by December 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Chavez Prep Middle School A librarian at a Columbia Heights school is seeking donations to help buy books for her students amid budget cuts.

Jennie Tomlinson-Herr, the librarian at Chavez Prep Middle School (770 Kenyon St. NW), last week launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for the low-income school’s library, which received a 70 percent cut in funding. With about $7,000 less at her disposal, Tomlinson-Herr can’t get the books that she said her need and want.

“The library’s need for books is critical — I have a long, long list of titles that students have requested that I can’t afford to buy,” she said on the fundraising website. “It’s upsetting when I have to tell my students that the library can’t afford to purchase more books. I try to avoid this whenever possible by purchasing highly requested titles out of my own pocket, but the need is greater than what I can afford as an individual.”

Chavez Prep has more than 300 students between sixth and ninth grades. About a third of them check out books from the library every day.

Photo via Chavez Prep Middle School GoFundMe

by Tim Regan October 7, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

Mounted police escorted dozens of Ross Elementary School students on their way to school along R Street NW earlier this morning.

The school’s PTA organized the event for Walk and Bike to School Day, an annual occurrence that prompts students across the U.S. to do exactly that.

From 8-8:40 a.m., police on horseback watched over the students as they walked, biked, skateboarded and scooted to school. And the event even attracted a celebrity: Police mascot McGruff the Crime Dog made an appearance and doled out hugs.

Photos by Luis Gomez

by Tim Regan September 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm 0

Garrison_VolunteersGarrison Elementary School (1200 S St. NW) is seeking volunteers for its annual Green Apple Day of Service event this Sunday at 3 p.m.

The national event, organized by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, encourages local schools and communities “to make a difference in the quality of our children’s physical environment.”

Volunteers will help spruce up the school’s gardens and do general work outside during the event. Attendees are encouraged to wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty and to bring work gloves if they have them.

Click here to RSVP for the volunteer opportunity.

by Sean Meehan September 3, 2015 at 12:30 pm 0

There may not be any troops at Garrison Elementary near Logan Circle, but this week there was a war.

The annual Garrison Elementary School Lemonade War pits fourth and fifth graders in the extended day before- and after-school program against each other to see who can sell the most lemonade.

The contest was inspired by the book “The Lemonade War” by Jacqueline Davies, which teaches business and economic concepts through a narrative about two siblings trying to out-sell each other in the competitive lemonade stand market.

The students in each grade were given $20 to buy supplies for their lemonade stands and were tasked with setting prices and selling the lemonade before and after school in front of Garrison Elementary at 1200 S St. NW.

The students also had to decide how much of their proceeds to re-invest in more lemonade and how much to keep. Whichever grade has the most money at the end of the week will be the winner, and both classes will get to decide how to spend the money they raised, according to Garrison principal Collin Hill.

Each grade took different strategies for their stands: The fourth graders went for variety, with small medium and large sized lemonade available, while the fifth graders adopted somewhat of a franchising strategy, stationing lemonade sellers in front of the school and at the playground behind the school.

A fourth grader who was pouring lemonade from a pitcher bigger than his head said on Wednesday that the class decided on the prices of the lemonade by taking a vote. Meanwhile, a fifth grader just feet away used a megaphone to assure passers-by that his grade’s lemonade was better.

Teachers were on hand to monitor the students but did not intervene with any business operations, leaving them to calculate change and serve customers themselves.

Who won and how much each grade has raised will be known on Friday, as the students had yet to count the cash filling their boxes. But it’s safe to assume the real victors of this crash course in capitalism were the paying customers.

by Tim Regan August 17, 2015 at 4:00 pm 0

Garrison ES, photo via Elementary School is seeking supplies and volunteers to help usher in the new school year.

The school is currently accepting donations of pencils, erasers, glue, crayons and other supplies. Residents interested in donating supplies can drop them off at the school (1200 S St. NW) this Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon.

Click here for a full list of the school supplies that Garrison needs.

The school is also seeking members of the public to help with a community-led volunteer day this Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m.

Volunteers will help with sprucing up classrooms, installing bulletin boards and cleaning up the school’s common areas.

Click here to RSVP for the volunteer opportunity.

Photo via

by Tim Regan August 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm 0

Photo via School Without Walls at Francis-StevensVolunteers are being sought for a community-led effort to beautify the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, (2425 N Street NW) this Saturday at 9 a.m.

