DC's education system has improved in recent years for many kids, but many schools remain inadequate to our children's needs. If you could design a better school system for DC, what would it look like? Would we have more teacher evaluations or fewer? More charter schools, fewer, or different ones? More or fewer kids going to local schools? How else would your school system differ from the one we have today?
Matthew Frumin responded...
Every D.C. neighborhood deserves excellent local schools. Where they exist, the benefits are enormous. We must make great local schools the rule. To get there we need to:
- Complete the modernization of our buildings;
- Couple those investments with equally compelling programmatic improvements;
- Recognize that where children start school with the greatest disadvantages, they will need more from their school to have a chance at success; and
- Require DCPS to operate more efficiently and with greater accountability including in the effective use and deployment of resources.
Teacher evaluations based on test scores may figure into that effort, but cannot be the only measure. We cannot afford a system that relies solely on teaching to the test.
To build a successful system, we must also sort out how the local and charter school sectors fit together and complement each other. Charter schools can and should serve as incubators of innovation and housing specialty programs. However, the growth of charters in parts of the city has contributed to compromising the ability of local schools to succeed. And, while there are great charter schools, not nearly all are great. Drifting towards a charter takeover in parts of the city would be a mistake.
Why don't we set a goal that by 2022, the 50th anniversary of Home Rule, local schools will serve two-thirds of our children and charters one-third? We expect to see a 50% increase in our school age population over that period. The charter sector, therefore, need not shrink, but individual charter schools would need to demonstrate the value they add.
Setting such a goal would help guide our investment in local schools moving forward and end the downward spiral of closures and consolidations. It would also commit us to having great local schools in every neighborhood. Meeting this goal will also leave our children and families one of the largest set of school choices in America.
An important part of creating great schools in every neighborhood will be increasing parental and community engagement in the life of the schools. We must foster that engagement by showing our commitment as a city to the schools both by investing in them and emphasizing the role of local schools as community centers. We can and should leverage our capital investment in our schools by using them to meet community needs such as recreation, after school programs, adult education and, where appropriate in high schools, community health centers.
A big part of my work has been devoted to dramatically improving schools, leading efforts to modernize buildings and secure funding for school programs. My work has brought significant benefits to children and their families. I want to see such improvements throughout the city. The challenges in different communities will vary, but the lesson applies. With hard work and creativity, the city, working with parents and the community, can turn this oil tanker. On the Council, I will work to make that happen.
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