From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Local parents and DC Council candidate Pat Mara participated on April 13 in a wide-ranging discussion about the state of local public education.
Those interested resisted the siren call of a beautiful Saturday morning in spring to turn out at a meeting co-sponsored by the Logan Circle Community Association and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F. The meeting was at Luther Place Memorial Church and was led by ANC 2F education committee co-chair Evelyn Boyd-Simmons.
The Headache of School Admissions
The conversation returned again and again to the difficulty parents have negotiating DC’s patchwork of lotteries and admission criteria for local charter schools, exam schools and feeder schools.
The next meeting of the ANC 2F education committee is scheduled for May 11, 10 am, at Luther Place Memorial Church, 1226 Vermont Avenue NW. On the agenda is “all things Garrison,” said Boyd-Simmons, referring Garrison Elementary School, 1200 S Street NW.
“This is super important. We have a situation where a number of parents in Ward 1 and Ward 2, but also all over the city, may know where they’re sending their child to elementary school. But that trajectory upward to middle school and high school is much more uncertain to parents. As many parents say to me, it shouldn’t be this difficult,” Mara said in an interview after the meeting.
Mara is the Ward 1 Member on the DC State Board of Education and a candidate in the April 23 special election for an At-Large Council seat.
Parents aren’t the only ones worried about progressing through the DC education system.
“I had a fifth grader ask about grade point averages,” said Cardozo High School Principal Tanya S. Roane at the meeting. “They want to know academics. Life is different now than when we were young. Children in this age are about competition.”
Principal Roane’s Tough Road Ahead at Cardozo High
It is Roane’s first year as Principal. She told the committee about the challenges facing Cardozo High. Next year, Cardozo will become a school for grades 6 through 12 after Shaw Middle School is shuttered. The third floor of the Cardozo High building will become a completely separate Middle School, Roane said. The new middle school on the third floor will have 150 students total.
Roane also said she had a problem retaining students at the school.
“I ask kids: what’s the problem? Perception of the school,” she said.
The school has a 44 percent graduation rate, Roane said. (A Washington Post article from April 2012 put the graduation rate at 39.9 percent.) But this number is misleading because students who leave for a charter school are counted as dropouts. In addition, Cardozo has the second-highest ESL population in district, and students in the English as a Second Language program normally get an additional year of instruction.
“We get penalized if they don’t graduate in four years,” Roane said.
Roane is convinced the school is improving. “People are saying that this is a better place.”
She talked about some of the improvements taking place at the schools, including a community-accessible year-round swimming pool (“a lap pool, not Olympic-sized”), a health suite with a GP on staff, and a no-charge day-care center.
“We’re increasing Advance Placement courses. I’m trying to start a college credit program. If we have something to offer that another school doesn’t, that will make us stand out,” Roane said.
This year, Cardozo High students also built a house on 13th Street NW.
“The house sold,” Roane said. “We didn’t get any money.”
Principal Roane emphasized her open door policy. She hosts a coffee hour on the first Tuesday of each month. On the third Wednesday of each month at 5:15 pm, there is also an open meeting with school contractors. This takes place at Cardozo High School @ Meyer, 2501 11th Street, NW.
“We are changing perceptions,” Roane said. “And having community people come in.”
“[Principal Roane] has taken over Cardozo just this academic year,” Mara said later. “There is a great need for improvement at Cardozo, and I think she may just be the principal to move the school to the next level. But there are great problems with truancy. There are great problems with engagement. I think, from a programmatic standpoint, if you don’t have the capacity at the school, you can’t offer things like athletic programs. You can’t offer things like arts and music, or at least nothing outside a very core basic class required for graduation. You can’t offer a diversity of languages. So she’s up against a lot, but I do think she is the right person.”