Failing District of Columbia Public Schools

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Founded in 1885, the “District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)” is the indigenous school system of Washington D.C. The schools have operated for extended periods. The DCPS manages and governs the majority of schools across the city (DCPS, n.d). There is the categorization of these schools into different study levels. The management attempts to sustain elevated standards of performance in the schools. Parents and guardians fancy the public schools, even though there are superior learning facilities in the private institutions. It is remarkable that the schools present possess over 45,000 students, 4,000 teachers, 125 principals, 2,300 classroom support staff, and 1,000 community organizations (DCPS, n.d). The contemporary chancellor is Michelle Rhee. The enrolment has been waning in these institutions owing to diminishing performance, alongside other issues. The multiple management systems of the schools, possibly contribute to the waning accomplishments. As much as the DCPS indicates certain predicaments, this paper aims to identify the reasons for DCPS diminishing performance and suggest measures to counter the situations.

Causes of Failing

Failures observed at DCPS appear to start from diverse issues ranging from management to fiscal. The appalling state of school buildings emerged from inadequate backing, irresponsible administration, and failure to explain overheads utilization. Furthermore, governance also influenced these failures (Ashby, 2010). Initially, the segmented DCPS resources management occurred differently from the responsibility of schooling plans execution. This scenario augmented opportunities of failing to account for diverse implementations because of buck stops. This originated from the notion that no entity had superiority in bettering DCPS conditions (Ashby, 2010).

Apparently, the original instructional technique utilized before the schooling reforms contributed greatly to the diminishing performance. The instructional method that operated as the curriculum influenced delivery negatively (Paige & Witty, 2010). Furthermore, instructions were too autonomous and isolated; therefore, infusing fear into students. However, the practice of delivery methods would have resulted in high performance. Some instructors lacked full knowledge of their subject areas thus diminishing their effectiveness. Many instructors lacked motivation due to the poor conditions in the workplace. It is also plausible to say that, the observed disparities in the student’s performance emanated from trainers’ discriminations while coaching students (Paige & Witty, 2010).

The politics that encircled the DCPS performance also generated these drawbacks. Many leaders capitalized on the predicaments to push DCPS further down. The efforts to woo whites to register their children in these schools also attracted political connotations (Barras, 2010). These behaviors had a huge bearing on the leadership of DCPS since Chancellors’ never lasted in their positions. The skewed representation of youngsters in relation to body color in the schooling system also contributed to the unprecedented results.


DCPS failed to realize positive outcomes after years of curriculum introduction and implementation. This dictated a change in concentration thus addressing issues including instructional methods. Michelle Rhee initiated a goal-oriented system, which emphasized brilliant instructional methods in classrooms (Curtis, 2011). Attaining this goal required identifying essentials of workable instruction, establishing similar comprehension of the elements, initiating responsibility and maintenance mechanisms for attaining the elements. The development of the common frameworks, which guide teachers in implementing instructional methods, requires consideration. The “Teaching and Learning Framework” fulfills this aspect thus ensuring all instructors adhere to certain standards and rubrics, disregarding the grade taught (Curtis, 2011). It also appears that training and authorizing instructors can augment the performance of schools. The training of instructors on the diverse aspects of instructional delivery may enable better instructor planning towards teaching objectively.

Notably, changing the governance of DCPS would escalate students’ academic attainments (Ashby, 2010). It is plausible to comment that, since the arrival of Michelle Rhee, performance has significantly improved. Further, the DCPS required legislative changes, which eventually reformed the schooling system. The reforms, which greatly altered the organizational arrangement, have apparently generated benefits to the DCPS schools (Ashby, 2010). The system for rewarding instructors also needs to change and adopt motivational systems. This would pay instructors considering their contribution to ensuring student performance, accepting responsibilities, availing bonuses to staff who meet certain predetermined goals.

Apparently, it is important for non-educators to value the role of instructors. They should desist from criticizing instructors since deep-rooted predicaments exist in the schooling system, which needs attention. Reduction in instructor criticism may considerably motivate instructors to deliver their work objectively (Rhee, 2011). Additionally, restructuring the schooling system potentially would address the identified challenges. Perhaps, the restructuring occurs by transferring the workforce to other regions together with closing down dysfunctional schools.


DCPS’s large indigenous schooling system in Washington has a magnanimous student registration. The school has posted waning performance and dilapidating structures. Factors, which escalate failures, originate from disorganized governance, underfunding and irresponsible leadership. Further, these failures also emanate from improper instructional methods, which deliver low-quality training to students. Remedying these, circumstances necessitate restructuring governance, motivating instructors and rewarding hard work. Additionally, reducing politicizing of education matters would present attractive results.


Ashby, C. (2010). District of Columbia Public Schools: Important Steps Taken to Continue Reform Efforts, But Enhanced Planning Could Improve Implementation and Sustainability. Washington, WA: Diane Publishing.

Barras, J. (2010). Recruiting Diversity Michelle Rhee’s Campaign to Diversify DCPS Means Wooing White Parents. Washington City Paper.

Curtis, R. (2011). District of Columbia Public Schools: Defining Instructional Expectation and Aligning Accountability and Support. Washington, WA: The Aspen Institute.

DCPS. (n.d). Who We Are: A Broad Community Committed to a Greater Purpose. Web.

Paige, R. & Witty, E. (2010). The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing it is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of our Time. New York, NY: AMACOM Division American Management Association.

Rhee, M. (2011). Testimony of Michelle Rhee: Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, A Joint Meeting of the Senate and House Education Committees and the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12, School Aid. Student First Organization. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "Failing District of Columbia Public Schools." March 17, 2022.