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Posted at 5:32 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Was Friends of Bedford ready for Dunbar?

By Bill Turque

As promised, DCPS moved Monday to bolster safety and security at Dunbar High School, which officials say has suffered from a lack of both under Friends of Bedford, the outside operator hired by former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

The package includes additional police presence, more experienced school security guards, and extra administrative types from the school system's central office. A team of social workers met with every English class (to make sure they covered all students) to talk about sexual behavior and respect in the wake of the alleged assault that took place at the school last month.

On Wednesday, Bedford CEO George Leonard, also acting principal, will meet with interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson to discuss "next steps."

Leonard and his colleagues say they've done exactly what they set out to do: begin to change the culture of failure at the school, once the pride of black Washington. My colleague Jay Mathews, a big fan of Bedford, agrees, and says that ousting the group would be a victory for disgruntled parents and ex-staffers.

Henderson clearly doesn't like what she sees at Dunbar, but has also been reluctant to support her criticism with data. School leaders from the Rhee family tree love data, and keep it in a thousand different permutations. I've made two requests and have yet to get a response.

At a minimum, Bedford's experience points up the extreme difficulty of high school turnarounds--especially involving operators who try to transplant their success into new soil in a different city. Rhee selected Leonard's group on the basis of their five years at Bedford Academy, a highly-regarded Brooklyn public school with an unstinting emphasis on college preparation.

But Leonard faced a significantly different situation in D.C. When I visited Dunbar Tuesday, I asked him whether he'd taken on more than he could handle.

"You always know more once you start," he said. "Now that I know the dynamics, I would have approached it differently."

Leonard built Bedford from scratch. Dunbar, once the educational pride of black Washington, had been a failing school for years. Enrollment is nearly twice that of Bedford (750 vs 400) and when he arrived, students were housed in a sprawling '70s-style building with concrete ramps and no walls for classrooms, part of an "open" design in vogue a generation ago.

Bedford was an application school, where students were screened by the city's education department for grades, standardized test scores and attendance. The names of incoming ninth graders were also available to school officials in May or June, allowing the staff time to reach out to new families.

At Dunbar, Friends of Bedford is required to accept anyone with the legal right to attend, including students from Walker Jones and Emery education campuses, some of whom are multiple grade levels behind in reading when they enter Dunbar. Also destabilizing, Leonard said, was the steady stream of late enrollments after the start of school in August, which interfere with attempts to establish some continuity of culture.

"They just pour in here," he said.

At Bedford Academy, Leonard said, incoming ninth graders attend a mandatory month-long "summer bridge" program to prepare them for the demands of high school and to get an early jump on closing academic deficits they may have brought with them from middle school. Rhee allocated the funds for a summer bridge at Dunbar, but said she was unable to make it mandatory for students or teachers. Relatively few attended, and Leonard said in retrospect he would have insisted on a compulsory summer program.

"I would have demanded that we bring in the freshman class," he said.

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By Bill Turque  | December 7, 2010; 5:32 PM ET
 
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Comments

Very interesting tidbits here.
For example:
"Henderson clearly doesn't like what she sees at Dunbar, but has also been reluctant to support her criticism with data"

That ties in with the comment Jay passed along that when FOB told unidentified DCPS officials that suspensions would rise (as students come under a new discipline regime) the DCPS officials were shocked.


AND
"At Dunbar, Friends of Bedford is required to accept anyone with the legal right to attend, including students from Walker Jones and Emery education campuses, some of whom are multiple grade levels behind in reading when they enter Dunbar. Also destabilizing, Leonard said, was the steady stream of late enrollments after the start of school in August, which interfere with attempts to establish some continuity of culture."
That has great implications.
Jay likes to go on about how wonderful KIPP is.
And I have questioned him, what would happen in a KIPP school, if they took over an existing school and had to take the students who already attended or lived within the boundary of the school.
No applications.
No counseling out.
Would we see those great things for which KIPP is famous?
JAy agreed that it would be interesting.
But we can guess with near certainty what would happen.

Posted by: edlharris | December 7, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Leonard makes a very logical case. But logic is out in the era of the magical adult, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound - I mean who can educate any student, no matter what the constraints or hurdles, by pure force of commitment and that magic ingredient - effectiveness.

Posted by: efavorite | December 7, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

At Dunbar, Friends of Bedford is required to accept anyone with the legal right to attend, including students from Walker Jones and Emery education campuses, some of whom are multiple grade levels behind in reading when they enter Dunbar. Also destabilizing, Leonard said, was the steady stream of late enrollments after the start of school in August, which interfere with attempts to establish some continuity of culture.

