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Sunday, June 6, 2010

DC Youth Speak On The Truth About School Reform � Alan W. King's Blog

DC Youth Speak On The Truth About School Reform � Alan W. King's Blog

DC Youth Speak On The Truth About School Reform

(PHOTO: Courtesy of
Six years ago, Richard Short’s older brother hit a road block in his education. The 15-year-old recalled his brother’s high school environment in DC as a violent one, where fights broke out in the halls almost every day and some students were caught carrying guns in their backpacks.
As a result, his brother lost focus and had to make a choice: either try to fit in with the rough crowd or drop out. “He chose to drop out,” Short told a crowd of more than 20 Thursday evening at a public action event. “My brother’s school failed him.”
That sentiment was echoed among his peers and education advocates who gathered on June 3 at All Souls Unitarian Church in Columbia Heights for “The Truth about School.”
The public action comes at a time when education reform is a hot button issue of the 2010 DC mayoral race. According to a fact sheet by Hands on DC, a nonprofit that improves the physical condition of schools, the average traditional public school building in the District is more than 60 years old.
Students, like Short’s brother, “who already face enormous challenges often have to learn in outdated and deteriorating buildings,” according to the factsheet. Repairing the District’s public school system could cost the city more than $2 billion.
Two major mayoral candidates, Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Council Chair Vince Gray, have been involved in school reform efforts. In addition to taking over the ailing DCPS, appointing a new Schools Chancellor and rolling out a five-week summer school program and tutoring initiative, the Fenty Administration unveiled the Master Facilities Plan (MFP) for DC public schools in 2008.

(PHOTO: John Healey) Youth engaged in Lifting Voices workshop.
Under the MFP, according to the September 2008 release, school improvements were organized into three categories: academic, support and systems. The nearly $600 million modernization plan, implemented through a two-phase approach, is considered a departure from previous school facility planning efforts.
The plan spun off of the work already completed, which included some schools receiving new science labs, new central air conditioning units and repaired heating systems, along with major plumbing repairs to restrooms and water fountains.
According to the release, six schools were outfitted for pre-kindergarten students, and more than 3,500 safety and health violations were fixed.
Fenty’s rival Gray also boasts a robust reform effort. According to Gray’s website, the council chair led efforts to expand pre-K by creating 2,000 new classroom slots for three and four-year olds over the next five years. The District is 75 percent closer to that goal, the council chair’s website states,