Thursday, June 27, 2013

northeast consortium an example of school choice gone wrong

Second in a series on segregation and academic equity in MCPS. Check out part ONE | part THREE | part FOUR

Each fall, thousands of 8th graders in Montgomery County participate in Maryland's oldest experiment in school choice, the Northeast and Downcounty consortia. Intended to prevent the school system's growing segregation, the consortia's 8 schools are not only more isolated than before, but academic performance has suffered.

NEC + Sherwood SAT
SAT scores have fallen at the Northeast Consortium high schools, while remaining steady at neighboring Sherwood and in MCPS as a whole.

Since the 1970's, MCPS has struggled to close the "achievement gap" between white and minority students and create more integrated schools. While officials had some success with magnet schools, in the 1990's, they sought a new approach with James Hubert Blake High School, which was being built near Olney.

Instead of redrawing the catchment boundaries, a long and controversial process, the Board of Education decided to let students integrate themselves by letting them choose among the new school and 3 nearby schools, Sherwood, Paint Branch and Springbrook. In 1998, the US Department of Education gave MCPS a $2.9 million grant to set up the Northeast Consortium.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

seven years!

Even More Like A Big City, 2012

This day in 2006, I missed the bus to work and decided to start writing about it. Over 1600 posts, nearly 6200 comments, and 1.2 million page views later, JUTP is still going strong.

Over the past 7 years, we've talked about everything from affordable housing to meeting Hanson. I've gotten to meet a lot of great people, including readers like you, and I'm proud for the opportunity to give back to the community that made me who I am.

2002-2012 farms vs white kids-01
But on a more serious note, one of the reasons I started writing this blog was because of what I perceived as the physical, emotional and political barriers between East County and the rest of Montgomery County. With my brother entering high school next year, I ended up returning to that topic as I helped him and my parents research his choices in the Northeast Consortium.

If you haven't already, I hope you'll read today's post, the first in a series of posts about the current state of Montgomery County Public Schools. While our community prides itself on its diversity, our schools aren't a reflection of that. If we want our kids to excel and our communities to remain great places to live, we need better integrated schools.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who's read and supported me over the years! Without you, I couldn't have kept this up.

de facto segregation threatens viability of MCPS

First in a series on segregation and academic equity in MCPS. Check out part TWO | part THREE | part FOUR

Montgomery County Public Schools are often regarded as one of the best school systems in the nation, with schools routinely topping regional and national rankings. But as the county grows more diverse, MCPS is becoming a system of haves and have-nots.

farms vs white kids 2012-01
Low-income students and white students are each concentrated in separate MCPS high schools.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

map of MoCo tweets show where young adults, affluent people live

Also: Are you wondering why all the trees on Georgia Avenue were cut down last week? It's part of a sidewalk improvement project the county's doing. Georgia will get new sidewalks, street lights, and landscaping, along with newly-replanted trees this fall.

Where we're tweeting in MoCo, by phone.

By now, you've probably seen these maps made by Tom MacWright showing where people around the world use iPhones, Androids and Blackberries based on the location of their tweets. Here's one of Montgomery County, showing iPhones in red and Androids in green. (Apparently, nobody here uses a Blackberry here anymore, except my dad, and he doesn't use Twitter.)

The map looks a lot like my map of where young people in MoCo live. Most of the tweets, regardless of phone, cling to the Red Line, with particularly big clusters around Silver Spring, Bethesda, and Rockville Pike. These are the same areas where the county's 20- and 30-somethings live and hang out. In addition, there's also a cluster at the University of Maryland over in Prince George's County, which of course has a lot young people.

But as the Atlantic Cities points out, they're a pretty good indicator of where affluent people live. And it's no different in Montgomery County. Rockville and Bethesda a sea of red iPhones, but East County and the Upcounty are more mixed, and Takoma-Langley is a forest of green Androids.

What do you notice?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

the fillmore's economic impact: hanson eats lunch in silver spring

Girls Take Photo With Taylor Hanson in Panera
Fans take a photo with Taylor Hanson after he ate lunch at Panera Bread in downtown Silver Spring.

Before the Fillmore opened in downtown Silver Spring, neighbors predicted it would bring everything from mobs of rowdy teenagers to increased crime. But you wouldn't know that watching Hanson eat lunch at Panera Bread last weekend.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend's friend Katy told me she was going to camp outside the Fillmore the night before Hanson played there Saturday. You might have last heard of Hanson back in 1997, when their single "MMMBop" was practically everywhere. Not only are the brothers from Tulsa still making music, but they have a devoted fanbase who'll travel cross-country to see them and camp outside the venues where they play.

Katy's lost count of how many times she's seen Hanson, but thinks it's somewhere between 25 and 30. "I look up to them," says Katy, who lives in Annandale. "They're really strong and went through a lot," she adds, referring to their struggles with Island/Def Jam Records, their former record label. Seeing a potential story, I asked if Katy I could meet up with her before the show.

Line for Hanson, Looking South on Colesville
Hanson fans wait outside the Fillmore. Several of them slept outside the venue Friday night.