So in short, Dunbar remained Dumbar in some important respects. They didn't complain about those factors last school year when test scores increased. This seems like an excuse. Rhee and Henderson don't like excuses.

Posted by: alwayswonderswhy | December 7, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

"Leonard said in retrospect he would have insisted on a compulsory summer program."

Of course he would. That would have screened out disruptive students.

He also said "steady stream of late enrollments after the start of school in August, which interfere with attempts to establish some continuity of culture.

"They just pour in here," he said."

Well duh. Haven't these "reformers" had any real world experience? Charters can screen out the 5 to 10% of the chronically disruptive students. They start on 3rd base thinking they've hit a triple.

Posted by: johnt4853 | December 8, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

This seems all too consistent with the microwave version of Michelle Rhee education reform, contract out to anyone who has a New York/Bloomberg/Joel Klein affiliation. Maybe a little due diligence would have been in order with respect to knowing the market you are attempting to serve and configuring your services accordingly. I'm sure that CEO George Leonard had noble intentions, but DC is not New York and New York is not DC.

Posted by: Robmic812 | December 8, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Friends of Bedford is doing nothing at Dunbar! I am graduate from Dunbar SHS! I was working at the school. These people are playing the numbers game. They don't have any programs for the students, they sit in the office all day. They don't have any new computers for the student (ie) Macs, they don't a have a  Marching Band which Dunbar was known for for years!  It's really sad how these fake ass reformers don't have a clue but are quick to play the political side about lack of resources desipite having all the tools! If it's all about the kids! Interview the students @ Dunbar to really gain insight about Friends of Bedford. They will not be back at Dunbar and they should be audited to see what the hell they really Acomplished over the last 3+ yrs! (nothing). The notion to think that students couldn't learn in an open space in is a slap in the face to all the alumnus such as Vince Gray, Eleanor Holmes, myself and all the other lawyers, teachers, Doctors sports athletes, that attended Paul Laurence Dunbar

Posted by: EHousen19 | December 8, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This is Bill Turque..Could you call me at 202-334-9294 or message at turqueb@washpost.com. I'd like to talk to you about Dunbar.

Posted by: Bill Turque | December 8, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

This is Bill Turque..Could you call me at 202-334-9294 or message at turqueb@washpost.com. I'd like to talk to you about Dunbar.

Posted by: Bill Turque | December 8, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

In story after story, screening, pre-qualification and other forms of selection are all critical, if usually unspoken. It arises here, and is the unmentioned excuse for Hardy MS problems -- admission of unscreened students.

Teachers are, under IMPACT, all expected to engage --or is it entertain?-- all students at all times. That would presumably be necessary to maintain attendance and diminish truancy, supposedly making compulsion unnecessary. And what about late-enrollment stragglers, data on which Rhee and her followers supposedly have a handle? Well, the first month is when every teacher might be willing to sacrifice acceleration in exchange for class unity, purpose, and cohesion. How to do that when students in MS and HS are coming and going, dropping in late and dropping out, and for all we know -- shopping for a comfortable school?

Whatever the problems of Dunbar HS made more interesting by the presence of contracted school management by Bedford, the reporter surely understands that most every white reader of this story supposes that the problems are common to all racially segregated and homogeneous high schools in DCPS. He should write about why that is not true, if it is not. That would shed light on Dunbar HS.

Posted by: incredulous | December 8, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, all the prospective teachers are reading these articles and blogs and will start to ask some hard questions before they accept a position at some of these schools:

What are the requirements for student acceptance?

Is your school safe? How safe?

Were any teachers or students assaulted last year? How many? What was done about it?

What are the student scores on standardized tests?

And so forth.

Yes, this testing game can be played by two parties and I hope it will be.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 8, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting that the Chancellor could not make the Summer Bridge Program at Dunbar mandatory when my son just attended a mandatory Summer Bridge Program at the School WIthout Walls. I guess special schools have special rules.

Posted by: aminia1 | December 8, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

If you want Change you have to do it the right way .When they got rid of Bedford Administrators they should have got rid of Mrs Samantha Bright a Vice Principle she curse out students and has no respect were not understanding how she got there after being Fired from Village Academy Rock Creek Academy and was let go from McKinley Tech .She has been very disrespectful to parents as well as Students it's her time to Go NOW

Posted by: Darksecrettt | December 10, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

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