• See Ya, Kaya: ‘Legacy of Progress’?

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    Published October 7, 2016 at 3:26 pm - No Comments Cross-Post from The Fight Back written by Pete Tucker This is the first in a three-part series on Kaya Henderson’s time atop DCPS. After six years a ...

    See Ya, Kaya: ‘Legacy of Progress’?
  • Understanding How Public Housing Is Funded… It’s Harder Than You’d Think

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    Published August 29, 2016 at 10:21 am - One Comment Emily McDonald is a graduate student in the sociology department of George Mason University. She has been a volunteer intern for Grassroots DC since M ...

    Understanding How Public Housing Is Funded…  It’s Harder Than You’d Think
  • Family and Friends of Incarcerated People’s Annual Community Event!

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    Published August 17, 2016 at 10:23 am - No Comments It’s that time of year again, folks! Family and Friends of Incarcerated People is holding their annual community event. Join us, this Saturday, ...

    Family and Friends of Incarcerated People’s Annual Community Event!
  • U.S. Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War… Who Knew?

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    Published August 9, 2016 at 10:55 am - No Comments What do the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Move Organization and Black Lives Matter have in ...

    U.S. Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War… Who Knew?
  • D.C. Council Passes Entrepreneurship Program for Returning Citizens… But It’s Not Funded

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    Published August 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm - No Comments According to the Department of Employment Services, just five years ago, the unemployment rate in Ward 7 hovered around 19 percent. In Ward 8, it was ...

    D.C. Council Passes Entrepreneurship Program for Returning Citizens… But It’s Not Funded
  • Not Enough Money for Low-Income DC Residents, But Tax Cut for Wealthy Unchanged

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    Published May 31, 2016 at 11:27 am - No Comments Cross-posted from Poverty & Policy Written by Kathryn Baer As you local readers probably know, the DC Council passed a budget for the upcoming fis ...

    Not Enough Money for Low-Income DC Residents, But Tax Cut for Wealthy Unchanged
  • No Shortage of Ideas for Better, More Affordable Child Care

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    Published May 9, 2016 at 10:51 am - No Comments The cost of un-subsidized child care is extraordinarily high, raising sometimes insurmountable barriers to low-income parents who want to work. The co ...

    No Shortage of Ideas for Better, More Affordable Child Care
  • Survival’s Price

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    Published May 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm - No Comments “...Afro-Americans have never had any kind of a chance to recover from the traumatic wounds of slavery…” Michele Wallace, The Culture War withi ...

    Survival’s Price
  • Changing the Rules on Graduation Requirements

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    Published March 31, 2016 at 2:51 pm - No Comments DC "State" Board of Education has proposed changing the rules for District of Columbia Graduates. Rather than taking all the courses required to get t ...

    Changing the Rules on Graduation Requirements
  • Taking Black History Seriously

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    Published February 27, 2016 at 1:34 pm - No Comments If Black history were taken seriously, the myth of Black inferiority, a foundational pillar of white supremacy, would be incapable of justifying itsel ...

    Taking Black History Seriously
  • From Civil Rights to Human Rights, Black Community Control Now!

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    Published February 6, 2016 at 7:45 pm - No Comments A United Nations Working Group preliminary report on human rights violations against Black America advocates Black community control of police. From Civil Rights to Human Rights, Black Community Control Now!

  • Placing DC’s Crime Wave in Context

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    Published January 19, 2016 at 6:41 am - 2 Comments This past summer, much media attention was given to what has been called a “surge” of violent crime in DC. Resident reactions to the violent crime ...

    Placing DC’s Crime Wave in Context
  • DC Council Votes to Lower the Legal Standard for new Family Shelters: “What’s wrong with us?”

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    Published November 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm - 5 Comments Cross-Posted from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Written by Patricia Mullahy Fugere Last week, the DC Council voted 9-4 against requirin ...

    DC Council Votes to Lower the Legal Standard for new Family Shelters: “What’s wrong with us?”
  • Supporting the Movement for Black Lives

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    Published August 29, 2015 at 1:56 pm - No Comments Posted on behalf of Black Lives Matter DMV These next 3 weeks are going to be very busy for the Movement for Black Lives here in DC. We get a lot of a ...

    Supporting the Movement for Black Lives

See Ya, Kaya: ‘Legacy of Progress’?

Cross-Post from The Fight Back
written by Pete Tucker

This is the first in a three-part series on Kaya Henderson’s time atop DCPS.

After six years as head of D.C. Public Schools, Kaya Henderson is calling it quits Friday.

According to the Washington Post, her biggest booster, Henderson is leaving behind a “legacy of progress.”

Not everyone agrees.

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Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee. Photo: Washington Post

Before ascending to chancellor, Henderson served three years as top deputy to her close friend, Michelle Rhee, known for mass teacher firings and school closings.

Henderson has continued in Rhee’s footsteps, albeit with less bombast.

Throughout the Rhee and Henderson years, the Post has played the role of lead-cheerleader (even collaborating on coverage). Now the Post wants the good times to continue.

Instead of conducting a search for the next chancellor, the Post’s Jay Mathews says D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser should just ask Henderson to name her replacement since “she knows better than anybody what the job is.”

