Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ending Langdon Elementary School's Montessori program as an example of continued failure of DC Public Schools

I wrote in January, "DC Public Schools as permanent snafu," how DC Public Schools, allegedly because of the difficulty of hiring properly trained teachers, is ending the Montessori program at Langdon Elementary School in Ward 5. Montessori programs are an example of "positive deviance", of high-performing programs within otherwise lower performing schools.

Separately, the city government got a grant from a pro-charter school foundation and retained a charter school consulting organization--a double conflict of interest to be sure--to rate the city's public schools, and the report recommended as many as 38 traditional public schools be closed or restructured, even though neighborhood schools are the basic building blocks and anchors of stable and successful neighborhoods, which ought to be a primary goal of land use and agency planning. See "Many public schools in D.C.’s poorest area should be transformed or shut, study says; more charters recommended" from the Washington Post.

Recent reports on DC school enrollments in both traditional public schools and charter schools show continued declining enrollment in traditional public schools. See "Despite city's growth, D.C. school enrollment falls" from the Washington Times.

So why end a successful program like Montessori education at Ward 5's most successful public elementary school?

So far there has been no response from the media or City Council, the purported oversight body for the school system.
From Nakisha Winston, President, Langdon Home School Association:

(January 16th) Langdon Education Campus' Montessori program has been in existence in Ward 5 for over 40 years. That's right it started back in 1971 at John Burroughs. In 1988, it was the the only public school in the country to receive AMI certification. By 1991, the 20-year-old Montessori program had outgrown Burroughs so they were placed at Woodridge Elementary School.

At the time, it was the only public school in Washington with a Montessori program that extended through sixth grade. In 1997, the D.C. school administration decided to close Woodridge as well as several other schools in an effort to generate $20 million from the selling or leasing of them. Woodridge was sold to Friendship-Edison Charter School. Langdon Elementary absorbed Woodridge's 322 student Montessori program. It's our own home grown program. Neighborhood families are still active in the program. There are parents who were students in the Montessori program back when it was at Burroughs and now their children are students in the program.

The teachers are amazing. One of my child's teacher started in the program back when it was housed at Burroughs. My other child's teachers has been teaching longer than I've been alive. Our teachers have won numerous awards including the 2011-2012 Rubenstein Award recipient for Highly Effective Teaching and the 2012 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year Award (selected annually by a panel of education leaders through an extensive application process that includes a written application and essay, interviews and classroom observation).

On Thursday [January 13th], Primary Montessori parents received a letter indicating Langdon will no longer have primary Montessori next school year. They will offer traditional preschool, prekindergarten and kindergarten classes which means Montessori will be phased out until it no longer exists at Langdon. We need your help to protect the hidden gem of Ward 5!

(February 17th) I wanted to follow up with you on what has occured at Langdon. This matter is rather urgent. The Preschool, Pre-K, and Out-of-Boundary Lottery ends on Monday, Feb. 27. The Montessori program enrolls children generally only at age 3 so it's very important our Montessori program be able to recruit 3 year olds through the lottery before it ends.

Langdon parents commited to the first three year cycle cycle when we sign up for this program. If you look on the DCPS profile page for Capitol Hill Montessori it states "In order to receive the full benefit of the Montessori approach, students need to complete each three- to four-year cycle that they begin".

I can't understand why DCPS doesn't seem to care about Langdon children receiveing the full benefit of the Montessori approach? I have a 4 year old who will not be allowed to complete the cycle. Ms. Wright's response to our question about what happens to our kids was we could apply in the lottery (see attached). DCPS never accepts any responsibility for putting our children in this position. I've read about how DCPS is trying to expand Capitol Hill Montessori yet DCPS didn't even offer to place any of our children there. There is so little regard to how disruptive it would be to our children's education to be taken out of a Montessori environment.

We are the highest performing school in Ward 5. They should be putting resources into a program that works not destroying it. We are so determined to keep a Montessori program in our neighborhood school that parents have pledged $2,200 (That's a big deal considering we're a Title I school where 71% of the kids can't afford the $1.35 for lunch). Our next step is to try to get the media involved so we can get the public to hear our story in an effort to get people to donate money because DCPS claims they can't afford to help us.

Ward 6 has Tommy Wells who was able to get the Chancellor (Rhee at the time) to meet with the Capitol Hill parents about their concerns. DCPS even appointed them a liaison to work with parents. Ward 5 doesn't have a representative on the Council. We need everyone to stand up for us.

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