Evie M. Washington, a former D.C. school board member who lives in the blighted Shaw area, has a daughter on scholarship at the exclusive Madeira School in McLean.
Her three older children went through the D.C. school system, and two of them are now in college, but she said she felt they weren't challenged enough.
"The public schools teach at too low a level," she said. "They don't expect enough from the children, and the smart ones get wasted."
The daughter at Madeira, Louise, has been in private school since third grade, when she enrolled in the Potomac School. She switched to Madeira in ninth grade and now is an 11th grader.
At the public school, Mrs. Washington said, her daughter always got very good grades. "Her grades dropped when she came to private school," she said, "but she was learning a lot more."
When Louise was in ninth grade at Madeira, Mrs. Washington said, she was doing the same algebra that her older sister Sherry was doing in 11th grade at Wilson High School.
"Louise would help Sherry do her work," she said.
Mrs. Washington is now an education specialist for the United Planning Organization. She said she dropped out of Armstrong High School and didn't get her own high school diploma until she took the exams for it two years ago. When she was on the school board (1969-73), she said she kept her own lack of a high school diploma a secret - "I didn't want anybody to know."
Before joining UPO in 1966, she held low-paying jobs in a laundry and as a dishwasher at the Chevy Chase Country club, and also worked as a secretary. She said she applied for welfare once but was turned down.
The main advantage of private school, she said, "is that they teach at a level that keeps you challenged, and that way you grow. In the public schools they don't think your children can do much."
She said that in grading, the private schools are "honest enough to give her what she earned. They tell you what they think about your work and don't just pass you through."