Volunteers should arrive ready to clean classrooms, hallways and gymnasiums as well as build and move bookshelves and other furniture. The school also needs help with gardening, weeding and planting, and requests related supplies and equipment.

Here’s a list of other items the school needs:

  • Hammers
  • Nails
  • Screwdrivers
  • Shovels
  • Rakes
  • Seeds and plants to plant
  • Garbage bags
  • Three-pronged hand rakes (to pull out weeds)
  • Paint, paintbrushes, paint pans, rollers, tarp, blue tape
  • Fabric (large pieces with small patterns for bulletin boards)
  • Brooms and dustpan
  • Clorox Wipes

Attendees can RSVP on the event’s Facebook page.

Image via Without Walls at Francis-Stevens

by Tim Regan June 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm 0

grosso_nadeauD.C. Councilmembers David Grosso and Brianne K. Nadeau will talk with Ward 1 residents about the future of education in the District at the Frank D. Reeves Center tonight at 6:30 p.m.

The town hall meeting, which will be held in the community room on the second floor of the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets, is an opportunity for the residents to weigh in on an education funding plan passed by the D.C. Council in May.

The plan includes the modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, a $1.6 million allocation for a new literacy intervention program and new funding priorities for public schools.

Residents are encouraged to RSVP before attending the town hall.

by August 22, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,811 0

Borderstan welcomes guest columns on variety of subjects with differing viewpoints; email us at borderstan[AT] 

From Jack Jacobson. He is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Dupont Circle (ANC 2B-04), and is a candidate for State Board of Education representative for Ward 2.

"Public Schools"

Jack Jacobson. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Early in our academic careers, all of us at some point became aware of the significance of the elusive 100% score on a test. To some that figure signified perfection, or simply that you knew all the answers to the test questions. However in hindsight, as with many experiences from childhood, the reality is not that simple.

Earlier this year, Mayor Vincent Gray and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson unveiled “A Capital Commitment,” a five-year plan to right the District of Columbia’s faltering public schools. While it is vital to lay out a clear vision for increasing student achievement and successfully implement a strategic plan, “A Capital Commitment” — as it is written — would continue to allow an unacceptable number of students to fail. Moreover, it leaves a great deal of uncertainty for current students entering traditional public middle and high schools in the District.

The Goal of an Education System

Education cannot simply be about the test scores, far from it. Everyone learns at his or her own pace and in his or her own way. To attempt a cookie cutter solution to DC’s education system is neither practical nor sound. That being said, the goal of any education system should be 100% proficiency system-wide. But how do you get there? I’ll leave that to those best suited to the task: the teachers and administrators of our public schools who deal with each child on a daily basis.

The five-year goals of “A Capital Commitment” are straightforward:

  1. Improve achievement rates: At least 70% of students will be proficient in reading and math, and the number of advanced students in the District will double.
  2. Invest in struggling schools: The 40 lowest-performing schools will increase proficiency rates by 40%.
  3. Increase the graduation rate: At least 75% of entering 9th graders will graduate in four years.
  4. Improve satisfaction: 90% of students will like their school.
  5. Increase enrollment: DCPS will increase enrollment over five years.

The Mayor and Chancellor have been aggressively touting their plan, with the Mayor speaking extensively to it during his budget roundtables held across the city this year. The Chancellor has been hosting a series of “The State of Schools” presentations and listening sessions in every Ward. I attended the “State of Ward 2 Schools” event on June 27, which was well attended by DCPS and Ward 2 school administration officials. Unfortunately it was poorly attended by parents and community members. (It should be noted that the original “State of Ward 2 Schools” meeting was scheduled for June 6 — before the end of school — but was cancelled at the last minute following then-Council Chairman Kwame Brown’s resignation earlier that day. The meeting was rescheduled twice before settling on the June 27 date, after the school year had ended).

The Chancellor’s presentation began with a thorough overview of the campaign, highlighting its goals and objectives, then led into a Q&A session with attendees. Chancellor Henderson discussed at great length the anticipated increases in proficiency and student achievement that the plan would accomplish at the end of five years.

