DCentric » Education http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Can Wireless Tablets Bridge The Digital and Education Divide? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/can-wireless-tablets-bridge-the-digital-and-education-divide/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/can-wireless-tablets-bridge-the-digital-and-education-divide/#comments Wed, 09 May 2012 19:38:25 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15944 Continue reading ]]>

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Teacher Bernadette DeSario works with students conducting historical research on wireless tablets.

Coolidge High School students sit in small groups as they prep for their Advanced Placement U.S. history exam. They’ll be expected to write essays on the materials they’ve learned.

“How or why did the anti-slavery movement become more radical during the period between 1815 and 1816?” teacher Bernadette DeSario asks the students during a class last week. ”We’re going to look at a couple of websites that will provide us with primary source documents.”

The students hunch over small, wireless tablets, swiping the screens as they read letters and other 19th century documents, looking for information to support their answers.

Coolidge doesn’t have many computers, principal Thelma Jarrett said. These students get to use tablets provided by Verizon Wireless, through a program running at four D.C. high schools. It’s intended to level the playing field for high school students in low-income schools, particularly as they get ready for college. The program includes tablets that students can use during class, and also a bus converted into a “learning lab,” stocked with tablets, printers and other devices. The bus, which visits the school once a week, is where students go to get help from Howard University tutors in writing college essays and applying to schools.

Coolidge is a Title 1 school, meaning a high percentage of its students come from low-income homes; 64 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunches. DeSario said many of her students don’t have access to technology, and that the using the tablets helps them develop good, online research skills.

“It’s putting them so far ahead,” she said. “When they get to college, they’re going to be expected to know how to use this technology.”

DeSario has seen increased class participation and better grades from some students after they starting using the tablets. “They’re so much more engaged,” she said.

Senior Lidya Abune said using the tablets has been useful, for both class work and in preparing for college.

“We can access research and we’re exposed to the technology,” she said. ”We didn’t have a lot of chances and opportunities to use the computers. And we have no Internet at home.”

That’s not uncommon in the District, which has a clear digital divide. Many people in low-income neighborhoods are not connected to high speed Internet.

Principal Jarrett said many students go to the library to use computers. She’d like to see the tablet program expand, which can pose an interesting alternative to standard computers. For one, they don’t require much space and they can be cheaper than desktops, she noted. The pilot program, which is at eight schools in D.C. and Maryland, is one that Verizon hopes to eventually expand.

Paying for college?

The Verizon Wireless program may provide some support in helping these students get into college. But there’s still the matter of how to pay for it. The cost of college has gone up dramatically — it’s tripled over the past three decades — and it’s increasingly becoming out-of-reach for the middle class, too.

Abune said she received help in fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and didn’t know a lot about the college application process. Her family “couldn’t afford it, but I really wanted to try and go to a good college.” She’ll be at Bucknell University in the fall on a full scholarship.

Others have applied to scholarships, but are prepared to take on student loan debt, such as senior Zenayda Berrios. She’ll be attending Bennett College, where tuition, room and board comes to about $24,000. The high cost isn’t deterring her from pursuing a degree in psychology, though.

Principal Jarrett said her approach is to not let the cost of college get in the way of students’ ambitions to attend.

“We encourage them to go for college, and then we’ll worry about paying for it,” she said.

She also noted that many students at the school qualify for federal Pell grants, given their income levels. But she acknowledged that many will have to turn to student loans, and “I know that is a last resort.”

Figuring out how to pay for post-secondary schooling will likely become a big issue in the District; a new D.C. measure requires all high school seniors to take a college entrance exam and apply to a college or trade school in order to graduate from high school.

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The Effect Of Youth Unemployment On Crime http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-effect-of-youth-unemployment-on-crime/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/the-effect-of-youth-unemployment-on-crime/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:44:39 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15784 Continue reading ]]>

puamelia / Flickr

Reducing unemployment among D.C.’s young people will help reduce crime, according to a new report by D.C. think tank Justice Policy Institute.

The group, whose mission is to lower the incarceration rate, found that neighborhoods with high crime rates also have high unemployment rates, particularly among young people. A previous report found a similar connection between boosting education levels and public safety.

