My children attended h.d. cooke elementary in Adams Morgan—a similar school to nearby Marie-Reed, Adams, and Ross—from 2002-2005. All four schools are remedial-focused, have similar failing standardized test scores in the 40th percentile for reading and the 50th for math, and have similar demographics. Ryan Grim is correct in portraying Hispanic immigrant parents as grateful for the opportunity to educate their children at Ross (“A Line in the Sandbox,” 6/16). Compared to the lack of education they receive at their in-boundary school, or in their native homelands, Ross is superb.
Contrast the grateful undereducated or immigrant parent with an educated or American-born parent who attended public school someplace else in our country. These folks are horrified at the dysfunctional D.C. public school system. Grim is right that in-boundary parents make more demands, but he scorns the very concept, as if parents have no right to demand the same quality education in their own neighborhood that exists outside it. It is only natural that educated parents have “high expectations” of what a public school in the nation’s capital should offer. But Grim conjures the class-warfare mantra that “wealthy” parents make oppressive demands at the expense of the poor. Ross is using a curriculum that is two years behind the standard used throughout public schools in the United States, and many Dupont Circle parents want better and think everyone’s children will benefit.
Grim ignores the inconvenient truth that a test score in the middle of the bell curve is still a failure—or is 50 percent no longer considered an “F?” Compare Ross’ anemic 47 percent reading test score with Mann’s 78 percent, Lafayette’s 78 percent and Janney’s 72 percent. Many public schools around the metro area test in the 80 to 100 percent level.
At one of the few meetings between Gloria Smith, Ross’ principal, and prospective in-boundary parents, parent Gloria Borland asked if Ross could institute the same at-grade-level curriculum used at Mann and Lafayette. Smith answered no, because her students and teachers at Ross were not prepared academically and culturally for an at-grade-level curriculum. What’s more elitist and racist than that? Does anyone suppose this “these-kids-are-too-mentally-challenged” attitude should be applied to poor Asian immigrants? Oh, wait…they consistently outperform everybody.
These in-boundary parents realized the infrastructure at Ross was heavily invested in remedial education. They decided instead to try to build a new school from scratch. I was a founding board member of the new Dupont Circle Academy charter school. Dan Putterman was not involved in this new school, nor was mayoral candidate Michael Brown.
Finally, Grim implies that Putterman, Borland and others are racist, noting they disliked Ross’ diversity. Considering Borland is a racial minority herself, that’s patently absurd. But here’s a reality check for Grim. Stoddert Elementary in Glover Park is very diverse, with children from all races and many countries. Yet Stoddert tests 17 points higher for reading and 11 points higher for math than Ross! And it’s not because Stoddert parents may earn a better living than out-of-boundary Ross parents. It’s because Stoddert’s in-boundary parents won’t accept a crummy, remedial education for their children and organized to pressure their principal to respond, an effort Smith (according to Grim) proudly thwarted at Ross.
While Stoddert has many out-of-boundary students, in-boundary parents run the PTA, interact extensively and positively with the principal to mutually craft a middle ground, raise money for the school, run the aftercare program, and keep the curriculum consistently higher than average in the DCPS system. In fact, Stoddert is more than one academic year ahead of H.D. Cooke, Marie Reed, Adams, and Ross.
Like Putterman, my children’s future compelled me to move to a better public school district in Maryland as my oldest prepares to enter middle school. My three children will attend a Maryland school with scores around 95 percent. What D.C. public or charter school can match that? And why not? Because DCPS is wedded to a remedial education. But because the curriculum in Maryland is more than a year ahead of Stoddert and more than two years ahead of schools like H.D. Cooke and Ross, I must hire tutors and hold my children back a grade to help them catch up to their at-grade-level classmates, because they had the misfortune of receiving a remedial education in D.C.! This is the real disaster awaiting Ross parents that Grim should have investigated.
When Smith can count coup like suburban schools, she’ll have a right to whine about pushy, demanding parents. Parents are a school’s customers to be served—especially those parents who live within the school’s boundary—not its subjects to be ruled and squashed.
Instead of devoting your paper’s resources to digging up an old fight, it is a shame you couldn’t have focused on why only six or so D.C. public elementary schools have near at-grade-level curriculums and higher test scores, while the vast majority of the elementary schools in this city (including Ross) are cemented to remedial education and failing test scores. Either those children are truly too stupid to learn, or DCPS administrators are. D.C. public and charter schools offer over a dozen different types of curriculums, but when you look at the offerings you discover they are the same: remedial.
Many in-boundary Dupont Circle parents complained about remedial curriculums during my school board campaign, saying they would happily place their children in Ross if it used a non-remedial curriculum. Why is Grim calling in-boundary Dupont Circle parents—who are forced by Smith to accept a below-grade-level public education at their own neighborhood school—racist elitists for demanding the same curriculums enjoyed by the in-boundary children of Lafayette, Mann or Janney? Grim owes everyone an apology.
The City Paper responds: Both the Dupont Circle Academy’s charter-school application and Michael Brown say Brown was on the school’s board.
Note: This is Part 2 of McKeon’s letter; the first part ran last week.