A D.C. lawmaker is urging the city's public school system to create a middle school that admits students only through an application process.
Creating an application-only middle school and an application-only high school in Ward 7 or 8 could be one way to expand access to high-quality school options for students who live in those areas, D.C. Councilman David Catania, chairman of the Council's Education Committee, suggested at a council hearing.
The District already has several application high schools, including some of the city's top-performing schools -- like Benjamin Banneker Academic, School Without Walls and McKinley Technology high schools, where students consistently outperform the rest of the District on standardized tests.
|DCPS high schools that require applications|
|• Benjamin Banneker Academic High School (Ward 1)|
|• Duke Ellington School of the Arts (Ward 2)|
|• School Without Walls High School (Ward 2)|
|• McKinley Technology High School (Ward 5)|
|• Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School (Ward 5)|
But there are no such high schools in Wards 7 and 8, home to some of the District's lowest-performing schools, including nine of the 15 underperforming, underenrolled schools that DC Public Schools plans to close.
DCPS has no application-only middle schools.
"As I look at our communities in [Wards] 7 and 8, there is a morning diaspora where many families get up and take their children to schools west of the [Anacostia] River," Catania said. "I want to put on the table the idea of an application middle school for 7 and 8 and an application high school in 7 and 8 for those kids who don't have the ability to transport themselves to Hardy or to Deal or to any of the excellent middle schools that exist west of the river."
An application middle school could also help the District's traditional public schools attract parents who would otherwise turn to public charter or private schools, Catania said.
"It could certainly help to change the perception that a lot of charter school parents have ... that there aren't any competitive schools in D.C.," said DC School Reform Now Executive Director David Pickens. Though DCPS has at least three high-performing middle schools, there are more strong charter school options, he said.
An application high school east of the Anacostia could counter falling enrollment numbers at schools there and prevent the school system from having to close more Ward 7 and Ward 8 schools, said Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander.
However, she suggested DCPS create a science, technology, engineering and math-focused middle school before creating an application middle school. "Because we have a STEM-focused elementary school, [Beers Elementary], I would like that to go through middle and high school," she said.
DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz did not respond to questions about whether the school system has looked into Catania's suggestion.