- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For pedestrians on Tuesday, it was a very inconvenient truth.

As D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced outside a Northwest elementary school that science test scores are on the rise citywide, passers-by were more concerned that the event blocked the sidewalk and created a hazard for pedestrians.

Mothers with strollers, commercial truck drivers and others on foot had to maneuver around the Fenty press conference, during which the officials announced that 39 percent of high school students, 34 percent of fifth-graders and 23 percent of eighth-graders ranked at the proficient or advanced level on the science and biology portion of D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exam.

The results reflect a modest rise of two percentage points by fifth-graders and five percentage points by eighth-graders compared with last year. All high schoolers weren’t tested in 2008, so comparative numbers are not available.

The news is good, but the location where it was announced — in the driveway of Ross Elementary School, near 17th and R streets Northwest — didn’t sit well with passers-by.

The mayor and Miss Rhee appeared unaware of the pedestrians’ frustration during the press event. They also appeared unconcerned about the parking signs, which clearly stated that parking was prohibited on school days and restricted on Tuesdays.

Miss Rhee’s driver pulled the black SUV into a space marked by a parking sign that said, “No parking anytime.” The SUV stayed in the illegal parking space for about an hour, idling the engine the entire time.

Mr. Fenty arrived at about noon, and the father of two fourth-graders said he was enraptured with resounding greetings from Ross students, who with school staff anxiously waited inside the school gates for the mayor’s arrival.

Mr. Fenty parked his black convertible Smart car into a space where a sign prohibited parking on Tuesday mornings for “street cleaning.”

Neither the mayor’s car nor the chancellor’s SUV was ticketed.

A D.C. public schools mother who lives in the Glover Park area of upper Northwest asked a reporter, “What’s all the commotion?” When she was told it was a mayoral press conference, she responded, “Oh, joy.”

Another mother, irritated that she had to push her baby into the street because of the cars, listened to Mr. Fenty speak for a minute or two, waited for street traffic to clear and then squeezed herself and the stroller between Miss Rhee’s vehicle and another car before rolling the stroller up onto the sidewalk.

Fourth-graders surrounded Mr. Fenty at the podium, and he directed them to turn their proud “bright, smiling faces” toward the TV cameras.

D.C. public school students are making important inroads toward boosting competitiveness in the ever-advancing fields of science and technology, Mr. Fenty and Miss Rhee said.

“Science, technology, engineering and math are fields with endless potential, and we are committed to ensuring that we’re doing everything possible to prepare our students for success,” Mr. Fenty said.

Miss Rhee said she is “encouraged by the steady improvement” and that “science teachers have gone the extra mile to stay up to date on new developments.”

Ross, a pre-K through fifth grade, and several schools in Ward 5, which includes much of Northeast Washington, were singled out for their advancements in science.

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