D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced a hefty investment of $6.2 million for programs in the District’s middle and high schools scheduled to begin in the 2017-2018 school year. She has promised to support more extracurricular activities including STEM and algebra courses, and to offer college and career support for 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students.
More extracurricular activities are also included in the plan for middle school students with the addition of coding clubs, lacrosse, wrestling, rugby, archery and hockey, as well as wheelchair track and field and unified basketball for students with disabilities, according to a press release.
“These investments will transform the middle and high school experience for students throughout DC and ensure that we are setting more students up for success,” Bowser said.
We hope so and we are anxiously but cautiously optimistic that additional money and special programs will make the kind of difference the mayor has promised: to “engage more students and keep them on track to succeed beyond high school.” Even more, we hope she sees a path towards closing the achievement gap between Black and white students enrolled in DCPS.
But the reality for those who are wholesale supporters of public schools may see this as an effort to address the declining enrollment of Black students who have left the public schools and opted to enroll in the vast number of charter schools scattered across the city. And maybe a means to try to hold on to the growing numbers of white students enrolled in DCPS, which has doubled over the last two decades, but who have demonstrated a historical pattern of leaving the public schools when they reach middle school.
The other factor to consider is that an overwhelming number of minority students still lack basic skills in reading and mathematics which will restrict their ability to take advantage of the new programs being offered. This news at this time may be immaterial to the progression of their success.
We fully appreciate the mayor’s intentions to improve the educational experience for D.C. public schools students. But there remains a dire need to ensure that the financial resources that are available are used to provide equitable opportunities for all students understanding that a great number of them still require more support and investment than others.