Housing Complex

Map: Closing Schools Are Overwhelmingly in Minority Neighborhoods

I've written before about the unequal geographical distribution of D.C. Public Schools' planned school closures, with wards 5 and 7 bearing the brunt. But here's a map that puts the closures in a new light:

The map was created by University of the District of Columbia social sciences professor Amanda Huron, who shared a digital version with Washington City Paper. It shows that all but two of the schools slated for closure are in census tracts that are more than 50 percent black and Hispanic. And Huron points out that even the two exceptions aren't really exceptions: Although Shaw Middle School is in a census tract that's only 22 percent black and 9 percent Hispanic, she says, the school itself is 82 percent black and 15 percent Hispanic. Likewise, the Prospect Learning Center's census tract is just 40 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic, but the student body is 95 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic.

What's the reason for this? It probably has more to do with geography than with race per se: Parents in the poorer, eastern neighborhoods of the city—which tend to be overwhelmingly black—are more likely to want to send their kids to charter or out-of-boundary schools, to get them away from rougher schools or rougher streets on the way to school or both. This doesn't happen as much at schools in richer parts of town, like Tenleytown's Woodrow Wilson High School. So schools in poorer (and, yes, blacker and more Hispanic) neighborhoods get depopulated  and close down.

School choice can be a blessing for kids in difficult neighborhoods—but it can be a curse for the schools in those neighborhoods. The best solution, of course, would be to make those schools competitive with the best ones in the western part of the city. But absent that, a thinning out of the schools in poorer neighborhoods is almost inevitable.

  • name

    The majority of oversupply of buildings is also in minority neighborhoods.

    Also the entire city is majority-minority.

    Go figure.

  • http://blog.inshaw.com Mari

    "School choice can be a blessing for kids in difficult neighborhoods—but it can be a curse for the schools in those neighborhoods."
    The focus should be what is best for the kids. It would be great if the kids with the greatest need were in bounds for the best DCPS schools, but that's not the case. It is a curse if you lost the out of bounds lottery, with no real chance of getting in.

  • Jim Ed

    Two Points:

    1. I'm not sure what the demographics of Shaw Middle School vs its census tract prove, considering minority students are disproportional to the census tract at every school in the city. Wilson HS is is 22% white, whereas the neighborhood around it, is what, 80% white conservatively? That's a straw-man argument in a city where minority students are the majority at every public school(to my knowledge).

    2. This picture is totally incomplete if it doesn't show charter school openings juxtaposed to the closures. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence, but my guess is that evidence would show that the overwhelming majority of charter schools in the city have been opened in minority neighborhoods as well, including the really high performing ones. It's not like these schools are being closed in a vacuum so the kids can be shipped off all over God's green earth to get to school because they're poor or black or brown, it's because there are better options for their kids to attend nearby, where they will arguably get a better education.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    LOL@name; I agree, the city is a majority-minority. The DCPC consists mostly black and Central Americans students.

  • rsn

    Another note here: several of the schools that are closing are specialty schools (Sharpe, Prospect, CHOICE, Mamie D. Lee) - many of which do not have any public counterparts in majority white sections of the city.

    Also, these specialty schools for the most part aren't closing, but rather co-locating with other schools to better use space. (CHOICE is moving to Cardozo; Sharpe and Mamie D. Lee (and I think Prospect) are moving to River Terrace).

    I also think Spingarn STAY is combining with Washington Met, but I could be off on that.

  • Northwesterner

    Aaron Weiner has proven himself to be a complete, 100% idiot. I cannot possibly fathom an article that misunderstands, misrepresents, or flat out LIES about something like "unequal geographic distribution" of school closures.

    This is how George W Bush does science. This is how the Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and Paleo-Conservative think tanks do "science."

    This is political propaganda. Stalin did this kind of reporting. Pol Pot did this kind of reporting. This is out of the pages of Pravda. This is not reporting for a free people, this is a political screed mis-using data to tell a story.

    The author of this piece has shamed himself, shamed his professors, and shamed the field of journalism.

    Why should there be a connection between school closures and geographic distribution? There is no connection. The author is attempting to create a connection for propaganda purposes outside the realm of what journalism is.

    At its heart, this article represents evil intent.

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  • anon

    2010? that's the most recent data you can find? Don't get me started on PLC, which is a severely underenrolled SPECIAL EDUCATION program and not a neighborhood school.

  • anon

    ...agree with the poster that this is a terrible piece of journalism. You're better than this Aaron

  • AB

    Aaron,
    Thanks for reporting on a real issue in DC.

    Not this "Save our food trucks" bullshit. The amount of coverage that "issue" gets in comparison with THIS is truly, truly sickening

  • Jes’ sayin’

    This article is total idiocy.

