I did the opposite. While my friends entered their children in private schools and public charter schools, this fall I took my 6-year-old son, Nekkhakhi, out of private school and put him in a D.C.public school, Guno Rudolph Elementary.
Why? Because although public schools have their problems, I believe we shouldn't abandon them. A better plan would be for we parents to fight for what we want within the school system.
Public charter schools, and most private schools, are not part of a school system, and I like the accountability of a system. If something is not going well in a public school, parents can complain to the teacher, principal, school board member and on up the line to the mayor. The line is too short in private school, and who knows what the chain of command is for charter schools?
Also, D.C. Public Schools are working hard to improve standards. The Stanford 9 program instituted by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman tells no lies--students take grade-level tests at the beginning of the year and an advanced grade-level test at the end of the year. If the student has learned what he is supposed to during the year, it will show up in the testing. Ditto if he or she hasn't.
Admittedly, there are gaps, but there are also a lot of free programs that many parents do not take full advantage of. D.C. Public Schools offer after-school tutoring, counseling and special-interest courses in science, music and the arts. At my son's school, principal Thomas Jones has instituted teacher-based programs designed to enrich academics as well as attractive programs in Spanish, instrumental music, soccer and DC STARS, the after-school tutoring program. Its Student Improvement Program honors students who do well.
Special needs help is another feature of D.C. Public Schools. In addition to special education classrooms, the schools offer free testing and assessment for learning disabilities, something private schools either charge for or don't have.
While in private school, my son was skipped to second grade but had to return to first grade at Rudolph because he hadn't done second-grade work. Now he is at proper grade level and getting a good, solid education, backed by an educational system that has failed many students, yes, but has also had many successes. It's a system that I can call on the carpet if I need to.
I know that the D.C. Public Schools have a less-than-stellar reputation, but I have seen good people come out of them.
My oldest son, Naeem, attended Banneker and received a full five-year scholarship to Florida A&M. He graduates with honors in May. My daughter, Saahir, attended the School Without Walls and won a scholarship to Bethune Cookman; she is now working on a business degree at UDC.
In addition to my children, I graduated out of the D.C. Public Schools' Plummer, Nalle, Sousa, Taft and McKinley. I just received a masters from the University of Maryland, maintaining a 4.0. I cannot say the D.C. Public Schools are responsible, but I can say they were responsive.
--Paulette Rabia Rayford