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DCPS enrollment redux

Back in January, I asked District officials for enrollment projections developed by the 21st Century Schools Fund , the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. After disagreements last spring between the D.C. Council and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee over trends in student population, the organizations were asked to collaborate and dig into housing and demographic data to come up with authoritative estimates for the 2010-11 school year and beyond.
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Even though the data had been generated, Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Callloway said it was "preliminary" and wouldn't be available until Mayor Adrian M. Fenty transmitted his FY 2011 budget to the council.

That took place last Thursday. When I reminded Calloway that I wanted to see the data, she instead directed me to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), which technically held the contract for the enrollment study. That same day an OSSE official named Jessica Walbridge sent an e-mail to the 21st Century people instructing them to refer any press inquiries to her.

The inquiry to her went unanswered. Chad Colby, deputy chief of staff to State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs, answered on her behalf and said he would be "in touch," but he hasn't been.

This is not the first time it has been a struggle to get public information about DCPS. In September, I made two requests under the Freedom of Information Act. One was for material about DCPS' Capital Gains program that pays middle schoolers for good grades and behavior. A second was for waiting lists at Layfayette Elementary, where Mayor Fenty enrolled his twins last summer. The District has not yet released the information, and the DCPS general counsel's office has not returned several phone messages.

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By Bill Turque  |  April 4, 2010; 10:31 PM ET
 
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Comments

Although things are improving under Michelle Rhee, DCPS just can't seem to get itself together quickly enough. I hope we all get to see accurate information about enrollment and grades before the election. Not that there are any viable candidates running against Fenty.

Posted by: brandip_77 | April 5, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Bill for following up on this. The present leadership of DCPS is truly remarkable in their arrogance.

As a parent, I appreciate your efforts to hold Rhee and company somewhat accountable to the parents and children of DCPS.

Since all the budgets are now posted on the DCPS website, I guess you could go one by one through each school and look at the numbers they posted for projected enrollment then add them all up?

The fact that Rhee and Calloway won't just give you this number is worrisome to me as a parent though.

I'm not sure how much the numbers truly matter. I predict Fenty will slash the DCPS budgets in September, after the primary, when the cuts will be most disruptive to my children and all the children of DCPS.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | April 5, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The information will come out at some point. No one can hide forever.
It is disappointing to see public officials forget they serve the public.
Something to remember when you vote in Nov.

Posted by: edlharris | April 5, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

If the information were favorable and able to be substantiated, there would be no need to ask. Perhaps due to the election year, puff and fluff is a risky tactic. DOE already showed them that.

Posted by: candycane1 | April 5, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

OSSE and DCPS are both texting WTF is with BT needing data?

Title1soccermom; I pretty much agree that the smug are saying if BT want the numbers let him add'em up himself.

Posted by: PowerandPride | April 5, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

LOL

Posted by: cutie7 | April 5, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

P&P, I think one of the things that's so hard about Rhee & Co. is the smugness and poor behavior.

I have a child in elementary school and I see the staff working so hard to instill positive values and good behavior in the children. Of course you have Rhee popping off at any given moment in the National Media. It sets a poor example for both the children and adults she supposedly serves.

I was just looking at the budgets and threw up a little in my mouth when I added up that an "exclusive" DCPS is getting over $1000 more per child than the TitleI school my child attends. Sigh.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | April 5, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

You beat me to it candycane - enrollment projections are down and they will have to cut the budget, but can't admit it, because that makes Rhee looks bad. Maybe if DoE asked for the report, they'd get it - so maybe if Rhee doesn't apply for round II in June, it is another clue that enrollment is down (better to not apply than admit enrollment projections are down). Of course it also means DCPS couldn't convince DoE that it got its data system up and running in 3 months (which would also provide data on enrollment, right?)

Then again -- this could all be a big set-up to make Turque look foolish when the indisputable data comes out showing projections of substantial enrollment increases!

Ah what a tangled web we weave....

