A struggling D.C. high school notches a landmark achievement

Photo Credit: Washington Times

Photo Credit: Washington Times

The Washington Post's editorial board published an op-ed on D.C.'s Ballou High School and its remarkable improvements over the last several years. The high school once failing, succeeded in getting its entire graduating class to apply for college. See the op-ed below.

IN THE decade since the start of school reform in the District, a variety of metrics have been used to gauge progress. Test scores, graduation rates and student enrollment have all pointed to steady improvement in the public school system. But perhaps nothing has been as encouraging — or inspiring — as the news that the entire graduating class at Ballou High School has applied to college this year. Ballou was long seen as the epitome of D.C. school dysfunction, a place that dead-ended its students by not giving them challenges. So the fact that all 190 seniors want to go on to higher education is an important achievement that should be applauded.

“There are some schools and communities where college is an automatic next step. There is no celebration. Our kids don’t get that same message,” said Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves of the struggling Ward 8 school, where all students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Changing that message, The Post’s Alejandra Matos reported, by raising expectations for students has been the aim of Ms. Reeves and her team. That it was the Class of 2017 that last spring set the goal that all seniors would apply to college speaks to the principal’s success in starting to reshape the school culture.

Read the full op-ed here.

Trump expected to order study of federal role in education

Photo Credit: REUTERS

Photo Credit: REUTERS

According to Emma Brown of the Washington Post, President Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday that would require Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study how the federal government “has unlawfully overstepped state and local control,” according to a White House official.

The order he plans to sign is “intended to return authority to where Congress intended — state and local entities,” the White House official wrote in an e-mail.

A bipartisan 2015 law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, transferred authority over public schools from the federal government to the states. But many on the right are looking for signs that the Trump administration will push further to unwind the federal role in education. Read more here.

D.C. charter school for adult students could be shut down

Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) photo of: Anchor Site in Columbia Heights

Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) photo of: Anchor Site in Columbia Heights

Alejandra Matos of the Washington Post reports that a charter school for at-risk adult students may face closure after the D.C. Public Charter School Board determined that it has failed to meet the majority of its academic goals.

The Latin American Youth Center Career Academy founded in 2012 opened as a school for former high school dropouts to assist students in earning a GED, learn a trade or continue on to college. 

The charter board is required to evaluate a school’s performance after five years. Board Executive Director Scott Pearson and his staff determined that more than two-thirds of the 770 students enrolled at the school since 2012 were not on a track to earn a GED or receive college or career training.

Of the 119 students who could have earned a GED, 20 percent earned one. Of the 42 students on a plan to start a medical assistant career, none earned certification, according to board staff. Read more here.

Study: Parent groups in Northwest D.C. raise thousands for schools

Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post

Photo Credit: Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post

Alejandra Matos of the Washington Post reports that a new study reveals that parents in Northwest D.C. raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through parent organizations. 

Five elementary schools in Northwest D.C. raised nearly $1.4 million in a single year, money that pays for extras such as a new art teacher and classroom aides.

The parent-teacher organizations at four elementary schools — Stoddert, Key, Horace Mann and Murch — each raised more than $300,000 in the 2013-2014 school year. Janney Elementary School’s PTA raised $1.39 million that same school year, making it the fifth-wealthiest PTA in the country, said the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.

Catherine Brown, one of the study’s authors, said D.C. reflects the wealth disparities seen in other school districts. The study, released in early April, looks at the outsize role parent contributions play in school financing.

While most traditional public schools in the District have student populations that come from low-income families, there are a handful of schools in more affluent areas where families are raising large amounts.

Those schools can ask the PTA to pay for school trips, additional instructional coaches and after-school programs. Meanwhile, schools that do not have significant PTA fundraising have to pay for those things from their regular school budgets, or they may not be able to afford them at all, the study said.

“If we consistently have a system where kids from higher-income families get more of the pie, then we are not going to address the achievement gaps,” Brown said. Read more here.


D.C. school system launches effort to help girls of color — but not an all-girls school

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

According to Alejandra Matos of the Washington Post, D.C. Public Schools has admitted that it has no plans to open an all-girls high school like the one it opened in August for black and Latino boys. Instead, the school system plans to create support groups for girls and host a systemwide all-girls conference later this year.

Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, an all-male school, opened its doors last summer. The 100-student school aims to boost achievement for black and Latino boys, who historically have the lowest test scores and graduation rates in the city.

The school has drawn controversy, with the American Civil Liberties Union questioning why the system did not create an all-girls counterpart. The school system replied last fall that Ron Brown was designed with the “specific needs of young men” in mind and that it was working to expand “opportunities to meet the unique needs of our female students.” Read more here.