Can city schools compete with the suburbs?
I have an Oct. 18 e-mail from Jonathan Shea, an Advanced Placement World History teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, a public school in the District. It raises an interesting question: Is it possible to establish academic rivalries between high schools, as we now have athletic rivalries? Can an urban school with a large portion of low-income students dare challenge an affluent suburban school in the level and sophistication of its teaching and learning?
Shea was responding to my column about the AP World History course at Westfield High School in Fairfax County. Teachers there were severely restricting research, at least in some cases, to what the student found in the textbook or class notes. Shea is suggesting that his school, with 39 percent of its students low-income, is a better place to learn world history than Westfield, where 14 percent of the students are low income.
Let me know what you think of Shea's cheeky message.
I just wanted to extend a warm invitation to all the 10th grade parents of students in AP World History at Westfield High School to consider Woodrow Wilson High School in DCPS instead. We have about the same number of students (approx 160 at Wilson vs. 180 at Westfield) taking AP World History in the 10th grade this year, but with half the total student population (1,500 at Wilson vs. 3,000 at Westfield) and a larger proportion of students receiving free or reduced lunch. Last year, the school average for AP World History was over 3.0 [on a 5-point scale] -- much higher than the national rate.
While I know that the tuition for DCPS is over $8,000 [Jay's note -- D.C. public schools will accept students from outside the district if there is room, but they have to pay tuition], parents at Westfield might consider it a bargain, as it is much cheaper than many area private schools.
Students in my class work together often, especially on an important year-long research project on a region or country of the world across the five time periods of AP World History. If you've ever tried to research the economic system or the role of women in Haiti or South Africa between 8000 BCE and 600 CE, you will know that this requires significant work at university libraries, not just a quick look in the textbook or your class notes.
I'm not sure we have room this year, though, so you may want to pass this information forward to 9th grade parents at Westfield instead so that they can apply to Wilson for next fall. I'd love to see some of these students from, to quote you, "one of the largest and most competitive public schools in America," and see how they do at Wilson, where learning is most certainly not limited to the classroom.
Teacher, Woodrow Wilson High School, DCPS
| December 15, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: Jonathan Shea, Westfield High School Fairfax County, Wilson High School D.C., urban school teacher suggests his World History course is better than in very large and competitive suburban school
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