Posted by: efavorite | April 5, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

As a longtime DC resident, I've always wondered why the old B of Ed, and the many supts., including Cliff Janey, could never easily, or accurately give a headcount. Come to think of it, neither can the District government, and that was certainly true when Vince Gray was at Human Services. I remember him at a hearing stammering about how many emps he had. But all depts. were/are like that. Rhee inherited no good system to count employees and students and no accurate current figures. I agree, she should have one by now. It's more a system failure--on her watch--than a deep, dark "tangled web." After all, you can add those numbers, by school....

Posted by: axolotl | April 5, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why the enrollment projections by the three outside organizations can't be released.

WHY DOES GETTING BASIC INFORMATION HAVE TO BE SUCH A BIG ORDEAL?

Being transparent and forthright are very simple qualities that we should all expect from our leaders. Why does Rhee continue to shun parents and the community? All of this drama continues to keep DCPS from moving forward despite Rhee's press releases which spin numbers to show she is making dramatic improvements.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | April 5, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Rhee had projections last year for the 09-10 school year which she provided and had a preliminary and final headcount (lower) as well.

She prides herself on being data driven. I say she's driven to hide data and manipulate it.

Why doesn't she ever mention that white kids in DCPS have the highest NAEP scores in the whole country? You think she'd be proud.

Posted by: efavorite | April 5, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if brandip above is the conveyor of another talking point from Rhee's $100,000 media rehab team, and if this one been decided on or is it in the testing stage. Are things so bad that the best they've got is to admit that DCPS is still a mess after three years of Rhee's miracle working? That the data queen can't provide data that she was able to provide last year?

Perhaps they hoping that if they blow off Gray, it will help people forget the 2 polls showing Council Chairman Gray ahead of Fenty and Rhee and Fenty's poll numbers in a deep slide.

Posted by: efavorite | April 5, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

efav. at 6:19pm: why are you playing the race card again? Why do you think the scores are high? What do the scores say about Rhee's actions to date and policies? Come on, tell us all.

Posted by: axolotl | April 5, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Bill, Rhee will continue to give you the run around until the Post assigns someone else to DCPS.

Posted by: jy151310 | April 6, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I like when Bill whines and complains about not having access. I dont see any other reporters writing things like "I would know more about the healthcare vote, but nobody in the Senate would talk to me"

Posted by: makplan20002 | April 6, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Wait, what? What are you getting at Efavorite? As a white guy in a city with a nominal African-American majority- my Ward 1 block only flipped to a white majority in the last year- I'm not really sure what you're getting at.

I think we all know the deal though, Bill is not an effective reporter, almost got himself fired during blog-gate, and people in DCPS feel perfectly happy blowing him off and talking to Jay Matthews. His career had driven off the cliff which makes this post so weird and sad- "No one will talk to me, no one will work with me, no one came to my birthday party. :-(

Jeez Bill, get a grip and ask Jay to do your work for you, he will get answers.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 6, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It's the mystery why Rhee wouldn't mention and study such an achievement success in DCPS. The teachers and students are obviously doing something right. Isn't she interested in finding out what it is, so the knowledge can be applied throughout the system?

I'm also mystified at why she hasn't publicised the results of the Capitol gains program. If it's helping kids, let's hear about it. If it's not, let's stop it.

Why keep this important information under wraps?

Posted by: efavorite | April 6, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

efav.: you left out the parents. Could be they've done something right? But you have a deeper, race-based point, we've read in your comment. Come on, what is your charge against Rhee regarding actions she has taken or policies that she has in place that would have contributed to the "white" kids' (as you labeled them) scores. Your silence on the issue you raised in a misleading, incendiary way diminishes your credibility.

Posted by: axolotl | April 6, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a mind reader.

Carry on, if you like, without me. People still reading here can make their own assessments about credibility.

