change. Power brokers couldn't care less about the needs and aspirations of poor people east of the river. But they listen to wealthy white people from upper NW. We need to work strategically with these folks, instead of waging war against them. We need them on our side.
I'll take it a step further, power brokers are not concerned about the educational well being of children East of 16th Street, NW. Ask your average DC Government employee, many of whom are parents of school aged children. Rhee is not interested in winning us over, yet we spend an enormous amount of income educating our children in private schools because DC public schools are not meeting our needs.

I gave DCPS a vote of no confidence two years ago when Central Office could not, would help me place my son in a public school for first grade. The point person on Rhee' Critical Response Team stuttered when I told her my son was reading and doing math above grade level. We live in Brookland and Rhee's A team could not help us. I was promised a response within 3 business days. Two years later I'm still waiting on my return phone call. They need to reduce the size of Central Office to so the staff can stop falling all over themselves with their self-importance.

In my opinion DCPS's culture wrt educating children seems to be a matter of obligation instead of an worthy investment for the long term viability of the city. There is a disconnect with education and how we fill the needs for local trade and commerce. The end game is before our eyes. En masse children are not being prepared to speak foreign languages in a MAJOR city of international diplomacy - a HUGE DC trade sector. Through DCPS, Washingtonians are being misguided to become outsiders to the very opportunties and industries that make our town tick - diplomacy, education, cultural tourism, government/public sector, and not for profits.

If we lived in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, the Pallisades, my family would probably personally experience a transformation in the schools. On my side of the town, we are not rich, not poor, yet African American and square in the middle. Charter schools offer options and opportunities that DCPS is not even considering for my child or demographic.
Circling back to Hine.

Those who defend the decision to close Hine Jr. High say it was underenrolled. The longer story is that developers decided the plot of land was too valuable to be used for a school. Coincidentally, the strong support realtors had always shown Hine turned away from the school. Also coincidentally, I am sure, principal after principal was fired--one whole school year Hine went without any principal leading the team in the building. A grade was eliminated, so 1/3 fewer kids were rattling around that astoundingly big, ugly gift of the 1960s. So that's one way to look at it--the neighborhood, led by its developers, withdrew support and Ward 6 elected officials and Rhee chose to kill it.

Here's how I look at. The original school on that plot of land, the Wallach School, was designed by Adolf Kluss, architect of Eastern Market but better known for designing beautiful buildings that would attract children of all social classes. It was built, while the Civil War was raging, to promote multi-social class, multi-racial education in the Union's capital. The site has been a school site for all those generations since, until my generation came along. I liked what it said about the neighborhood that we gave such pride of place to a school (and to the original Carnegie library built 50 years after the Wallach School was built, to stand across from the public school there). I am sorry this generation decided to go a different direction, for mixed retail and parking, our gift to coming generations.
I want to say to THANK YOU To Kesh and other folks (especially a couple of white parents from Hardy for making clear the inherent inequity of the ever recurring argument around separate but equal schooling and neighborhood school resources in DC.

My black northeast family has just enrolled our 7th grade son in a rigorous racially diverse NW charter school which was ultimately our only real choice - given the low level chaos ala the Hardy leadership change. (And why if Rhee is building a new middle magnet school isn't she focusing on STEM- to launch young people into careers in science, math and technology. Moving an arts focused program is managerially redundant and costly ..for what? I won't go on...)

Like many parents I welcomed Rhee the first year because she 'talked about' spreading rigorous programs (AP, IB) around the city. (Yet this was just hype before her pissing contest with -well most everyone began).
Yet here we are getting ready to start year 4 with Ms. Rhee and there is precious little expansion of anything representing rigor. Schools have been closed/consolidated and no attractive MAGNET, INTERNATIONAL BACHHELORIATE, HONORS, or other programs which upon quality implementation would have solidified the base of student attendance.That doesn't happen in the suburbs-The educational programs that a school leaders say will be in place get put in place-End of Story.
Thus Rhee's record of working with staff and parents to get things done is lacking. Her parent and community engagement division is more like a large PR operation that just isn't terribly convincing. And sadly the one thing she touts above all -test scores are down by 9 and 10% in elementary reading and math. Scores are up in secondary but still lagging significantly behind the Charters and there's been no real explanation for the elementary drop off yet...

My community school Brookland/Bunker Hill has gone from having 55% of students proficient in Math/Reading in 2008 to somewhere in the mid 40s on both of those measures in 2009 and the school continues to lag with everyone else in 2010. And despite the urgings of DCPS staff there is no way I would put my son there for secondary education in a building that is barely functioning to meet childrens primary educational needs.
And Rhee's overall solution... attract more white families to schools in NW Well duh-everyone has a right to enroll in public school. Yet targeting families for enrollment in programs that aren't quite up to standard...Doesn't get you but so far...Get the educational programs up to standard and...

Trulee Pist
September 1, 2010
Circling back to Hine.


You are 100% correct. I am a long-time Hill resident and I am so disappointed with the plans for Hine. The Hill, which has an enormous baby boom still going on, is getting office space for non-profits, street level retail and a couple of mixed income units. And underground parking . . . right next to the Eastern Market metro. Very sad.
Jonetta Barras why don't you go back to your hometown in New Orleans, Louisiana because you spend more time kissing Adrian Fenty's and Michelle Rhee's asses than any other minority reporter in DC. I am sick to death of you. Who the hell do you think you are anyway? About the only thing that "is dangerous race talk" is Adrian Fenty, Michelle Rhee, you and your blatant biased opinion of them both. I am African American born and raised in the District of Columbia, went to DC public schools, and had great teachers all of whom were African American. There is absolutely no way nearly 2,000 DCPS teachers and other DCPS staff fired by Michelle Rhee with Fenty's blessing were incompetent. No way. The fact is Rhee fired African American teachers to hire white teachers so large numbers of white Jewish parents and other whites in DC would feel comfortable enrolling their children in DCPS. This was not only wrong, but racially discriminatory. It is "DCPS Diversity at Any Illegal and Discriminatory Cost". Given your inability due to biased opinion to lay bare all of the actual facts, go on back home to New Orleans and run that "race talk" crap on folks in your own hometown. Oh, that's right, I forgot. Due to deliberate refusal to fix those weak levees the vast majority of the poor, moderate, and middle-income African Americans were flooded out of New Orleans weren't they. Well, Johnetta go the hell on back there anyway and spend time writing articles urging white folks to do everything possible to bring those black people back to New Orleans.



Just reading these comments now (I know out of the loop now that it is November).

This is so frustrating. I am a white native of DC. We all have a right to expect excellence from my public school system. It is as simple as that. All citizens no matter where they are from, what their economic status, race, origin, have the right to expect excellence for their kids and from their public school system. Right? It is an OBLIGATION!

I can’t believe that there are people in this city whose racial anger/tension trumps what should be a uniting energy of improving the schools for ALL kids. I am pretty sure the DCPS is still mostly 90% black. I would say there is a vested interest there for the majority of this city.

Comments like that from -- S. Didot – are as idiotic as the person who stood up in a neighborhood school meeting the other day and said “I grew up with gunfire and drugs in this playground, it was good enough to me …”.

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