By 4pm Saturday, there are about 40 people waiting outside the Fillmore. At the head was Erin from Ellicott City, who set out a camping chair and a cooler filled with water bottles at 10:30pm Friday night. She spent the night making goodie bags with snacks for the other fans. "It helps kill time in line," she says.

Each person has a number on their hand, which marks when they arrived. Sara (#4) got in from the Eastern Shore at 12:15am. This is her 44th Hanson concert. "This is a lifestyle," she says. "We've flown, driven . . . you do what you gotta do."

Numbers for the Hanson Line
Each person in line gets a number, allowing them to step out and explore Silver Spring.

Sheila (#10) drove up Saturday morning from Stafford. She stumbled on Hanson just 5 years ago while watching videos on YouTube. "The song in the background was Hanson," she said. "So I clicked on another Hanson song, then another. Now here I am waiting at 7am for a show at 7pm."

"In New York, people camped out for 5 days," pipes up a girl with black-rimmed glasses sitting behind her. This is Kelly (#21), who came down from Long Island. Across from her is a girl from New Jersey. Behind her are 2 girls from Brazil.

The numbers also let each fan save their place in line, meaning they can go exploring. "Have you gone out in Silver Spring today?" I ask everyone.

They've been to breakfast at Panera, lunch at Potbelly, and are already planning an after-show cool down at the Tastee Diner. They take bathroom breaks at the McDonald's at Colesville Road and Second Avenue. ("Can you write how disgusting that McDonald's bathroom is?" Erin asks.) Some rent hotel rooms, but only to freshen up before the show and sleep afterwards.

And fans aren't the only ones who patronize area businesses. Earlier that afternoon, Katy texted me: "I'm eating at Panera and Zac and Taylor Hanson are eating at a table near me. Come here!"

I ran over to find a group of scruffy 20-somethings munching on sandwiches. They could be anyone that hangs out in downtown Silver Spring, except 10 feet away, Katy (#6) and 3 fellow fans are at a booth, practically hyperventilating at the sight of their heroes.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are they? "Infinity times infinity," gushes Kelly (#7), who first bonded with Katy over Hanson in middle school.

"Shh! I can hear them," says Rachel (#9), who came with her friend Angela (#8) from Baltimore. Even though all four ladies have met Hanson before, they're unsure about getting up to talk to the brothers.

Katy Outside the Fillmore
Katy, who's lost count of how many times she's seen Hanson.

When Zac and Taylor get up to leave, Kelly runs over and gets it over with, holding up her phone to snap a selfie with Taylor. While another girl gets her brush with fame, she floats back to the booth, grabs a paper bag and starts breathing into it.

"Moments like that are why you camp out," Rachel says.

Spend an afternoon with Hanson fans like I did, and you won't ever be afraid of the Fillmore or its patrons. Sure, not all of their shows attract the same crowd, but they all make the same mark on downtown Silver Spring: they spend money here. For instance, tonight the punk band Rancid's playing there. See any Mohawks and studded leather jackets strolling out of Kao Thai tonight? That's the Fillmore at work, supporting the local economy.

Of course, fans and artists alike would make an even bigger mark on downtown Silver Spring if they supported local businesses. I can't blame folks who come from far away for not knowing what's here, but it would be nice if the Fillmore handed out a list of places to eat before the show.

Apparently Taylor Hanson loves Italian food. Hopefully, the next time he and his brothers play the Fillmore, we'll see them at Da Marco.

Monday, June 10, 2013

see where capital bikeshare will go in silver spring, takoma park

CaBi at Affordable Housing Conference
You'll be able to use one of these soon. (But not inside, of course.)
Late this summer, Capital Bikeshare will come to Montgomery County with 51 stations and 500 bikes, including several in Silver Spring. County officials have released maps of the stations and will hold meetings later this month to talk about the new service.

There will be 15 stations and 150 bikes in downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park. You'll be able to rent a bike on Ellsworth Drive and bike to South Silver Spring Old Takoma, or even on into DC. County officials will also place 15 stations in downtown Bethesda and Friendship Heights and another 21 stations in Rockville and Shady Grove, which is part of a pilot program to see whether bikesharing can work in suburban areas, especially for carless low-income residents and reverse commuters.

CaBi in Silver Spring and Takoma Park
Map of bikeshare locations in Silver Spring
and Takoma Park. Click to enlarge.
Judging from this map, most of the station locations look pretty reasonable. Takoma Park, Bethesda and Rockville are the areas of Montgomery County where bike use is highest, in part because they're compact, older communities that easily lends themselves to getting around by bike.

However, the maps also show the need for improved bike infrastructure. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and MoBike have proposed a network of new bike lanes to compliment the CaBi stations, but it'll be a while before the county actually builds some.

I'm also skeptical about some of the station locations, particularly the one at Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road. Not only is it a mile from any other station, but it's at the top of a hill, which will likely discourage many riders. After all, CaBi bikes are big and heavy. Either way, this is a great thing for Montgomery County and I can't wait for it to start.

Department of Transportation officials will hold 3 meetings later this month where residents can learn how Capital Bikeshare works and offer feedback on the proposed stations. On June 25, they'll be at the Silver Spring Fire Station, 8110 Georgia Avenue, from 7 to 9pm. For more information, visit the county's new bikesharing website.