Park View Resident Likes Her Children’s School Options

Photo by PoPville flickr user sophiagrrl

I was cc’d on this email from a resident to CM Jim Graham and I thought I’d share it because I don’t hear this perspective too often from parents with school age kids.

I am a relatively new transplant to DC and a new homeowner in Park View. When we moved here from Japan last year I chose, quite actively, to move into the city rather than into the suburbs of Northern Virginia or Maryland because I value urban living and because I feel that DC is in the process of being reinvigorated. I am investing in the future of the city by purchasing a home and positioning myself and my family as proud DC residents.

The only worrisome concern that I had was schooling for my two young children. Unlike most parents purchasing homes, however, I was not obsessed with it and allowed myself to not focus on it, knowing that something would work out for us when the time came. And it did. After looking closely at the public and public charter schools in my neighborhood, I was shocked to find that many of them were ideal for our current situation. We took part in the lottery, which was shockingly professional and responsive and easy to navigate. We also took part in a few PCS lotteries and my school-age son got a place in a school that we are extremely happy with. However, I felt very comfortable with all of the schools in our neighborhood and some of the principals and teachers impressed me greatly. I felt like there was a huge investment in my children and that there was a real head of steam pushing the new generation of school personnel forward.

Rewarding those who are so committed and recruiting other like them is a huge step toward making DC public schools competitive. Sadly, perhaps, but necessarily, removing personnel not as invested and excited about education is another part of that process. I can easily see a near future where the DC public school system, injected with new life and new accountability, makes moving into DC a desirable option for many who have previously chosen not to do so.

I am pleased with my new home and my new city and – yes – with my new school. If things keep moving in this direction, with planning and insight and with the guts to make hard decisions, then my investment in DC and in Park View will prove to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

Beth Rollins

I’m curious if any other parents with school age children echo this sentiment? If so please say what neighborhood you live in?

23 Comment

  • I have a toddler in Shaw, and have been following this closely. I don’t love the particular elementary that I’m districted to, but there ARE actually a surprising number of good, and even a few very good, options for elementary school through the public and charter school lotteries.

    But as of this moment, I wouldn’t send my kid to middle school in the city. Just my two cents.

  • We live in Columbia Heights and have been very happy with our childcare (Easter Seals) and elementary school (Bancroft). We applied through the out of boundary lottery for Bancroft for the bilingual component. But I have also been hearing great things about our neighborhood school, HD Cooke. I’m a little worried about middle schools as well, but there are several decent options in the city (both public and charter). Things have been steadily improving in the public schools, so who knows the situation in another 5-10 years.

    • What’s the bilingual component at Bancroft? Wife speaks Spanish (I pretend a little) and we’d like our son to keep it up.

      • Each class has two teachers – one English and one Spanish – the days are split into English and Spanish periods. In Kindergarten they paired up strong English speakers with strong Spanish speakers to work together. Homework is in Spanish at least 2 days a week. In pre-K they have an immersion class. Since so many of the kids are from Spanish-speaking homes, there is a lot of opportunity to use and speak Spanish. My daughter just finished 1st grade and while she is not bilingual yet, has a good Spanish vocabulary.

        There are quite a few bilingual (Spanish/English) programs in DC besides Bancroft: Oyster, Latin American Montessori Bilingual, Centro Nia/DC Bilingual, EW Stokes and a new school in Adams Morgan opening soon called Mundo Verde.

  • Parent of 3.5 yo on Capitol Hill with a daughter enrolled in Maury PS for the coming year. We’re actually quite excited, have heard great things about the school, and been completely impressed by the events we’ve attended.

    The only issue is that parents tend to drag their kids out around 3rd grade. We’re hoping that gets pushed back to 4th, then to 5th.

    Middle school is still super-problematic, but there is a strong effort underway by parents in Ward 6 elementary schools to “fix” the middle schools that some of the up-and-coming elementary schools feed into.

    Whether it succeeds or not remains to be seen, but there’s a huge amount of support, and a lot of parent involvement. As PP said, 10 is a long time in “gentrification years”.

    • The reason parents pull their kids out in 3rd grade is because that’s when many Lower Schools open for prep school like St Johns.

      I found parental involvement is no match for entrenched teachers who call some parents “yuppies” and “newcomers.”

      Thankfully after I left that school the worst offending teachers were fired.

  • The public charter school (PCS) that my son attends is near Petworth, and I will enroll my daughter there when she’s old enough. The PCS will eventually go to 8th grade — and perhaps beyond (there is a separate chartering process for high schools). At this point, I can honestly say that we are staying in the District for the quality of education that my kids have access to. I am really, really impressed with my specific PCS.

    When I bought my house in Petworth I was a bachelor, so schools weren’t really on the radar. If I were forced to send my kids to the in-district school, I would be assessing it warily and weighing the decision to move to the suburbs. (A friend’s kid is enrolled there, but I worry about the higher grades and beyond.) I would probably be gone.

    Some friends of mine would like to buy a house in the District, but they are looking to buy west of Rock Creek to have guaranteed access to Deal/Wilson. It’s going to cost them more money than I could afford to borrow.

    So thank goodness for the public charter schools! They’re open enrollment, so all DC residents have an equal chance to get in, and they provide the system with a lot of flexibility. Together, we are able to make it as a middle-class (or better-off) family here in the District.

