- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Big doings in the District on Wednesday afternoon, when officials are scheduled to announce plans for the Gray administration’s Early Success Framework, a cradle-to-career initiative that, while perhaps well-intentioned, should be viewed with considerable skepticism and through a lens of benchmarks that measures the effectiveness of traditional public schooling.

Currently, the city stands on high ground for several reasons. Nationally recognized organizations such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Food Research and Action Center declared the city first in the nation for pre-\school enrollment, breakfast and summer feeding programs, and the implementation of common core standards. The school system’s grade- and course-specific science standards were similarly praised for their content, rigor, clarity and specificity.

Yet, when it comes to the No. 1 mission of classrooms — education — D.C. schools and their overseers leave too much to be desired.

Not only are students unable to reap gainful employment for the benefit of themselves and their families once they become adults, but test results released in 2011 show that the D.C. system may be leaving another generation behind.

According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 58 percent of eighth graders and 56 percent of fourth graders scored below basic in math.

Also, the city’s state-level tests show insignificant gains on the grade-school reading exam, leading D.C. State Superintendent for Education Hosanna Mahaley to say, “This is an area where we agree work is needed.”

Not to come off as a smart aleck, but we have been down this road before.

Many are the D.C. stakeholders who recall that in 1996 the then-much-maligned D.C. control board sounded this astonishing alarm amid little public outrage: “The longer students stay in the District’s public school system, the less likely they are to succeed educationally.”

Here we are, 16 years and hundreds of thousands of young lives later, and the city is in the same boat with a different paddle.

Sure, thank intervening mayors and lawmakers, school officials and human-kindness groups for helping the District earn tops-in-the-nation honors for feeding programs and nudging parents into enrolling their most-precious assets in public baby-sitting programs.

My skepticism of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s motives is situated at the threshold of government’s insinuation into every aspect of an individual’s life.

I suspect Mr. Gray will prove on Wednesday that he is a good follower of President Obama, who, the year after taking office, outlined his plan to overhaul America’s education system “from the cradle up through a career.”

Look where that got us.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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