D.C. has an unemployment disparity, in which joblessness is very low in wealthy neighborhoods, while low-income neighborhoods have Depression-era unemployment rates. The Justice Policy Institute report also showed how unemployment is chronically high in places with a lot of crime:

Courtesy of Justice Policy Institute

Youth workers, teachers and activists often point to jobs as a way to keep youth busy and out of trouble. The authors note that not having a job can lead “to feelings of worthlessness, futility and disenfranchisement.”

But preparing young people to get hired is another matter. Although there are quite a number of jobs in the District, more than half require a bachelor’s degree. From the report [PDF]:

For young people from economically depressed areas in D.C., developing survival skills such as avoiding violence, finding a meal, and staying out of trouble may have taken precedence over honing other marketable workforce skills more valuable to employers. As compared to their more advantaged peers who may have received more preparation from their family, school and overall community environment, youth from low-income areas of the District may need additional guidance to meet the expectations of the workplace.

The report includes some recommendations, including matching young people to programs in fields they’re interested in and getting employers to hire young people who have completed job programs, regardless of whether they have criminal records.

We’ve previously explored the impact of high unemployment and communities, finding that it contributes to a cycle of crime. Also, people with criminal records find it very difficult to get hired. About 10 percent of District residents have a criminal record.

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Report: Fixing Education Disparities Is a Public Safety Strategy http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/report-fixing-education-disparities-is-a-public-safety-strategy/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/report-fixing-education-disparities-is-a-public-safety-strategy/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2012 15:31:08 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14097 Continue reading ]]>

Chris Hondros / Getty/Newsmakers

Focusing on educational disparities in the District would help reduce crime, according to a report issued today by D.C. think tank Justice Policy Institute. According to the report, D.C.’s high school dropouts are more likely to have prison records. It went on to show that states that have increased the money they spend on higher education have also seen their violent crime rates decline.

The think tank, whose mission is to reduce the incarceration rate, recommends spending more money on parks, mentoring and schools and less money on courts and policing. They also recommend revising school policies to keep kids in school.

Researchers found the same stark disparities we’ve examined when it comes to education levels in D.C.’s wards; for instance, one-fifth of Ward 8 adults haven’t completed high school. But the report also breaks down formal education levels of D.C.’s adults by race. Nearly all white adults in D.C. — 99 percent of them — have a high school diploma or higher. For African Americans, 80 percent of adults have completed high school, while 57 percent of Hispanic adults have high school diplomas.

Education Levels by Race in D.C.
*Source: Justice Policy Institute

“At the same time that communities of color face the greatest barriers in education in Washington, D.C.,” the report’s authors write, “they are also disproportionately held in D.C.’s jails and under the supervision of the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services (DYRS).” More than 52 percent of D.C.’s black adults without high school diplomas have criminal records. Half of the juvenile offenders under DYRS supervision in 2011 were from predominately black Wards 7 and 8.

Why do students drop out? WAMU 88.5′s Kavitha Cardoza has been examining D.C.’s dropout crisis, reporting that “students don’t drop out of school for any one reason. It’s usually a complicated mix, including individual traits, home life as well as school and neighborhood characteristics.” The top reasons dropouts said they left school include: classes were not interesting; missing too many school days and being unable to catch up; spending time with people who were not interested in school; having too much freedom and not enough rules in their lives; and failing in school.


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Five Facts About Race, Class and D.C. Students http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/five-facts-about-race-class-and-d-c-students/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/five-facts-about-race-class-and-d-c-students/#comments Tue, 31 Jan 2012 13:00:30 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13686 Continue reading ]]>

Paul J. Richards / Getty Images

Thomson Elementary School students listen during class. D.C.'s school-aged population doesn't exactly mirror its general population.

The D.C. school-aged population doesn’t necessarily reflect the changing demographics of the city. Here are five facts about race, class and D.C. students from a new study commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and conducted by nonprofit IFF:

The school-aged population is disproportionately black.

Although nearly half of D.C. residents are black, about 70 percent of school-aged children are black.

The Hispanic student population comes close to reflecting the larger Hispanic population.

While a little more than 9 percent of D.C. residents are Hispanic, about 11 percent of school-aged children are Hispanic.

Whites are more likely to opt out of public schools.

The District’s white population has grown in recent decades, but its school-aged population hasn’t kept pace. While about 35 percent of D.C. residents are white, only 14 percent of D.C. school-aged children are white. The study also noted that whites are more likely than their black peers to opt out of public education in favor of private schools; 9 percent of DCPS students are white.

