Middle schools are DCPS’ next big challenge

- The “looming challenge” for the D.C. public school system, according to the Post, is the high rate of attrition among students entering middle schools. A significant number of families pull their children out of the traditional school system to avoid sending their kids to DCPS middle schools, which are perceived to be substandard (WaPo, 2/18):

After the 2011-12 school year, 11 percent of the system’s fourth-graders did not continue on to fifth grade in a traditional D.C. public school, according to city data. From fifth grade to sixth grade — the city’s usual transition point from elementary to middle school — the system’s enrollment that same year plummeted by 24 percent.

Often, those leaving D.C. schools are those with the most educated and engaged parents, who worry that the city’s middle schools won’t prepare their children for the rigors of high school and beyond. They cite poor academic results, concerns about safety, discipline and culture, and a lack of course variety and extracurricular activities that students need to stay engaged and to prepare for high school.

- Greater Greater Education asks: More and more DC students are taking AP classes, but what are they getting from the experience? (GGE, 2/14)

- In a New York Times op-ed, two foundation leaders, including Kenneth Zimmerman of the Open Society Foundations, highlight positive changes in school discipline policies that have reduced the number of suspensions in California and Maryland schools (NY Times, 2/16):

Ultimately, full-scale change requires giving teachers the tools and resources to effectively manage their classrooms. It also means ensuring that students are not victims of the kind of stereotyping or racial bias that results in unfair punishments. As a nation, we need to embrace the reforms, both large and small, that keep students in school learning rather than out of school misbehaving.

DAILY | Today we’re announcing some changes to the Daily WRAG.

- The New York Times has a cool tool to measure how many more hours you would need to work (or debt you would need to take on) to get by on minimum wage in your state. (NY Times, 2/8)

- Intellectually disabled struggling to find work (WaPo, 2/17)

HEALTH CARE | Va. Senate panel proposes alternative to Medicaid expansion (WaPo, 2/17)

ENVIRONMENT | There’s a 443-foot long machine digging a 13-mile long tunnel beneath D.C. that will one day help deal with the wastewater that today runs into the Anacostia, Potomac, and Rock Creek. (WaPo, 2/15)

Here are some cool photos from the first 12 winter Olympics. The outfits were definitely different. The ski jump was just as terrifying.

And, hat tip to Philanthropy Fellow Sara Gallagher, who passed along this video – what a conference call would be like in real life.

- Rebekah

A slow news day in August edition

HEALTHCARE | The District has reached a settlement with D.C. Chartered Health Plan that will ultimately release the $56.5 million in payments due to local medical providers that serve patients on Medicaid. (WaPo, 8/22)

YOUTH | After the recent spate of murders of young people in Prince George’s County, parents, community leaders, and county officials are trying to figure out how to “impact young people so we don’t lose more lives.” (WaPo, 8/22)

- A Greater Greater Education contributor says DCPS’ test score data don’t necessarily back up the story that school officials are telling. (GGE, 8/21)

- DCPS is seriously slacking on meeting Title IX requirements, leaving girls with few opportunities to participate in sports. (CP, 8/22)

HOUSING | What Should D.C. Learn From Other Cities’ Inclusionary Zoning? (Not Much.) (CP, 8/20)

AGING | John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers In Aging, writes about the importance of investing in seniors for stronger communities. (CoF, 8/21)

NONPROFITS | September Is Boom Time for Donors, Google Says  (Chronicle, 8/21)

LOCAL | Well, if there was ever a day for me to end my boycott of hotdogs covered with chile today would be the day! (WaPo, 8/22)

Holy ****, stay out of the Potomac!


Data on America’s reliance on government benefits…Suspensions of young students in local schools criticized…Prince George’s to get help from HUD [News, 2/13.12]

According to data compiled by the New York Times, government benefits – including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – now account for an average of 17.6% of Americans’ personal income. That percentage has more than doubled over the last forty years.

The Times has created a detailed map of statistics about benefits. In our region, every county and the District receive a lower-than-average percentage of total benefits. For individual categories, our region is lower-than-average in all but two areas:

- Medicaid accounts for an average of 4.05% of personal income in the District, compared to 3.1% nationally.

- Prince George’s, Charles, and Prince William counties are slightly above the 0.4% average for veterans benefits.

There’s a lot to digest, so take a few minutes to interact with the map. The good news is that our region has remained below the average for the last four decades. (NYTimes, 2/11)

Related: Here are accompanying infographics about our country’s increasing reliance on the safety net. (NYTimes, 2/11)

EDUCATION | The Post takes a look at our region’s school districts and finds that more than 6,000 students from pre-kindergarten to grade 5 were suspended last year. Education advocates are critical of the disciplinary practice – which they say young children comprehend no differently than a snow day – and of many of the reasons for imposing it.

The Children’s Law Center’s Judith Sandalow says that suspensions for young children miss the point: “It is a sign they are experiencing something in their lives, and they should be helped.” (WaPo, 2/13)

HOUSING | Prince George’s County’s housing department is getting some help. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is dispatching specialists to help the county “do a better job of managing housing programs and other community revitalization efforts.” (WaPo, 2/13) Hopefully not this dud of a “specialist”!

- Here’s a recap of Mayor Gray’s One City Summit, which gave citizens an opportunity to vote on city priorities. (WaPo, 2/13)

- Obama Budget Includes Language on D.C. Budget Autonomy (DCist, 2/13)

IDENTITY | WAMU takes a look at the conversation around the terms “black” and “African American” as racial identifiers – and the complications that arise for groups like Black Latinos that are stuck having to identify (on paper) as one group or another. (WAMU, 2/13)

I didn’t catch much of the Grammy Awards last night, but I did see the Beach Boys reunion performance with Brian Wilson. It was awesome. But the best part was when the camera cut to Lady Gaga in the audience, who looked really uncomfortable trying to dance to real music.

Along the same lines, here’s a truly embarrassing commentary on pop culture today – the Twitterspehere’s reaction to Paul McCartney’s performance. Who?


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