Obama on DC schools

President Barack Obama said DC public schools were below the standards needed for his kids.  True. Definitely, his prerogative.  But as president of the United States speaking on a national/international stage, it seemed like a cheap shot.

You can’t compare an upper crust school, like Sidwell Friends, to a garden variety public school. Most public schools can not compete with facilities where  tuition costs $30,000 per kid.  The Obamas sent their kids to private schools in Chicago. They can afford to pay the tuition.  There are decent public schools in Washington, DC, Obama acknowledged.  A recent WPost article talks about it. I wish he would have made that point more clearly.

District of Columbia is an easy city to push around. Anyone can take shots and no one will question it – sort of like saying liberals are crazy or that Black men need to take care of their kids. DC was the murder capitol 15 years ago. Voters elected Marion Barry AFTER he was busted for smoking crack.  It’s disappointing to see Obama advance his Race for the Top reform agenda by reinforcing negative view about the City without giving this area credit IMPROVING local test scores before there was a Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee or Race to the Top. (Will update when I find the stats)

Obama should analyze recent elections as a potential canary in the coal mine. DC’s been a high profile lab for Obama’s educational reform agenda — but as a 2008 Atlantic Monthly article outlines, it has NOT been so  popular.  It’s been divisive and acrimonious highlighted by mass firings, student protests and a lot of anger. One troublng part of the DC story is teachers are bearing the brunt of all that is wrong.  Also, Rhee has dismissed poverty and violence from the education puzzle.  In the end, Adrian Fenty, Obama’s reform cheerleader was voted out.  It’s worthwhile to dig deeply into the implications. Forget what the Washington Post says about race.  It wasn’t just the Marion Barry crowd or locals not wanting reform.  It was  a repudiation of top down governance and liberal elitism.  Fenty (and Rhee) were unpopular among the working class and professionals, in part because of their education reform efforts  — even if it had Obama’s name attached to it.

At the national level, RTT is controversial. Some do not agree with  Race to the Top’s competition for dollars and others say it won’t work.  According to a recent study Race’s  pay for performance, a key RTT mandate, does not increase educational outcomes.  Also, some states have flat out rejected the administration’s approach namely VA, CA and Texas (suspect, i know).  There is certainly more to learn and according o this WPost blog,  it is important to challenge many underlying assumptions on how we got here.  But if the New York City teacher protest of ‘Waiting for Superman” is any indication, America’s in for a bumpy ride.

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3 Responses to Obama on DC schools

  1. roschelle says:

    great post convo girl. i didn’t see the interview. so, this is disheartening news to me and an easy target, like you said, for obama.

    i’m not at all pleased with his administration or it’s image. i can only hope he will start cleaning up the act real soon. catering to those who couldn’t care less whether he succeeds or fails, even at the cost of the entire nation, is a foolish strategy.

    • convo_girl says:

      Hmm where to start. I think the administration has good intentions but needs to be cautious about HOW policies are implemented. There is something about education reform that’s a little too corporate, top down and narrowly focused. Teachers can not do it all. Kids need services, like after school care, language services and sports/arts. I think we need to be supporting teachers a little more. I’m sick of hearing about the Harlem Children’s Zone. That school has tons and tons of money.

      I’m not against education reform. I just have some strong concerns. I will continue following this issue, though.

  2. convo_girl says:

    I reviewed the video again and edited my post.

    Any comparison with Sidwell Friends and public schools is troubling to me. But in reviewing the video again, I felt that I had overstated Obama’s comments and wanted to acknowledge that.

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