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The Shaw redemption

Last winter, several eighth-graders presented Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee with what was likely an unprecedented request: add a ninth grade so they could stay at their middle school, Shaw@Garnet-Patterson.

The students said they liked the change of culture that new principal Brian Betts had brought to Shaw--a 2008 merger of two struggling middle schools--located in Ward 1's U Street neighborhood. They wanted more of Betts and his program before they moved on to high school.

Rhee said yes, and about 100 students signed on. She also told my colleague Jay Mathews that it was a one-time thing. "It's maybe not the right decision for the system," Rhee said, "but it is the right decision for those kids."

Rhee has now granted the Shaw kids another extension, and will add a 10th grade this fall. Spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said Rhee made the decision after meeting with the students again.

"Also, the building has the physical space, we have a strong cohort of staff serving the upper grades and the students have performed well on their benchmark assessments," Calloway said, referring to the DC-BAS. Eighth- and ninth-graders can leave if they wish. Cardozo is their official high school in the D.C. system.

Keeping the kids might also have been an attractive idea because 10th-graders take the DC-CAS standardized test. If these students are on the rise academically, they could potentially have a leavening effect on Shaw's test scores, which were a disappointment last year. Shaw dropped from 38.6 to 30.5 in the percentage of students scoring at least proficient in reading, and from 32.7 to 29.2 in math. Betts adds the caveat that only 17 percent of Shaw's 2009 students had attended the school in 2008, distorting the comparisons.

Shaw is not the only school where DCPS families are attempting to stay put because they don't like the alternatives. Parents at Brent Elementary School on Capitol Hill recently petitioned Rhee to add a sixth grade in lieu of sending their children to Jefferson Middle School in Southwest. Rhee's decision is still pending.

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By Bill Turque  |  March 10, 2010; 4:47 PM ET
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The story linked to in this article says this:
“Only 17 percent of Shaw's 2009 students had attended the school in 2008, distorting the official test score comparisons. Rhee instead recited the 2008 and 2009 scores of the 44 students who had been there both years. IT DIDN'T HELP MUCH. [caps added]

The students' decline in reading was somewhat smaller; it went from 34.5 to 29.7. Their math proficiency increased a bit, from 26.2 to 29.5. But Shaw is still short of the 30 percent mark, far below where Rhee and Betts want to be.”
So Shaw and Betts are the chancellor’s pets (I’m a poet!). She’s added a 10 grade in the desperate hope that their precious scores will finally redeem her. What good are students who don’t score high?? If the scores go up a point or two, we’ll all hear about it. If they go down, she’ll lie, as she did last year.*


Posted by: efavorite | March 10, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why anyone would be petitioning to add Jefferson Middle School as an option. It's not the school it was 15 years ago.

Posted by: irishprincess122 | March 10, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Did she listen to the kids of Hardy MS?

Posted by: edlharris | March 11, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

good point, Ed, -- the kids at McKinley who marched to her office about the RIF got no attention either.

No - it only happens in the rare moment when the kids' desires happen to fit her own needs.

Posted by: efavorite | March 11, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Bill Turque | March 11, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Bill Turque | March 11, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

There's nothing wrong with turning a school and its students around. Heavy investment in resources may be necessary. Less kindly, there's a parallel in massive police and security presence for crowd control. (That is what the principal at DC's Wilson HS thinks necessary, but cannot supply without exhausting the administrative staff he assigns to hallways to effect it.) The success of the kids is more important than success in getting such as Mme. Rhee to acknowledge there's evidence of re-forming of students besides year-end parrot-back tests.
What we don't have from Bill Turque, but should have, is a report on whether the near-doubling of services and staffing was present at Shaw again this year, and if so, whether that investment doesn't contribute to institutional failures in other schools, the result of an unaknowledged act of triage. Not just failure at other middle schools deprived of services, but diminishd success at high schools denied intake of these kids socialized for learning in school. The scores of tests here will not appear (or would not appear?) at other DCPS high schools. Or, maybe Mme. Rhee figures that these kids would mostly go to charter schools and be a credit to competitors, not to her own high schools.
If so, these kids also present a problem for Jay Mathews, in his insistence on the absense of self-selection to explain some charter school effects as due to a more school-compliant student body.
Finally these Shaw @ Garnet-Patterson students present an experimental challenge to Roland Fryer and his Capital Gains data. Whether they were in the experimental or treatment group last year, this year (and perhaps next, per story) they uniquely in DC had the opportinity to retain the coherent pro-school peer group which was the objective of Capital Gains. (find Fryer's writings on his peer-influence hypotheses) Keep a lookout to see how Fryer treats data from these students. I'll be interested to see the economist's handling of the post hoc comparison. If these kids were in the control group, then the Capital Gains treatment "effect", calculated by subtraction, might be substantially diminished. If they were in the treatment group, then they may be a large part of the reported main treatment effect.

Posted by: incredulous | March 11, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

irishprincess122 - the parents aren't petitioning to GO to Jefferson. They're petitioning NOT to go to Jefferson. I'm sure in part because Jefferson's location in SW is a little far afield of what someone living in Capitol Hill would view as a neighborhood school. I'm pretty sure that prior to Hine being shut down (2?) years ago, that Hine was the destination (not that the parents necessarily would have liked that). Almost every other school that people in this neighborhood see as a 'local' elementary school has Elliot/Hine in NE as their designee. The exception is the cluster schools that go to Stuart-Hobson (maybe Ludlow-Taylor goes there as well?) and Brent going to Jefferson.

Posted by: KH20003 | March 11, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

KH20003-- I am an in boundry Brent parent and Hine was never our inboundry school even though Hines is only three blocks away. Jefferson was it-- but Jefferson is at least 15 VERY unpedestrian, un bike friendly blocks from our house.

It's crazy to have Jefferson as our unboundry school, but not as crazy as having WILSON as our inboundry high school, which it was four years ago. So things are getting better, but yeah, Jefferson as a Capitol Hill middle school doesn't make much sense.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | March 11, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Next year when the children ask to stay again will they be adding an 11th grade to the middle school? Is this a new experiment to transform schools again? We left the jr. high concept and changed to all middle schools. Now are we going to change to 6-12? Question: Will the capital gains program be expanding? Interesting!

Posted by: candycane1 | March 12, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

2nd question? Since 10th graders test, is this being done to help Betts make AYP?

3rd question: If we can keep expanding grades, is this a sign that there are not many enrolled anyway since the principal says there is physical space. Or is this just the "small" number of students who approached her.

Final question: When did children stop becoming excited about graduations and moving on to high school?

4th question:

Posted by: candycane1 | March 12, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of the houseguest who never want to go home. If the Shaw kids never venture out then what will happen to Dunbar. If the Ron Brown MS kids never venture out what will happen to Woodson and now if Eastern is setting back their acceptance of 9th graders...then what is that saying in actuality.
I find it to say...that the adults are putting their fear factors into the children and also the adults are not prepared themselves to venture out there into the big bad world of acceptance.

What is with this fascination about walking to your school in the neighborhood? Why is it now such an issue to have a school in your boundaries and all of sudden it's a game of "counting your steps to the front door?"

C'mon on now look where Jefferson is have to go a long way north just to get to residential areas...then why not go south and east to bring students into their mix. Let little Johnnie and Susie...oooops I forgot let little Tyler and Alexis ride the bus to school...really one bus can literally take you from Capitol Hill to any school in this city and vice-a-versa. Let Tommy Wells tell-it once the rich and middle-class arrive I can surely see where car-pools of students will be arriving all over this fair-city.

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 12, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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