Students are disproportionately poor.

A DCPS or charter student is more likely to be living in poverty than the average District resident. About two-thirds of DCPS and 75 percent of charter school students receive free or reduced lunches; to qualify, a family of four has to make $41,348 or less a year. Only about 30 percent of D.C. households fall into the same income category.

Well-performing schools are found everywhere.

There’s a higher concentration of top performing schools in wealthier parts of town west of Rock Creek Park, but such schools also exist in low-income communities, according to the study.

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Examining D.C.’s Dropout Crisis http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/examining-d-c-s-drop-out-crisis/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/examining-d-c-s-drop-out-crisis/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2012 17:26:04 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13592 Continue reading ]]>

Rosa Say / Flickr

One reason why some parts of D.C. have such high jobless rates is that many of the unemployed lack the skills and credentials to qualify for D.C.’s jobs. While most available jobs require a bachelor’s degree, 21 percent of people living in Ward 8 haven’t even completed high school.

Dropping out of high school has far-reaching effects on one’s life, family and community. WAMU 88.5′s Kavitha Cardoza reports on why people leave school in her examination of D.C.’s dropout crisis. In her first installment, she profiles a family with a history of dropping out:

The causes and consequences of dropping out are often intertwined. Low-income students are more likely to drop out, which means they can’t get jobs that pay well and continue lives of poverty.

Four generations of Walker’s and McMillan’s family haven’t graduated from high school. They have many of the risk factors for dropping out, including learning disabilities, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse. And it’s not clear whether or how the cycle could be broken.

The story, which you can read here, is the first of a nine-part series.

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Unemployment Rates By College Majors http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/unemployment-rates-by-college-majors/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/unemployment-rates-by-college-majors/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:38:39 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13164 Continue reading ]]>

Kris Connor / Getty Images

Students wave to video cameras during the 2010 George Washington University commencement on the National Mall.

Your chances of getting a job depend greatly on your major. A Georgetown University study released Wednesday shows that unemployment rates among college graduates are highest for those who majored in architecture, arts and the liberal arts.

Some want to address D.C.’s high unemployment by getting more District youth to go to college; unemployment is 26 percent in Ward 8, where half of adults stopped their schooling at high school. That’s the impetus behind a new D.C. proposal requiring all District high school students to take a college admission exam. But these unemployment figures show that simply getting a college degree won’t be enough to prevent you from being unemployed. There’s also a racial disparity: young black college graduates face double the unemployment rate than white college graduates.

Here are the recent college graduates with the highest unemployment rates:

  1. Architecture: 13.9%
  2. Arts: 11.1%
  3. Humanities and liberal arts: 9.4%
  4. Social science: 8.9%
  5. Recreation: 8.3%
  6. Computers and mathematics: 8.2%
  7. Law and public policy: 8.1%
  8. Life and physical science: 7.7%
  9. Engineering: 7.5%
  10. Business: 7.4%
  11. Communications and journalism: 7.3%
  12. Psychology and social work: 7.3%
  13. Agriculture and natural resources: 7%
  14. Health: 5.4%
  15. Education: 5.4%
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‘If I Was A Poor Black Kid:’ Not That Simple http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/if-i-was-a-poor-black-kid-not-that-simple/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/if-i-was-a-poor-black-kid-not-that-simple/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2011 13:00:59 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12943 Continue reading ]]>

Screenshot of Forbes.com

“If I was a poor black kid,” technology writer Gene Marks writes on Forbes’ website, “I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible.”

So goes the line of thinking in a post entitled “If I Was A Poor Black Kid,” an attempt at helping solve poverty among low-income, black children. Marks writes that what’s most lacking is personal motivation, since opportunities do exist for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as scholarships and free or low-cost technological tools. Marks uses Philadelphia as an example and writes that inequality isn’t the nation’s biggest problem, “it’s ignorance:”

So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them.  Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home.  Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it.  Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids.  Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.

Technology can help these kids.  But only if the kids want to be helped.  Yes, there is much inequality.  But the opportunity is still there in this country for those that are smart enough to go for it.

Personal motivation will always play a role in individual success. But assuming that children need to simply be “smart enough” to go after available opportunities glosses over a complicated picture. Children don’t operate independently of the environment or adults around them.

