Do we need another selective DCPS high school?

February 13

A group of alumni and parents are proposing to turn Dunbar High School into a selective school. What’s behind this idea, and does it make sense?

Last month, the Post reported that the group had spent months discussing the idea of giving Dunbar greater autonomy, including the ability to select its students, and intend to put the proposal before DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Those in favor of the plan see it as a way of restoring the school to its former glory. Dunbar, the first public high school for black students, served the African-American elite during the era of segregation. Some students even moved to D.C. in order to attend.

The school had high academic standards, and many of its teachers held advanced degrees. Its alumni, six of whom have appeared on postage stamps, include leaders in law, medicine, science and government.

Two recent developments may have spurred the Dunbar group to action. One is the construction of a new $122-million building with plaques bearing the names of illustrious alumni — along with others left blank in hopes that future alumni will make their mark.

The other is the publication of a book, First Class, that traces Dunbar’s history and contrasts it with the school’s present struggles. Last year the school’s on-time graduation rate was about 60 percent, and only about 20 percent of students were proficient in reading and math on D.C.’s standardized tests.

The author, Alison Stewart — whose parents went to the school — admits in the book that Dunbar is now in many ways a typical high-poverty urban high school. But, she writes, the sight of what it had come to was “shocking given Dunbar’s rich history.”

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the board of the D.C. Scholars Public Charter School. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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Michael Larabee | February 12