However, during the entire discussion and Q&A, there was no mention of 100% proficiency, a 100% graduation rate, or 100% of students liking their schools. This is in stark contrast to the expectations of parents and guardians. From their perspective, all students deserve the opportunity to achieve 100% of their potential. To compete locally, regionally and globally we must do a better job of educating our children. For years jobs have been leaving the region and the country. Cheaper labor is often cited as the cause, but just as often the need for technical proficiency in mathematics and the sciences is touted as a reason. As the nation’s capital, with the resources and intellectual capacity at our disposal, we should set the bar higher. The issues plaguing the school system are significant, but academically we must aspire to be the best. Frankly, when DCPS students complete their academic careers and enter the workforce, their employers will expect nothing short of their best.

The Lowest Performing Schools

“A Capital Commitment” has a five-year goal of transforming its 40 lowest-performing schools to achieve an average 63% proficiency in reading and 62% proficiency in math. A 63% proficiency in reading would equate to 37% of graduates not being able to fully comprehend this article, an abysmal statistic for students who are a product of the public schools in our nation’s capital.

To help achieve proficiency goals, Chancellor Henderson this spring announced a $10 million “Proving What’s Possible” grant program to improve student outcomes. All DCPS schools could compete, but it was largely assumed that the grants would go where there was the most need to increase student achievement. The June 14 press release from DCPS announcing the recipients of the awards trumpeted, “Funds to spur innovation, improve learning in 40 lowest-performing schools.”

But the funding didn’t go to those 40 schools, at least not exclusively. In total, 59 of 125 DCPS schools (47%) received grants, including Benjamin Banneker High School and Hyde-Addison Elementary School, both top-rated schools by (According to DCPS, approximately 85% of the “Proving What’s Possible” grants went to the lowest-performing schools.)

Another goal of “A Capital Commitment” is to achieve a traditional public school system-wide proficiency rate of 70% in reading and math. That means that at the outset, 30% of our students will not achieve the same proficiency as their peers. Washington will never be a “world class” city if our graduates cannot be competitive in the global workforce.

It is better to set the bar high and fall short than to set it too low and lose another generation of students to mediocrity or worse. Keep in mind the DCPS had 43,866 students in the system in the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the US Census Bureau, far fewer than cities like New York and Chicago. However, we spend $18,677 per student per year versus $18,618 in New York and $13,078 in Chicago (the national average is $10,615). We are smaller system, spend more money, but are not achieving better results.

Middle and High Schools and the Pre-School Boom

The ward-by-ward DCPS presentations failed to address the continued uncertainty for rising middle and high school students under “A Capital Commitment.” Five years ago, when then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee asked young parents to stay in the District and believe in the reforms being implemented, they stayed and sent their children to our traditional public schools. Unfortunately, school reform has not yet significantly improved our middle and high schools across the city. The reality is that most of the parents of these rising fourth and fifth graders have no viable traditional public school options.

The high-achieving schools within DCPS are over enrolled and thus not viable options for the majority of students. In contrast, our under-achieving and failing schools have been left, seemingly, to fend for themselves as elementary school students continue to exit traditional public schools to attend private middle and high schools and the growing number of public charter schools across the District. Without a specific plan for improving our traditional public middle and high schools, the goal of increasing DCPS student enrollment will never be achieved.

Keep in mind the difficult economy and other factors that have led to a larger number of families staying in the District. However, this has resulted in a steep rise in preschool and pre-kindergarten enrollment. Overall, DCPS has placed a great deal of attention on the elementary school system, but our middle and high schools must be ready academically to meet the impending student population boom. And that boom is coming much sooner than the five years “A Capital Commitment” promises.

Otherwise, instead of the traditional flight to the suburbs for better schools, you’ll see a flight from ward to ward. The end result is only those that can afford to rent or buy in “better” neighborhoods will get access to high-achieving schools. This cannot be allowed to happen in any city, much less Washington, DC.

Start the Conversation

“A Capital Commitment” is an admirable plan at the end of the day – it sets reasonable, achievable goals and will benefit a significant segment of our students who are falling further and further behind their peers nationally. However, there is a difference between developing a plan and successfully executing it.

It is imperative that Chancellor Henderson and Mayor Gray continue to conduct a full, comprehensive and sustained public education and involvement campaign to engage parents, teachers, administrators, and the broader business, non-profit and residential communities in supporting our schools and improving student outcomes.

“A Capital Commitment” should be the beginning of a conversation for goal setting and what’s possible for student achievement, not the endgame. DCPS schools have produced amazing leaders like Duke Ellington and Warren Buffett. Washington’s children are as bright and have as much potential as any children in the country. Our public education system should acknowledge this and provide them every opportunity to reach that potential and excel – and all Washingtonians will be better off for it.

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