  • Middle schools are problematic around the entire country. In my hometown completely monolithic hometown — 95% white, .2% below poverty, 85% of all kids living with both birth parents, 60% catholic — in the 1980s, middle schools were a disaster.

    And again and again, international testing shows that middle school is where American students start falling behind their foreign peers. It’s why many districts are chopping them up — moving 6th grade to separate schools, returning to junior highs for 7-9th grade — and all kinds of other things to try to change serious curriculum and social integration problems in those years.

    So the District is not alone in dealing with this issue.

  • My guess is that the middle schools will be the last to upgrade. In almost any school district in the country -good or bad, the middle schools become the dumping ground for teachers that are the least effective and who are the hardest to get rid of. Look for the hardest fight with teacher elimination to be with entrenched middle school teachers.

    I’ve been following the curricula of some of the “tech” HS schools in DC, and while I feel they are still unnecessarily wishy washy in some ways (making an adobe acrobat file is not a technical skill and excel is a tool, not a skill), I think they’re moving in the right direction.

  • Great post today, and thanks for all the educational comments!

  • Bancroft hasn’t updated their website in about ten years, literally. Not a great sign!

    • No, it’s a terrible sign of a school in real trouble. The real story of Bancroft is in the NCLB / DC-CAS test scores. The majority of their students are not reading at grade level. When I was in elementary school my mother claims in my 5th grade class every single student read at a minimum of a 6th grade level.

  • I have been very impressed by the quality of education my children are receiving in the District. They are both in charter schools that have excellent teachers–I am worried about high school, but as a PP mentioned, the school scene in DC is so dynamic that I am not going to freak out about something 10 years down the line.

  • Otis gal, Bancroft has new web address: – check it out.
    We are in Petworth, so Bancroft is out of bounds but our son goes there, has since Pre-K, this will be his fourth year. He is learning Spanish in the language immersion program (he is a native English speaker). He reads above his grade level and avidly, and can in two languages, though not as well in Spanish. He loves his school, though he has had some crap teachers, but he has had some that were great. There are some “old skool” mindsets still entrenched at Bancroft but that seems to be changing but you have got to keep an eye on some teachers. The school is banged up and old, but they are getting a new playground and the facilities get in better shape every year. I am not one of those freaked out “only the best of the best for my kid” kind of guys…so, so far, I dig the changes (and firings) that M. Rhee has brought on, and most of the time I think Bancroft is doing what I think a school should/can do. Check it out.

  • Great post – like to hear from real experience. But does anyone else feel a bit dismayed that something should be noteworthy for being “shockingly professional?”

    • Given the amount of villification you hear from folks who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about, no, it’s not something to be dismayed about.

      That “you cannot get a decent education in DC” is just something that “everyone knows”. Just as “everyone knows” the DMV is horrible (even though I’ve always found them to be shockingly professional–or at least incredibly fast and pain-free for 90% of my interactions), that DPW is terrible (even though the few times I’ve had to call them to clean up illegal dumping, they’ve come within days–once within *hours* of my call), and that the MPD is utterly worthless (even though I’ve found almost every officer I’ve dealt with shockingly professional).

      It’s shocking because it plays so far against the stereotype pushed by the suburban media (i.e. WaPo, Examiner, WTOP, etc…)

      • Agreed. The city has improve significantly in the 12+ years I’ve lived here.

        Of course, all of it will disappear when Gray wins…

      • Sorry, my point was that professionalism ought not to be “shocking” here or anywhere. One should never leave any encounter with any of our employees in any govt. or civil service job feeling lucky that it was “pain-free.” You should not ever feel exultant when a person simply did the job as he or she was supposed to do.

        DC has been stuck for so long because we have come to accept low standards as normal. Don’t be grateful for scraps.

        • Not sure if you’re intentionally missing the point, but the point is there’s a mismatch between the “conventional wisdom” regarding DC’s services (mostly from folks who live in the burbs, and have no recent direct experience) and what DC residents have come to expect–and get.

          DC’s services *have* been rising to meet the elevated standards of new residents. They’re now ahead of many of the suburbs.

      • um, believe what you read in the news and the DC-CAS scores because it’s more accurate than the PTA press releases.

        I have compared DC elementaries with those in Fairfax and Montgomery. Some of those schools are much more diverse (think Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Koreans and others barely represented in DCPS) and the kids do much more work every day.

        If the majority of the class is not testing above grade level then that’s by my definition not a decent education. I fought like hell to get my kids tested into special advanced programs in DCPS.

        Lots of dead wood got fired, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Mayor Barry’s girlfriends’ kids got teaching jobs.

  • At our in-boundary Petworth elementary school, reading and math proficiency is below 50%. If you look at the “west of the park” schools, test scores are in the 90s, and the rich parents raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for additional programs, teachers etc. Some of the nearby charters and public schools (I’m thinking Appletree and Bridges (preschool only), E.L. Haynes, Cap City, LAMB, Barnard, H.D. Cooke and others are worth considering – and you might actually stand a chance of getting in at lottery time. Capitol Hill has some rising schools as well.

    • My kids attend west of the park schools and his class was majority out of boundary. The parents in Ward 3 schools aren’t necessarily from Ward 3, we’re just dedicated to quality education and will pay whatever it takes short of private school to get it.

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