Conspiracy Theory and the CityAnd The City | Prima Abdullah
In 2008, 23 public schools were about be closed by D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty, whose political agenda included aggressive educational reform, claiming that public education in the US, particularly in troubled urban neighbourhoods, had been broken for a long time. At the beginning of his term, public schools in DC were considered the lowest performing in the US. Collapsed infrastructure, non-merit-based teacher salaries, and bloated central office bureaucracy were said to be the main causes of low performing students. He had defined the problem and aimed to fix it.
One of his working examples was Sousa Middle school, where fewer than 16% of students could read and do math at grade level at the beginning of his term. Within a year, the school had improved enough to meet federal benchmarks for progress the first time in its history, while other schools that could not meet those standards were closed.
However, not everyone was pleased with this vision. John Burrough Elementary School was one of the 23 schools that was closed down. One of the parents claimed that the reasoning for closing the school down was unfounded. The school was 15th in reading out of 81. It was in the top 20% in math. The parents worked well, the PTA body was active, and the community loved the school.
The community came up with an explanation: it must be a land grab. The school is located on a beautiful long block, and there is a large green field that was available for the children to play on. Everyone in the community seemed to think that developers had converged upon DC and were targeting the properties they wanted. Another school building had been closed and replaced with million-dollar condos.