- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

D.C. Superintendent Clifford B. Janey called for an overhaul of the city’s middle schools and new standards for all grade levels yesterday as part of his master education plan for the troubled school system.

The plan would require all elementary and middle schools to commit a set amount of classroom time to reading, math and science every day and would add additional community service and math requirements to the high school curriculum. It also includes new initiatives to create more specialty high schools, including a Latin school, and vocational schools for construction and hotel careers.

Some of the proposals for restructuring schools are similar to the city’s popular charter school movement, which has grown to serve nearly 20,000 students. Enrollment in the public schools has fallen by the about same number of students over the past 10 years to 59,000 students this year.

“We want to give them a run for their money,” Mr. Janey said. “Isn’t it supposed to be about competition? We think we can compete.”

This latest plan for reforming the D.C. schools would have “muscle behind it, unlike others before,” Mr. Janey said just before he presented it to the D.C. Board of Education.

The new initiatives and restructuring of some schools would cost about $82 million in 2007, with $42 million of that already included in next year’s budget, said Michelle Walker, the school system’s chief of strategic planning and policy. The cost would increase to more than $90 million for both 2008 and 2009. It’s not clear where the additional money would come from.

Middle schools are a particular concern because that age is when most students who leave the public school system choose to attend either charter or private schools, Mr. Janey said.

To reverse that trend, Mr. Janey called for a standard middle school configuration across the city instead of a mix of middle schools and junior high schools that serve grades seven through nine. That would mean most schools would be rearranged with elementary schools serving prekindergarten through fifth grade, middle schools for grades six through eight and high schools for grades nine through 12.

The current system is “just a setup for failure,” Mr. Janey said. “You’ll see a real effort to replace the hodgepodge of planning, which — to be blunt — I think has been the standard here.”

A few schools would be given the option of maintaining a prekindergarten through eighth-grade configuration for specialties such as dual-language immersion, arts, and science and technology programs.

“The intent of this plan is to fundamentally withstand the winds of change,” Mr. Janey said. “It’s bigger and broader than any one entity, and as such, it’s intended to last.”

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