D.C. faces middle-school slump

As Washington D.C. gentrifies, more educated parents are sending their children to neighborhood elementary schools. But choosy parents aren’t choosing district-run middle schools, reports the Washington Post.

Ross Elementary in Dupont Circle has a long wait list for pre-k, but few fifth graders. Many D.C. charters start in fifth grade. Those who finish at Ross typically go to charters, private schools or the suburbs, reports the Post. “In the past three years, just one Ross fifth-grader out of 47 went on to attend the assigned public middle school, which many parents consider substandard.”

Among parents who send their children to a D.C. public school, 31 percent say they’d send a child to a DCPS middle school, 30 percent would seek a charter middle school and the rest say “they would look to private schools or leave the city.”

About Joanne


  1. PhillipMarlowe says:

    This comment from the article hits it on the head:
    2/18/2014 11:49 AM EST
    Good to see a WaPo article re parents’ reluctance to send their children to the DCPS middle schools (except Deal). It would have been much better if the article had explicitly focused on the real reason for the parents’ reluctance to send their children to the middle schools.

    No — it’s not that parents want a stronger curriculum. Nor is it that white parents do not want their children going to mostly-minority schools; minority parents are also opting out of their neighborhood middle schools — in NE and SE, the parents are mostly minority and they are not sending their children to the neighborhood middle schools.

    The main reason that the parents — white, black, brown, poor, middle-class, affluent — do not send their children to the neighborhood middle school is because they believe, correctly, that the middle school classes are chaotic with many low-achieving students, with minor but endemic misbehavior constantly disrupting instruction, and with the low-achieving/misbehaving students exerting strong anti-academic-achievement/pro-misbehavior peer pressure on students who might otherwise be trying academically and behaving appropriately. Talk to any DCPS middle school teacher or principal (off the record) and they will confirm these observations regarding conditions in most of the DCPS middle schools.

    We can disagree regarding the reasons for the low academic achievement, endemic misbehavior, and negative peer pressure, but there can be no serious disagreement regarding the existence of these conditions. The article should have focused on these deficiencies in the DCPS neighborhood middle schools rather than merely including a few oblique references to these deficiencies. And, the WaPo should challenge DCPS officials to address these deficiencies — do they admit the problems exist and what are they doing about these problems (other than allowing the concerned/functional parents to escape to the charters)?

  2. I agree that behavior/attitudes/aspirations are major repellants but so are academics. Top suburban schools offer two years of foreign language in MS, plus two years of social studies and science and various electives. Schools that lack these options will not appeal to upper-middle class, taxpaying parents, many of whom, given the cost of private schools, will move to the suburbs. I knew many of them.