Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"ISO no-nonsense leadership for D.C. schools"

Greetings from Kansas City!

Washington Times op-ed writer Deborah Simmons puts a good, old-fashioned beat down on the DC School Board for the poor performance of the District's public schools, which she believes is due to the board's lack of leadership.
It's been 11 years since federal and local authorities began reconstructing the District of Columbia, which was as bereft of effective leadership in 1995 as it was financially bankrupt. But while the city's fiscal house has been in good order for several years, its public schooling mechanism is as dysfunctional now as it was in 1996, when a nonpartisan study, "Children in Crisis," concluded that the longer a student stays in D.C. Public Schools the worse off he is academically.

How and why this is still the case has more to do with political pimping than the socioeconomic standing of the majority-black student body. Indeed, prior to winning limited home rule from a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1973, D.C. leadership focused like laser beams on making sure that children received quality schooling. That was the case even during segregation. And afterward, when a track system opened doors to post-secondary education and pushed vocationally inclined students toward the trades, D.C. Public Schools effectively prepared graduates to enter college, the workforce or the military.

The downward spiral began when members of the D.C. Board of Education became less interested in families' academic and economic lots and more and more interested in their own political hides. Members of the board, who had to run for office, became classic politicians -- i.e. using the school board as a platform to City Hall. As their clout grew, the salaries of teachers and principals grew larger, affording the bulk of the teaching corps new homes in the suburbs. The unions exercised their newfound muscle by successfully demanding that City Hall hire more school employees. But while the workforce grew, rote and critical thinking were replaced with a teacher's classroom mantra, "I've got mine, you've got yours to get."

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