Tuesday, January 27

DC TUESDAY

COUNCIL TO CONSIDER ELECTED ATTORNEY GENERAL

Michael Neibauer, DC Examiner - The D.C. Council will consider legislation making the District's attorney general an elected position, which if passed could be the first step toward seizing the job of criminal prosecutions away from the U.S. attorney. A measure offered by at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson calls for a partisan attorney general election as soon as 2010, so that the AG's four-year term coincides with that of the mayor. If the bill wins D.C. approval, Congress would still have to back it through federal legislation because it amends the District's Home Rule Charter. . . Norton said Monday she would soon reintroduce legislation to create a D.C. district attorney who is responsible for all prosecutions and is wholly independent from the government. She offered the same bill in 2007 and 2006.

INAUGURAL WOES MOUNT

Sarah Abruzzese, Politico - Rep. Jim McDermott's brother had a ticket but never got through the gates. Sen. Lamar Alexander's chief legislative counsel was stranded - with a lot of other people - in a tunnel just off the Mall. Staffers for Sen. John Barrasso fell victim to the now-legendary purple gate.

And a constituent of Sen. Amy Klobuchar - a man who wanted to be here so badly that he sold his snowmobile to come - never got in, even though he had a ticket in his hand. . .

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said at least 40 people bearing his tickets - including members of his staff - weren't allowed into the ceremony. . .

A large number of people who purchased tickets to official balls through Ticketmaster arrived at the Convention Center on Tuesday night expecting to pick them up at a will call window. But there was no Ticketmaster will call window at the Convention Center - and, given the security perimeter around the building, it's not clear that would-be partygoers could have gotten to one if there were. . .

DC CLIPS

Stand Up for Democracy -
On the eve of a congressional hearing on a bill to provide the District of Columbia a single vote in the House of Representatives, the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition called on DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to withdraw the bill and instead introduce legislation to make the District the 51st U.S. State. "The inauguration of President Obama provides a historic opportunity for change. What better time to change the District of Columbia's status from colony to full membership in America's family of states?"�said Stand Up! President Anise Jenkins. "I am taking President Obama at his word. He personally assured me that he 'definitely supports D.C statehood' last January 2008 at the rally at American University. The time to achieve full citizenship for District citizens is now."Jenkins said that a single vote in the House would fall far short of the full democratic rights that statehood would bring.

DC Statehood Green Party - William Thomas (known to most as Thomas) passed away this morning. Thomas spent the last 27 years in front of the White House, in Lafayette Park, protesting the inhumane policies of the US, especially the US nuclear policies exemplified by the US dropping nuclear bombs on the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thomas is survived by his wife, Ellen Thomas, who resides at the Peace House. Connie still maintains a presence of conscience in Lafayette Park against US nuclear policies.


Dorothy Brizill - The next time we have a major event, like an inauguration, that will attract a large crowd, the government shouldn't try to handle it itself, led by agencies like the Secret Service. It should go to a company that knows how to manage large crowds of people, how to distribute tickets efficiently, how to keep people happy and entertained in long lines and move those lines quickly, and how to provide effective security unobtrusively, without inconveniencing people. . . Next time, subcontract the inauguration to Disney."

WUSA - DC Superior Court held its first Fathering Court graduation. This new program is aimed at helping men and women re-enter the community after spending time in prison. Thirty one classmates are currently in the program. The target of the Fathering court is to find full time employment for the individuals and fortify them with needed parenting and real world skills. Organizers say there is no charge for the Fathering Court, but participants are expected to return to provide assistance and good examples to new program members.

READER COMMENTS

WHERE DID ALL THE CHARTER STUDENTS GO?

My experience looking at charter school stats in another state/city suggests that the best charter schools (most stable, those lacking a crisis or turnover in leadership, etc.) have a retention rate of only about 75% to 80% from one year to the next and that this "leakage" is generally made up in additional enrollment of new students. Additionally, there generally is a two to three year period in which charter schools grow, meaning that the school will generally add more classes, increasing the size of younger classes. The incomplete evidence that exists now suggests that some percentage of students will leave the school early. This could be because of creaming, but it could just as likely be because the school is deemed inadequate by the parent for a whole host of reasons.

I would think that new charter high schools are even problematic than new elementary schools, given the difficulties of starting a new school with new staff, a new school culture, and a new student body of varying levels of educational abilities and experiences.

The population of charter schools are much like the population of trade schools. Scamming is not unusual; but there are a number of honest players. Who knows what the handsomely printed stats mean? Maya Angelou, Shaw Campus, to take an example, reports a "Graduation Rate" of 78.26, compared to a target of 66.23%. Exquisite precision, isn't it? Who knows how many of the graduates were allowed to phone it in, how much is made up, whole cloth. And what it will take to have sufficient numbers of people care.

As for your speculation of transfers back to DCPS: Because of unique student identifiers, [the Office of the State Superintendent of Education] can track this. Again: "Who cares?" By which I mean the question sincerely, not as a disparagement of concern. WTU members have been encouraged to engage in collective system-wide surveilance. They are unwilling to do so; the accuracy and bias of OSSE statistical reports cannot be checked; and so the prevalence of the transfer back to DCPS from charter schools is unknown.

Recognize every parent's first concern. As long as the child is perceived to be much safer in the charter than in the DCPS alternative, the charter is doing plenty. Can you blame them? Nor is this unknown in DCPS. Do you doubt that schools in Ward 3 have long been sought by out-of-boundary parents as much for their safety, including before and after school, as for superior teaching? - incedulous

This is an old issue. The latest annual report on charter schools, published by the charter school board are over two months old. If schools as troubled as City Lights can remain open, would a lack of integrity in the data on student participation in other schools surprise anyone?

As long as there is a perception by parents that charter schools are safer for their children than DCPS will assign them to, and as last summer, contrary to expectations, many will enroll their children in schools perceived to be much safer.

Talk to 5th graders in DCPS schools at this time. Ask them about their own perceptions of danger or safety in middle school that awaits them next year. Then ask them which DCPS middle schools they would be attending if they stayed within DCPS and whether a charter school is in their future. - Harry Travis

If you ever want to get the charters huffy with you over the phone call and ask them what percentage of their 9th grade ultimately graduates from their school! The numbers are stunning and depressing. SEED starts out with a 7th grade of well over 100. They on average they graduate 12-17. This is the dirty secret that no one will cover in this town. Oh and most of the time, the charters refuse to accept any students past 10th grade. If you suggest looking into it by the PCSB, they say, well the student exercised his "choice" or it didn't work out or some other lame excuse.

Add to that the kids who are "counseled out" (this is KIPP's term, not mine) or the kids and parents who are convinced to leave for not following the parental or student responsibility contract that they are forced to sign or the special needs kids who are accepted and then turned out when all of a sudden the charter school can't meet their needs.

And yes, the students wind up back into the only system that has to take all comers: DCPS. With no money, a student who is well behind and has to be tested, we are never, ever going to see any improvement in DCPS.

After 12 years of charter school experimentation, with kids who have now spent their entire school careers in charters why are our scores still so bad? I wish someone, someday look into this. Save Our Schools got blasted and basically run out of town as cranks just because we were suggesting that someone take a rational, objective look at charters. We never had the resources or the access to take on the charters and their lobby. It is such a shame, and one of my great regrets. - Gina Arlotto, DCPS parent Co-founder, Save Our Schools

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