A high-achieving mother

Tough Love in the Washington Post Magazine chronicles a black single mother’s quest to get her two children a good education. Forced to move to a poor neighborhood, Sheila Hutton sent her children across town to a better elementary school.

. . . neither William nor Michelle ever attended another neighborhood school. Not the red-brick junior high they could see from their new front door, not the columned public high school mere minutes away. Instead they traveled across town and then across states — each bus ride or plane trip delivering them one stop closer to the goals and expectations their mother had set.

To special programs with more challenging academics. To opportunities that expanded their horizons literally and figuratively. Hutton kept pressing the system, weighing the trade-offs, scouting for opportunities and for those who might supply them. As a working-class single mom with few assets and fewer credentials, she felt she could do little else.

Both kids were graduated from high schools in New Hampshire, and are now in college.

As Gadfly points out, it shouldn’t be this hard for a mother to get her kids a decent education.

Successful students are using No Child Left Behind’s transfer provisions to escape chronically underperforming schools, the Post reports. Some want to limit transfers to low achievers, who presumably need more help. Not fair, writes D.C Education Blog.

Pardon me for editorializing, but DUH. NCLB is supposed to help any kid from an underperforming school get moved to a better classroom. I suspect the reason kids like Umaid Qureshi do well in underperforming schools is the same reason he’s now leaving it: his parents. It seems awful punitive to restrict the options of a parent of a child in a crappy school because they actually care about their child’s education.

The children of educationally ambitious parents might survive a bad school, but will do much better if they’re given more opportunities to learn.

About Joanne


  1. Just another reason for capable students to give deliberately wrong answers in standardized testing.

  2. Well, the school administrators of course want to transfer out the low achievers. It brings up their next test scores. For the same reason, they want to keep the high achievers. They want the reverse at the other end, and I’ll bet if they’re getting low achievers only, there are darn few openings.

    But then maybe I’m just being cynical.

  3. Kevin Murphy wrote:

    But then maybe I’m just being cynical.

    Maybe but you’re also commenting on what any reasonable person would see as an obvious truth: school administrators/principles are capable of acting in their own self-interest, even to the point of demonstrating a lack of regard for the children they are supposed to be educating.

  4. Richard Brandshaft says:

    And why can’t this woman get a job that allows her to live in a decent neighborhood? Obviously, she isn’t too dumb or too lazy.

    Perhaps multi-million-dollar-a-year CEOs and tenured economics professors can explain to us again why unemployment, low wages, and insecurity are good for us in the long run. If none of the above are reading this, I’m sure their knee-jerk conservative apologists will leap in to defend them.

  5. OK, can you NAME an economics professor who said unemployment, low wages, and insecurity are good? Please, I’d love to hear who it is, because that’s certainly news to me.

    My bet is the reason that this woman can’t find a decent neighborhood to live in is that she’s been priced out by sky-high real estate prices. Rent controls, hillside ordinances, and zoning laws all have costs. They constrict supply while demand increases. It’s these things that price people out of decent neighborhoods, and it’s government that’s doing it.

  6. Richard Brandshaft says:


    Of course, they don’t say, “I am in favor of low wages, insecurity, and unemployment.” They just tout the virtues of free trade, globalization, efficiency, and maximizing profits. (Conservatives don’t say they are in favor of involuntary pregnancies either. It’s just that all their policies somehow turn out as if they were.)

    “Free trade” and “globalization” means they average American should earn the same as the average Mexican — Not by improving the lot of the average Mexican.

    “Efficiency” and “maximizing profits” means suck the life force out of employees as fast as you can get away with it, and pay them as little as you can get away with.

    The fact is, the American worker had higher hourly wages in the era of big government, tariffs, and strong unions. (Exception: they couldn’t buy a lot of stuff that hadn’t been invented 30 years ago.)

  7. Richard – I’ve laid forth what is probable the exact reason that the woman in the story can’t find a home in a decent neighborhood, and you sidestep the point completely and recite the talking points against globalization and free trade.

    Do you honestly believe that government can constrict the housing market without affecting prices? Do you think that government fiat overrides the law of supply and demand? Probably, because as we all know, government actions can never, ever have unintended consequences because the centralized planners thought of everything that could ever, ever happen.

  8. Richard Brandshaft wrote:

    The fact is, the American worker had higher hourly wages in the era of big government, tariffs, and strong unions.

    Kinda makes you wonder why the Soviet Union fell since they had bigger government, more tariffs and stronger unions then the U.S. ever had.

    Oh yeah, now I remember. It’s a stupid system and the closer we get to the sort of system the Soviet Union had the stupider we become, and the poorer.


  1. Tough Love: A DC Mother’s Commitment to Education comes at a steep price

    Susan Levine: She sees the school for the first time on her daughter’s last day, and on a late June afternoon, with a crowd around, Sheila Hutton does not see much. The halls are locked and the classrooms disassembled. The…