What Ails the Washington DC Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Problems that Face Washington DC Schools
District of Columbia Public schools are faced with increasingly serious challenges.  The 55,000 student system is plagued by gaping disparities between schools that serve the affluent, and those that serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods.  And that’s just the beginning.  Education officials and concerned Washington DC citizens have identified numerous shortfalls in the system which threaten to polarize schools and students based on their social status.  Those Washington DC schools that are located in the more affluent neighborhoods have exceptional rankings for students based on proficiency in math or reading.  And many of these schools have one thing in common – the student body is predominantly white.  Enrollment at these schools is high, and there is never a shortage of parents queuing up to get their children into these Washington DC schools.  Student and teacher motivation levels are elevated and schools that need to fund a new program, in many instances, rely on the parents to make contributions. 
 
Compare this to Washington DC schools in less affluent neighborhoods.  Chances are these areas are rife with drug use and crime, and many of these schools face immense problems retaining students.  In some of these Washington DC schools, the statistics are grim.  In one instance, students attaining proficiency levels in math were as low as 5%.  When additional funding is required, there isn’t any forthcoming from the state, and parents are often not in a position to fork out extra cash.  In such cases, these Washington DC schools turn to a church or other voluntary organizations to make a donation. 
 
Safety Issues Washington DC Schools
Another major issue concerning Washington DC schools that has citizen watchdog forums rattled is the poor condition of many of the schools in the district. Many of the 167 public schools that fall in this district are in various forms of disrepair. Some of these problems are acute like the huge number of fire safety code violations reported from Washington DC schools – at least 6000 were reported in one study.  From broken toilets and moldy tiles to the more famous instances of mercury spillage at one Washington DC school, the capital’s schools are beginning to show the signs of  neglect. 
 
The effects of these chronic maintenance problems in Washington DC schools are not hard to fathom.  It’s difficult for students to be motivated or aim higher when they are surrounded by signs of neglect. A school in a run down condition is sending its children just one resounding message – you don’t deserve a better school.  DC education authorities need to wake up and address the situation to ensure that these poor conditions do not become a symptom of a greater malaise in the system.

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