    When you have a school that is operating at less then 25% of capacity and with fewer than 25% of the students enrolled achieving even basic minimum academic standards, it should be slated for closure, no matter what the racial composition.

    Parents of students in those neighborhoods affected by the majority of closures have voted en masse to send their kids to charters, out-of-boundary schools west of the Park, and parochial schools. They are often willing to send their kids halfway across town to give them access to a better education - and to get them out of these failing schools. If parents from Ward 7 or Ward 8 want to send their kids to Foxhall Road or Nebraska Av to school, what's wrong with that?

    And if the schools they left behind are nearly empty and unable to provide music, art, and other subjects, why not consolidate them?

    Some people would blame race if it rained on their day off, or if an asteroid were headed our way. And Aaron would write a City Paper acticle, "World To End Tomorrow. Minority Neighborhoods to be Hit Hardest."

    Get over it.

  • http://westnorth.com PCC

    Didn't prior rounds of school closures have a greater affect on White neighborhoods -- and therefore those neighborhoods didn't have as many under-utilized schools to be closed this time around? Or maybe the post-Millennial generation baby bust affected different neighborhoods at different times.

  • ZackaryP

    The concept of a Charter School is admittedly appealing in many respects. Supporters' intentions seem genuine. However, I am becoming concerned the current and growing scenario presented may also fit the definition of "adverse impact" discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Now, for the legal eagles out there - yes; Title VII concerns "employment discrimination." Nevertheless, I am borrowing this theory and applying it here (I think correctly) to make a point. Under adverse impact analysis, a seemingly neutral criteria is used to allow employees to qualify for a job (say, a height requirement of 5' 11" for admission to the police academy). But, suppose the height requirement is shown to be arbitrary and a person 5' 9" can do the job just as well. Plaintiffs may be able to prove discrimination if they can show the criteria though neutral, actually has an adverse impact on a particular group (a culture where individuals height tends to max out at 5' 8"). As a result, this cultural group will be excluded from an employment or training opportunity. I believe the Charter School movement may be (though unintentionall) creating adverse impact in minority communities, not just in D.C. Consider: We must recall from our Civil Rights experience: Education was (and still is) viewed as the "ladder up" to the poor to escape poverty. If Government allows public schools and therefore "public education" to wither using shifting population as the neutral criteria, then this may necessarily results in exclusion of a group (those that can't get into Charter Schools), and thus, more likely than not, possibly subjected to discrimination. So, while I support Charter Schools, I do NOT support them at the risk of having public schools less available in minority communities. If we are not careful, we may create inadvertently a two-tiered "class" system in education that results to deny the civil right of equal access to education.

  • Roy Mac

    It is so very simple. People move away from an area and take their children with them. When the population of children declines so does enrollment at the neighborhood school. When that happens the school eventually has to close.

    OR...parents in an area grow disgusted with the school option down the street and they CHOOSE to get their child into another school.

    Either way, these are the results of CHOICES of free individuals as to where to live and as to where to send their children to school.

    Build a better school down the street and people will come.

  • Roy Mac

    While the map is instructional, it leaves out the most important piece of information...the WHY.

    Simply stating the schools being closed are in minority neighborhoods is not at all enough information to understand the issue. It is misleading in this omission.

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  • another map

    show a map of underenrolled schools right next to the one you just showed us, then make your point again.

  • Asuka

    "What's the reason for this? It probably has more to do with geography than with race per se: Parents in the poorer, eastern neighborhoods of the city—which tend to be overwhelmingly black—are more likely to want to send their kids to charter or out-of-boundary schools, to get them away from rougher schools or rougher streets on the way to school or both. This doesn't happen as much at schools in richer parts of town, like Tenleytown's Woodrow Wilson High School. So schools in poorer (and, yes, blacker and more Hispanic) neighborhoods get depopulated and close down."

    So the City Paper admits there is probably nothing nefarious behind this, yet attaches an incendiary title that suggests otherwise. The City Paper has a big, big problem.

  • http://Wardthreedc.com Ward3er

    As a parent to more than one child in Ward3 public schools, I can tell you that everyone of our schools are over crowded and closing any of them would be a disaster which seems to be the implied outcome of this article if now what is the point? BTW isn't the story here that some schools are totally overcrowded, and others are under utilized and our leaders will just keep playing hot potato and point across the river sayin ~it's their fault.

  • CC

    All cities are getting richer, whiter, pushing poor people out - this is a step in this process, plain and simple

  • webb

    it is shocking that anyone would balk at the information presented in this article, shocking and disguisting. Stop privatizing public education

  • Roy Mac

    So you are okay with getting just one piece of a story, webb, and drawing conclusions from it? That's called being incurious. Which is shocking and disgusting!

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