Although Marks points out tools that would be useful to any kid, most of them have to do with having Internet access. He writes that the few teachers he knows tells him “that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and Internet service nowadays.” But that’s simply not the case; in D.C., where nearly the entire city is wired for high-speed Internet, very few residents in low-income communities are connected, an Investigative Reporting Workshop study found. The suggestion to Skype with friends about homework or watch a TED educational video isn’t feasible if you’re using dial-up.

D.C. does have opportunities for children in need, such as scholarships. The city also has a lottery system for children to get into well-performing schools. But there aren’t enough scholarships for all children and not every child will be placed into the school of their choosing. Increasing awareness of available resources is helpful, but it alone can’t solve widespread poverty. If it were that simple, “smart black kids everywhere would be bursting down the doors of this nation’s most elite universities,” Edward James writes on Black Youth Project.

Reducing poverty is a complex endeavor. D.C., like many other cities, is home to food deserts where access to affordable healthy food is limited. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 13 percent of D.C. households suffer from hunger [PDF]. Children who don’t eat nutritious meals have trouble focusing in school. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, as a child, is sure hard to do if you’re doing it on an empty stomach.

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Five Takeaways from ‘Division of Labor’ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/five-takeaways-from-division-of-labor/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/five-takeaways-from-division-of-labor/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2011 20:21:38 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12882 Continue reading ]]> D.C.’s job market attracts people from around the country, yet sections of D.C. are facing Depression-era unemployment rates. DCentric examined the causes of the jobless disparity in a series of stories last week. If you missed “Division of Labor,” check out this breakdown of our five main takeaways:

The District is home to stark disparities.

The numbers speak for themselves: unemployment is almost 3 percent in Ward 3, and more than 26 percent in Ward 8; more than half of Ward 3 residents have post-bachelor’s degrees, while nearly half of Ward 8 residents only have high school diplomas.

Simply creating more jobs won’t be enough to reduce the disparity.

In D.C., the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough jobs. Many of the available jobs in the District are out of reach for those facing chronic unemployment because of the high qualifications they require.

Getting arrested creates a cycle of unemployment.

It’s much harder to get a job if you’ve been to prison, and that’s of particular pertinence in D.C., where one in 10 residents has a criminal record. A number of suggestions have been proposed to make it easier for former offenders to get hired, but the stigma of being a former felon is still difficult to overcome.

Evening out the divide may take decades, but some efforts can be made now.

The solution, some of you have noted, is improving education so D.C.’s young people will be able to compete for the professional jobs. But  improvements to education can take years to accomplish, and in the meantime, there are number of adults suffering from unemployment. D.C. agencies and nonprofit groups are focusing on helping adults in numerous ways, including offering job counseling, providing adult education oand specialized training programs. Although unemployment still remains high, these efforts provide valuable resources to the jobless.

People have hope.

Many of the unemployed interviewed for “Division of Labor” spoke with hope about their futures, despite documented disparities and dim prospects. Communities facing high unemployment are also home to motivated individuals, whether it’s the single mother going back to school to get her GED certificate or the teenager who’s preparing to go to college.

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Division of Labor: Bright Futures http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/division-of-labor-bright-futures/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/12/division-of-labor-bright-futures/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2011 11:00:53 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12817 Continue reading ]]>

Image: Carrie Moskal / WAMU

"Division of Labor" is DCentric's examination of D.C.'s unemployment disparity.

This week, DCentric has been exploring unemployment disparities in the nation’s capital. D.C.’s job market attracts professionals from around the country, yet unemployment rates are as high as 26 percent east of the Anacostia River.

The outlook can be grim for young people growing up in these communities, but high joblessness hasn’t stopped some from planning for a future in which they are professionals.

Charnice Cunningham, 21, grew up in Ward 5, where unemployment is 14.7 percent. One of her childhood friends is in junior college, another dropped out of high school and a third is in prison.

“Some people make it. Some people don’t,” she said.

Cunningham is one of those who “made it.” She’s a senior at American University where she studies psychology, with plans to be a teacher or school counselor.

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Charnice Cunningham, 21, on American University's campus. The psychology senior is from Ward 5, where unemployment is 14.7 percent.