Posted by: efavorite | April 6, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

If the conversation is degenerating along racial lines then those commenting don't have many substantive issues to debate. (those who are "pro-Rhee" jump and highlight anything they perceive as "racist" while the "anti-Rhee" folks seem to throw race in once a while for reasons that aren't clear). The issues that are rising to the fore are more about CLASS than RACE/ETHNICITY.

Much of the hub-bub would go away if public officials simply answered questions. What I find worrisome is the lack of forthrightness. If the enrollment projections are off, who cares? This wouldn't be the first time that projections for something were off.

Finally, personally attacking a reporter who is asking questions and personally attacking other posters strikes me as a way to stifle public discussion.

Posted by: dcparkmom | April 6, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

If the conversation is degenerating along racial lines then those commenting don't have many substantive issues to debate. (those who are "pro-Rhee" jump and highlight anything they perceive as "racist" while the "anti-Rhee" folks seem to throw race in once a while for reasons that aren't clear). The issues that are rising to the fore are more about CLASS than RACE/ETHNICITY.

Much of the hub-bub would go away if public officials simply answered questions. What I find worrisome is the lack of forthrightness. If the enrollment projections are off, who cares? This wouldn't be the first time that projections for something were off.

Finally, personally attacking a reporter who is asking questions and personally attacking other posters strikes me as a way to stifle public discussion.

Posted by: dcparkmom | April 6, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I think Bill Turque does a great job and is a great reporter. I love when he publishes that he is having a hard time getting information. I think it's important for people to know that.

Keep up the good work, Bill. I hope you are not getting harrassed too much by the editorial board.

Posted by: aby1 | April 6, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Year after year DCPS parents are not timely about committing/submitting enrollment forms. Not because we're going somewhere else (necessarily) but because when you are entitled to free, non-discriminatory access to your public school there's no rush to turn in forms, which happen to be way more organized and distributed to families in a timely fashion never seen before in this system. Paper pushing is one area Rhee's team has excelled in, as well as techno-savvy to do the same. I'm critical of current admin. but even if the latest enrollment # were made public it's not accurate --it will be a fraction of what it will be in mid-September, so think this is a battle not worth picking now . I have two DCPS enrollment forms in my kitchen right now, turning them in later this week. That's just the way it is!

Posted by: modern1 | April 6, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Good to know you have been pursuing these data. Worse than the government hiding the numbers is the loss to the public and to the public interest of the expertise of non-profit organizations -- Urban Institute, Brookings, and 21 st Century Schools Fund.
Who is left, then, with institutional memory and knowledge of where to find the numbers, just Mary Levy? And what is left for DC Government to do to keep fundamental enrollment data hidden, show it to Mary Levy in her capacity as a consultant to the DC City Council under condition of non-disclosure?

I have also asked for the research protocol for Capital Gains. I was referred to Roland Fryer's Harvard shop. Never heard from them. Twice. Mind you, I'm just asking for the protocol, not (premature) release of work-product data. I'd suggest, Bill Turque, that you request the protocol from the Human Subjects Protection committee at Harvard U. It should have been submitted for review and approval.

Posted by: incredulous | April 7, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

efav. on Monday at 6:19 wrote: "Why doesn't [Rhee] ever mention that white kids in DCPS have the highest NAEP scores in the whole country? You think she'd be proud." To clear the slate for fresh colloquies after her refusal to explain her snark: We were taught that innuendo often backfires, isn't polite and can transmit the worst sentiments of racial discrimination. Civil rights leaders taught us to avoid innuendo, but in the right situations, spell out what you mean and drive the point home. With collegial respect for efav., I think she's too smart and valuable to discussions here to be drawn into the camp that wants to help drive a racial wedge down the center of District society and our public education community.

Posted by: axolotl | April 7, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Axiomatically, these groups believe in a collective vision of ignorance in terms of responsibility and transparency. Good look, Bill! By the time they decide to present their corrupted, outdated data, the facts will be old and catastrophically tainted.

Posted by: rasheeedj | April 7, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

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