Quote of the day: the lack of K-12 education planning in DC
(I realize I am a broken record on the value of planning, but usually, without robust planning for public services, you don't accomplish nearly as much as you do with planning. That being said, being flexible and able to respond to new opportunities and changes in material conditions--planning takes a long time and tends to be somewhat static in the face of opportunities--makes a big difference in terms of innovation, transformation, and return on investment.)
From "Before creating plan to improve D.C. middle schools, chancellor wants community input" in the Washington Post:
“Seven years into school reform, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask for a comprehensive plan that includes how we’re going to improve middle schools,” [DC City Councilman David Catania, chair of the committee on education] said. “Much of this appears as if it’s being made up as it goes along.”Did school reform improve DC Public Schools? No real plan or planning has been my sad complaint about the alleged school improvement effort for DC's public schools ("reform" just means "change" it doesn't necessarily mean "improvement").
There have been limited improvements in "test scores" of late, not that test scores are the best way to measure improvement, nor is a focus on preparing students for standardized tests the best way to educate them, unless your focus is preparing students for regimented jobs in the work force (see the arguments in the book Schooling in Capitalist America).
DCPS test scores were improving before Michelle Rhee became chancellor. During her tenure, there was a serious drop in achievement for African-American and Hispanic students. Now, reports of improvements are based on scores beginning to approach pre-Rhee levels ("D.C. posts significant gains on national test," and "Despite D.C. public school gains, system trails," Washington Post).
See "Has Mayoral Control of Schools in DC Succeeded or Failed? A 10-year Record of Data" and "Has Educational Rhee-form succeeded or failed in Washington DC Public Schools?" from Guy Brandenburg's blog (he is a retired DC teacher).
His conclusion is that reform has failed.
Charter schools. The charter schools are a different story. Some are good, some aren't. But they do provide parents and children with options, and even if they aren't better, they do populate a school with committed parents and students, and parents typically are allowed more involvement and are more involved.
But creating charter schools didn't necessarily create the right environment for improvement for the DCPS schools dealing with the most impoverished children.