She attributes much of her success to the support of her mother and attending the SEED School, a sixth through 12th-grade public charter boarding school in Ward 7. Students enter as sixth-graders and live on campus during the school week. The school’s mission is to get students to college, and that permeates the environment. Students meet with college counselors and make campus visits. University banners are plastered throughout the cafeteria’s walls. Each dorm room is named after a university. According to SEED, 94 percent of graduates go on to college.

Most SEED students come from Wards 5, 7 and 8, areas with D.C.’s highest unemployment rates. Being from neighborhoods where there is so much joblessness “can jade [students’] perspectives on what opportunities really exist for them,” said Keven Cotton, SEED’s director of external opportunities and internships. To combat this attitude, Cotton said, students should be exposed to new experiences through internships, field trips and study abroad programs.

Anscia Brown, 17, is a senior at SEED and from Ward 7. She said her family has always expected for to go to college.

SEED students each lunch in the school's cafeteria, decorated with college paraphernalia . The school's mission is to prepare students for college.

The majority of D.C.’s available jobs require higher education. Even though it’s easier to get a job with a college degree, the recession has made it difficult for everyone to find work. The unemployment rate for college-educated blacks and Latinos is higher than it is for whites.

“I have a plan, but the way the world is going today, I don’t know if it’s still going to be effective by the time I graduate,” Brown said.

Marcus Murphy, 18, is a SEED senior who wants to become a lawyer. But Murphy, who grew up in Ward 8, has a backup plan: helping run a trash collection business his late-grandfather started. “Do I want to do that, trash? No. But it’s a job, and it’s an option,” he said.

Read More:                                   

Explaining D.C.’s Unemployment Disparities

The Gap Between Skills and Jobs

Out of Prison, Out of Work

Immigration and D.C. Unemployment


Sticking around D.C. may offer these students better job opportunities than elsewhere given the District’s job market is one of the best in the country. But many of Cotton’s students don’t see a future for themselves in D.C.

“[Students] tend to focus on graduating and leaving D.C. It’s ironic because you have so many people who flock to D.C. because of the opportunities,” Cotton said.

Violent crime is high in many of these neighborhoods. For students, that can impact “their view of what’s expected of them, or even their chances of survival,” he said. “A lot of students, they feel D.C. for youth can be dangerous. If you can get out, that’s what you do.”

Then there are students who want to leave because they want to experience something different, Cotton added.

“I’ve been here for a very long time, and I think there’s more to the world than Washington, D.C.,” Murphy said.

Brown agreed. “There’s nothing wrong with D.C. I just want to explore the world.”

This post has been updated to reflect newly-released SEED statistics.

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Achievement Gap Wider By Income Than By Race http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/achievement-gap-wider-by-income-than-by-race/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/achievement-gap-wider-by-income-than-by-race/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2011 16:27:21 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12416 Continue reading ]]>

Tom Woodward / Flickr

The academic achievement gap between low income and wealthy students is nearly double the gap in achievement between white and black students, a new study finds.

Standford University professor Sean Reardon compared average standardized test performances of students at the bottom of the income ladder to those at the top, and found the gap in achievement was nearly double the difference between black and white students.

About 50 years ago, the gap between white and black students’ performances was nearly double the income achievement gap, reports EdSource Extra:

Abundant research has shown compellingly the high correlation between the income level of a student’s family and test scores. But Reardon’s report for the first time looks at the achievement gap between rich and poor children, how that gap compares to the achievement gap between black and white children, and how the gap has evolved over time…

According to Reardon, the reasons the income achievement gap has grown include the following:

  • The income gap between the richest and poorest families has grown over the past 40 years;
  • High income families invest more time and resources into promoting their children’s “cognitive development” than lower income families;
  • High income families increasingly “have greater socioeconomic and social resources that may benefit their children;”
  • Income inequality has led to more residential segregation by income level rather than race, which in turn means that high income children have access to higher quality schools and other resources.

The last point is particularly interesting given that income differences don’t fully account for neighborhood segregation; the average affluent African American or Hispanic lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average low income white. In D.C., some parents have argued that those in wealthier neighborhoods — which tend to be white — have had more sway and influence in getting their neighborhood schools to improve rather than be shut down, such as happened to Ward 5 middle schools.

Still, Reardon said that his findings show the income achievement gap isn’t “confounded by race;” over the years, the difference in academic achievement between poor and rich white students has only gotten larger.

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