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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Community meeting tomorrow: DC School Closings and their Significance for the future of Public Education

From email:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
@ Woman's National Democratic Club
1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Washington DC 20036
Reserve online or telephone (202) 232-7363 ext. 3003

5:30-6:30 p.m. cash bar opens
Light supper available for $10 until 6:30 p.m.
6:30-8:30 p.m. Panel Discussion

Come and participate in this vital discussion of the pros and cons of the 15 DCPS school closings announced by DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson- reduced from her original list of 20 after successful protests by parent and community activists. These closings, mainly for schools in Wards 5,7, and 8 with 97% African-American students, are part of a trend of similar closings of public schools serving primarily poor and minority students in many US cities. They follow the closing of 23 other DCPS schools by Former Chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2008. What were the results of those closings and will the benefits outweigh the costs of closing these additional proposed neighborhood schools?

Our Distinguished Panelists:
Johnny Barnes, Esq., former head of ACLU-NCA, attorney leading legal challenges to the closings with Empower DC.
DC Councilmember David Catania, Chair of the new Education Committee of the Council.
Mary Levy, Esq., DC School budget analyst, co-author of recent report for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute providing data and questioning wisdom of proposed 2013 school closings.
Erin Martin, Frances-Stevens Education Center parent activist, a leader in saving that school from closure.
Trayon White, DC Board of Education member from Ward 8.

Moderator: Cathy Reilly, Executive Director of DC S.H.A.P.P.E. (Senior High Association of Parents, Principals and Educators)

Note that separately, others are starting to write about the point I began making a couple years ago (e.g., "Rethinking community planning around maintaining neighborhood civic assets and anchors"), that strong neighborhoods are anchored in large part by strong elementary schools.

See e.g., "Can bad schools be good for neighborhoods?," from the Fordham Institute and "The End of the Neighborhood School" by DC's own Martin Austermuhle in The Atlantic Cities.

Now, for a variety of reasons, DCPS has languished for decades, and keeping marginal schools open does a disservice to neighborhoods too.

But the issue is to make marginal schools successful.

That would require a different program from that which is driving "reform" in DC. The Rhee type narrative -- all children can learn it's just the teachers suck -- is flawed.

The thing is that people like Rhee laud programs like Harlem Children's Zone and KIPP and those programs do exactly what the traditional reform narrative doesn't address, which is to provide extranormal resources to the disadvantaged. Instead they put more focus on testing.

When people say "the kids are poor" people entranced by the Rhee narrative respond "you're saying children can't learn." No, we're saying we need more and different resources in order to address the impact of persistent poverty on children and families. (cf. "Your Company's Secret Change Agents" from the Harvard Business Review.

Of course school turnarounds for the most part fail, because they aren't addressing the root causes of failure, which yes can and are abetted by bad teaching (but you can also argue that bad teachers have been "reproduced" by the school system because of its resource and development failures, so is it the teacher's fault?).

Why wouldn't they fail? e.g., think of the argumentation in this book Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution and the difference between first order and second order change and the approach that is taken for "reform" of the schools. (Actually this is the kind of problem intertwined with most "reform" efforts, which is why for the most part, various "reform" efforts fail. It happens that I came across the book in my college bookstore more than 30 years ago...)

The way to change is to change the amount and type of resources and how they are employed and provided to the schools, teachers (and children and families) teaching the persistently low income cohort, like what Montogmery County Maryland does. See the book Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Montgomery County Public Schools for more on this aproach.

Then when you add into it the things I've been writing about in terms of neighborhood stabilization, that takes it to another, deeper dimension.

Basically, I propose a real war on poverty City Heights of San Diego + HCZ + Family Independence Program (see "Beating Poverty With Cash Incentives: A new way to help the poor become self-sufficient raises hackles at both ends of the political spectrum -- and questions about effectiveness" and "Can the Poor Help Themselves? Social Innovation from Boston" in Governing Magazine)) + health and wellness (entry called "Disruptive innovation once again).

Hopefully I'll get a chance to flesh this out sometime in the next few months.

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At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5-10 years down the road all of these hipsters that have descended on DC will want to send their kids to school and all of the school buildings will have benn converted into gyms and upscale loft style condos- it is short sighted to sell off or to convert all of our school buildings or to sell them off.


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