But after nearly a decade atop DCPS, some don’t give the Rhee/Henderson team such high marks.

‘Haters’

Improving test scores has been central to Henderson and Rhee’s claims of turning DCPS around.

But when retired DCPS teacher Erich Martel dug into the data, he found the gains were largely due to D.C.’s rapid gentrification, which has pushed lower-income African American students out, while ushering in wealthier whites, who score higher on tests.

Associated Press reporter Ben Nuckols similarly noted, “The gains in test scores have… coincided with the city becoming wealthier and the white population increasing.”

“Literally, I just got to just let this out,” Henderson has said in response to such critiques, “Haters are going to hate.”

Cheating Scandal

Within a year of Rhee’s 2007 DCPS takeover, test scores started climbing, dramatically at some schools.

While the Post was busy touting the results, out-of-town news organizations questioned them. A 2011 USA Today investigation found a higher than average wrong-to-right erasure rate the prior three years at “more than half of D.C. schools.”

Erasure rate refers to the number of changed answers on a test and can be used to identify possible cheating.

“A high erasure rate alone is not evidence of impropriety,” Henderson said in response.

But some of the erasure rates were very, very high. At Noyes Education Campus, for example, USA Today found,

The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance.

After USA Today’s exposé, scores at Noyes dropped, according to data posted at Guy Brandenburg’s education blog.

“Real students may be fidgety and jumpy, but their scores on yearly high-stakes tests… do NOT jump around like this,” wrote Brandenburg, a retired DCPS teacher.

“Look at those scores,” wrote historian and education scholar Diane Ravitch, who served as assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush. “First the soar up, then they plummet down. Nothing suspicious there, right?”

Not for D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, who found no evidence of widespread cheating, despite only investigating one school, Noyes. The U.S. Education Department Inspector General, in a “tandem” investigation, came to a similar conclusion.

Meanwhile, DCPS failed to conduct its own investigation, even after an internal memo called for one, as PBS’s John Merrow reported at his blog.

“There have been no meaningful investigations of the evidence of widespread cheating,” civil rights attorney and D.C. budget expert Mary Levy wrote in response to the inspectors general’s findings.

“Among the top 10 DCPS erasure schools… scores plummeted at all but one by 2010,” noted Levy. “The bottom dropped out by chance at all those schools?”

Atlanta

Public schools in Atlanta experienced similar testing irregularities around the same time DCPS did. In Atlanta, however, superintendent Beverly Hall was unable to thwart an investigation.

“There’s one key difference between Atlanta and Washington,” wrote PBS’s Merrow, “the role played by the local newspapers.”

Unlike the Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution kept a spotlight on the issue.

The result? Dr. Hall and 34 educators were charged with racketeering.

The co-leader of Atlanta’s independent investigation, former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert Wilson, also followed the situation in D.C., concluding, “the big difference is that nobody in D.C. wanted to know the truth.”

‘Legacy of Progress’

As Henderson prepares to step down Friday, she does so amidst a wave of positive press, led by the Post.

“For a decade… Henderson has worked to turn around one of the nation’s most troubled school systems,” the Post reported Tuesday, pointing to “better test scores” under her watch.

The role that gentrification and cheating have played in achieving these “better test scores” is left unsaid.

Next up: See Ya, Kaya: Shortchanging At-risk Students

Understanding How Public Housing Is Funded… It’s Harder Than You’d Think

Housing_Testimony

Emily McDonald is a graduate student in the sociology department of George Mason University. She has been a volunteer intern for Grassroots DC since May 2016. THE FIGHT FOR PUBLIC HOUSING IN 2016 In my time with Grassroots DC, I was given the underestimated task of tracking DCHA’s budget from the founding of Potomac Gardens on Capitol Hill […] . . . → Read More: Understanding How Public Housing Is Funded… It’s Harder Than You’d Think

Family and Friends of Incarcerated People’s Annual Community Event!

FFOIP Fest Flyer (Text)

It’s that time of year again, folks! Family and Friends of Incarcerated People is holding their annual community event. Join us, this Saturday, August 20, 2016 at Oxon Run Park, 1st and S. Capital Streets SE. The fun starts at 1:00 PM. . . . → Read More: Family and Friends of Incarcerated People’s Annual Community Event!

U.S. Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War… Who Knew?

Jericho Flag

What do the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Move Organization and Black Lives Matter have in common? They have all been denounced and delegitimized by the corporate establishment and mainstream media. The Civil Rights and Revolutionary Struggles of the ‘60s and 70s challenged American racism, classism and sexism. They […] . . . → Read More: U.S. Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War… Who Knew?

D.C. Council Passes Entrepreneurship Program for Returning Citizens… But It’s Not Funded

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According to the Department of Employment Services, just five years ago, the unemployment rate in Ward 7 hovered around 19 percent. In Ward 8, it was routinely more than 20 percent. Today, the rates are 9.5 percent and 11.3 percent respectively. Ward 5, another area with stubbornly high unemployment has almost matched the overall unemployment […] . . . → Read More: D.C. Council Passes Entrepreneurship Program for Returning Citizens… But It’s Not Funded