We were excited to be approached by at-large candidate David Garber, who wanted to share his thoughts on education in DC. With the upcoming lottery deadlines, his voice is a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion of education in the neighborhood and the city in general. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your voice, David! (MHC)
By David Garber
This fall, a poll conducted by Beneson Strategy Group asked voters across the District their feelings on how our schools are doing. Over the last three mayoral administrations, District leaders have been touting improved test scores and proclaiming that the achievement gap is closing. While it’s true that we’ve made a lot of positive progress, this poll shows that we all think we can –and must– do better.
For the past two years, I’ve been a substitute teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools. I’ve worked in over 30 schools across the District – in every ward, every feeder pattern, and every age, ability, and discipline level. This opportunity has allowed me to see firsthand the kind of educational environments and opportunities that exist across the District. As the polling suggests, 60% of voters give our schools either a “C,” “D,” or “F” grade, and 82% of voters believe that “we can’t afford to wait for better schools.” Though I know there are countless hardworking students, teachers, and administrators at every level, through my experience teaching, I could not agree with the above sentiment more.
Educating our young residents could not be more important. Every student we inspire and nurture is another child that could grow up and change the world. Every student we let down is less likely to reach her or his full potential as a self-sustaining resident of our city into adulthood. By those polar markers alone, it’s clear that investing in education is the single best investment we can make in the future of our city.
Some of the schools where I teach get it just right. When you have a strong principal, a good culture, inspiring curriculum, committed teachers, wraparound services, involved parents, and a supportive community, our students thrive. When anyone of these factors isn’t there, students suffer. No child chooses what neighborhood, family, or opportunity level they grow up in. As a result, no child should be given any less opportunity to succeed in our schools.
Our failure to effectively tackle this issue has led to a significant achievement gap where students from the wealthiest neighborhoods have more opportunities to learn and succeed, while students from the poorest neighborhoods fall behind. Addressing this isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science — we know what it takes to be successful, and part of that includes bringing opportunities and economies to parts of the city that so far have been left behind.
As a Councilmember, I will fight to ensure that school models that are doing an excellent job have the opportunity to educate more of our kids. I will work to give our principals more freedom so that are not held back from building the best schools they can build. I will invest more resources in wraparound services and afterschool programming to ensure that students are receiving the out-of-school support necessary to lead to in-school success. I will push to allow our teachers to spend less time focusing on testing, and more time engaging, inspiring, and teaching. As an At-Large member of the Council, I will also do better by the whole city to narrow the economic disparity across neighborhoods in the city, bringing opportunities where they haven’t been fostered to date, and making sure there is ample access, via investments in housing and transportation, to the places those opportunities exist now.
DC public schools are on a good path, but we can and must do so much better. This poll proves that significant change needs to be the focus of our government. Our city needs to be a place where everyone at every age and opportunity level has a chance to succeed. It’s time that we get this right. It’s time that we don’t let another generation down.
ABOUT DAVID GARBER
David Garber is a candidate for the 2016 Democrat nomination for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council. David began his involvement in local government as a community advocate in the Anacostia neighborhood, and later as a two-term ANC Commissioner for the rapidly-evolving Navy Yard neighborhood. He is a substitute teacher for District of Columbia Public Schools, where he has served in every ward, feeder pattern, age, ability, and discipline level across the city. He is committed to an agenda focused on ethical government, community-focused leadership, and inclusive, sustainable development that works for all District residents. Find him at www.DavidGarber.com, and follow him at Twitter.com/GarberDC and at Facebook.com/GarberDC.