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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 01/23/2011

The hunt for DCPS middle school options

By Bill Turque

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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By Bill Turque  | January 23, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
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No mention of Hardy? Hmm.

Posted by: dcintheworld | January 23, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: efavorite | January 23, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse


I agree! You can't mention top performing middle schools without mentioning HARDY. Shame on you Bill!

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 23, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Hardy was not mentioned because Bill knows that there are big, big problems at Hardy. Problems that Henderson has failed to correct.

Rhee ruined a wonderful school and her girlfriend Henderson is to dumb to make the necessary changes.

What a difference a year make.

Posted by: guylady201001 | January 23, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

The name of the column is 'DC Schools Insider' not 'DC School Insider'. Too much space has already been given to Hardy and the tiresome rantings from a small but vocal group of parents. I, for one, am glad to see the column devote some attention to other DCPS schools and would welcome more of it.

Posted by: rjc2 | January 23, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Bill I don't think you can discuss this without looking into the huge problems created when many schools were converted to PK or PS - 8 without the support for full staffing. The kids in these schools are all being deprived a rounded middle school education and they are almost all int buildings without the most basic facilities for a middle school population. This is a continuing disaster created by Rhee.

Posted by: Mulch5 | January 23, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Prior to Rhee's appointment, DCPS was in the midst of a plan to reform our middle schools. Fresh off of its high school transformation implementation, which included administrators, parents, teachers and principals, DCPS under Dr. Janney was set to work on middle schools. The hope was to put some real thought in to what a middle school should look like to be successful. DCPS was burdened with middle schools, jr. highs, pre-k to 8s and every other configuration one can imagine with little success at most of them.

Initially, DCPS was going to pull the 6th grades from all elementaries and send them to middle school. Following requests from parents, the administration decided to go through the same thoughtful process it had gone through regarding high schools. The goal was to give this city more quality options at the middle school level.

Unfortunately, Fenty/Rhee happened and the plan was scrapped. Rhee opted for prek-8 schools because that is what her mentor from Cleveland had experienced. Nevermind that prek-8s had pretty much failed in DC, Rhee's team went for them with a vengence. As a result there are few if any desirable middle schools available to adequately prepare students for the high school experience.

As a result, DCPS still has few if any middle school program to attract parents. If the administration had instead focused on substance as opposed to form maybe just maybe the middle school fair would have had some real options for parents.

Posted by: SEsister | January 23, 2011 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, the Hardy alarmists that seem to live on these boards have got to get a little perspective. Big problems are 20% proficiency in reading and math, crumbling infrastructure, poor teachers and disengaged parents. None of these applies to Hardy where the techers are excellent, the PTA is, if anything, over-engaged, the school is beautiful and the kids score extremely well on standardized tests. Behavior issues need to be dealt with, but apply to only a small portion of the stuent body--and are a chllenge at every middle school. A missed recital is a disapppointment, not a "big, big" poblem.

Posted by: horacemann | January 24, 2011 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee does not agree with the view that Hardy is a school where kids score extremely well on standardized tests. Just in December, in the Washingtonian magazine, she said this:

“People tried to paint Hardy as if it were a great school. Only 50 percent of the African-Americans at that school were testing proficient—which is better than a lot of other schools, so I’m not saying it’s terrible, but it’s certainly not what we should aspire to.”

Of course she’s incorrect about Hardy proficiency. It’s actually at around 70% for African- Americans in reading and 60% in math. Hardy hasn’t seen proficiency as low as 50% (math only) since 2007.

You wonder why Rhee would lie about a proficiency increase that took place on her watch.

Posted by: efavorite | January 24, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Well, Horacemann

Ask the teachers at Hardy if they agree with your assessment of conditions at Hardy. I think you will be surprise with their answers.

Efavorite - great comment. I do not think the Rheeformers will be pleased with the truth.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | January 24, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Okay the talk is about Jefferson doing this and that with all the bells and whistles being implemented to supplement the new Eastern. Hogwash, the middle-school fair was held at Eliot-Hines which is at Eastern's back door and not a nary word on those students who are in the neighborhood for Eastern and who will and have attended Eliot-Hines. Jefferson is in the boundary-feeder for Eastern so this reaching out is ALL suspect. Again, we are so focused on this Jefferson/Eastern relationship. Can someone explain to me what relationship is being established for the new 100 million dollar high school opening up within months as in the new Woodson High School. Bill, please tell us what are the feeder schools plans for the new Woodson high school...have there been any sort-after curriculm changes, dual languages or anything else for that matter. I thought not. Yeah, have DCPS explain how successful they are with the academies format...duh rah Woodson's 9th grade academy is at Ron Brown MS. Is there any rave reviews coming from that portion of town? My word, what is happening at Stuart-Hobson have they forsaken Eastern? I will say-it until I am blue in the face...there are not enough children on Capitol Hill to make Eastern the influx of children from the outer-boundaries will be the true testament. Keep up the good work Eliot-Hines because they might not want you now, but eventually they will seek out your students for all the high-schools.

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 24, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of Southwest and a parent of future middle school students, I welcome Jefferson Academy with open arms. The Collaboration Teams for Stuart Hobson, Eliot Hine and Jefferson are working to make all Ward 6 middle schools strong.

Posted by: danielholt | January 24, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

If 500 attended this fair and Wilson and Ballou are averaging that many per freshman class, it makes you wonder how big is the 8th grade population. C'mon something is not adding-up? We have at least 16 high-schools with 6 of them being application only. Someone is fudging the numbers or we have that many incoming freshmen who live outside DC (I think Ackerman had a plan to rid that problem).

Hypothetically Stuart-Hobson has about what 60, 8th graders, Eliot-Hines has about 40 8th graders and Jefferson has about 50. Yet Eastern is boasting that they are going to accept 300 freshmen. Well we know that not all of those students will be destined for Eastern so...that 150+ students will be coming from where (certainly not Deal nor Hardy).
Be carefuly for what you ask for, because you just might get-it.

Does anyone know if they are going to release this year's 8th grade class from the Garnett-Shaw Middle school charade? Remember when there was a group who petitioned to stay at the middle-school for their 9th grade year and so on. Well, have we forever lost a 8th grade population who would've graduated to Dunbar and Cardozo?

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 24, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

For those of you excited about the "Jefferson Academy" you are gonna be sorely disappointed. I've been to Jefferson on a normal day (many, many times). It is wild. Out of control behavior in the hallway, kids cussing out teachers, major disruptions in the classrooms. That "academy" isn't going to change anything.

Posted by: irishprincess122 | January 24, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Oddly, except for Sousa, it seems like DC is still limited to the same Junior Highs as it was 30+ years ago in my day. In my day, you had Deal, Francis and jefferson as the attractive options beyond your required neighborhood school.

What is the curriculum preparing these kids for when they get to the middle school/junior high level? It seems like middle school is the 1st level the grave disparity between students/schools shows up. This comes back to DCPS core problem, educational standards and balanced funding for all schools.

Are the elementaries preparing these kids properly? how are we assessing their true abilty? why is it kids have more options for learning at some school versus others? not just langauge option, but challenging math classes?

My neice is in PG public schools. She is taking Algebra 1 in 7th grade. She's been reading novels and writing since elementary. This school is not in well to do Bowie or Mitchelville, it's in Landover, MD. DC just needs to get its act together, establish standards and a plan to get there, and stop this reinventing a wheel every 3-years.

Posted by: simplewords999 | January 24, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

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