The hunt for DCPS middle school options
Many DCPS families head for the exit ramp at the end of their elementary school years to seek out charter or private options. That's because despite a few well publicized success stories, such as Sousa and Deal, many of the city's middle schools still suffer from poor academic achievement and low enrollment that limits money available for programs.
But middle school revitalization may soon become more of a front-burner issue. New D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D), who decided to keep education under jurisdiction of the council's Committee of the Whole, has declared middle schools a top priority.
DCPS, trying to promote its middle school sector more aggressively, held a fair at Eliot-Hine Saturday, drawing about 500 people through two of its three hours. One potential new bright spot is Jefferson in Ward 6, which will open a separate sixth grade "academy," in 2011-12 and pursue authorization for an International Baccalaureate Middle Years program. DCPS hopes to use IB programs, which stress language (Jefferson will offer Chinese) leadership and intercultural understanding, as ways of retaining more families after elementary school. School officials are trying to spark interest at Jefferson's "feeder" elementary schoolss, Amidon-Bowen, Brent and Thomson. DCPS hopes to use Jefferson as a bridge in a renewed public education system in Ward 6, connecting improved elementary schools and the new Eastern High School, due admit its first freshmen this fall.
One potential customer browsing the fair Saturday was LaTanya McLendon, whose oldest son, Mikhail Hackley, is a fifth-grader at Randle Highlands Elementary in Ward 7. His official "destination" middle school is Kramer, where just 19 percent of the students read at proficiency level on the 2010 DC CAS.
"The main option for me is a mandatory second language," said McLendon, as well as rich music and art programs.
Jefferson's sixth grade academy is open to families citywide through the annual out-of-boundary lottery. The on-line application period begins Friday and runs until 1:59 p.m. on Feb. 28. Families can apply to up to six schools. The lottery itself will be held on March 2, with results posted on line March 3 and mailed home March 8. For more information see the section in the DCPS Web site here.
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