Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

One of my goals for this coming year is to ramp up Greater Greater Washington’s coverage of education. What topics would you like to see covered? And, most importantly, can you write about some of them, or help us find people who can?

Education is a very significant factor for many people in deciding where to live. For many, it’s the most significant. This blog is a place to discuss what makes neighborhoods greater or less great for their residents and future residents, and it’s impossible to fully explore that topic without talking about education.

In some ways, education is tougher to discuss than transportation or planning. You can see a bike lane or a building, but not what’s happening inside the classroom unless you have a child in that class.

Discussing education is always going to be a balance between the needs of individual children, and any parent understandably puts his or her own child first, and the issues facing the community as a whole. How can we make education better for the kids in good schools, bad schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools right now, and also in the long run? Are those always compatible?

Most education discussions elsewhere in the media get very heated about a few hot-button issues, like “school reform” and Michelle Rhee. The editors and contributors who work on education generally don’t have an absolutist position on these topics.

Those seeking to remove poorly performing teachers have some good points, but aren’t always right. Teachers’ unions have some good points too, but aren’t always right either. Michelle Rhee was not perfect, but wasn’t the devil; she did some good and made some mistakes.

We can all agree, however, that education in DC needs to be better for kids of many different backgrounds, different neighborhoods, races and income levels, and we need to figure out how to best achieve that shared goal. I hope our discussions about education can look at issues through that broad lens and bring a thoughtful perspective that is often missing.

Our education discussions spanned many topics last year

We’ve talked about a number of education policy topics in 2012. I looked at whether DC schools are “good enough” for parents with a choice, the problems with the rankings and statistics we have today, whether schools can be diverse, and how to promote diversity.

Ken Archer discussed whether Ward 3 schools are getting more exclusive and if we’re headed toward 2 separate and mostly segregated systems. We asked whether 100% choice should be the goal, whether charters expel too many kids, and whether to have a common lottery

Steve Glazerman argued charters should not favor neighborhood residents, while Ken felt it would create a level playing field; a panel ultimately recommended against the idea.

Ken also talked about plans for Ward 5 middle schools and the DC claims that it has “universal” pre-K are dubious; even the auditors say so.

We started out the year with conversations about education funding in the budget, from Steven Glazerman, after-hours community schools, from Celine Tobal, and the widely-criticized IFF study on school closings.

These articles were all about education in the District, where the policy issues are very different from most Washington suburbs. That doesn’t mean our education conversations should only focus on DC, however, and it would be great to have more about the issues in other cities and counties in the region.

What education topics would you like to discuss?

Can you help?

If we’re going to have more discussions about education, we need posts. Greater Greater Wife and I don’t have kids yet. These nonexistent kids are not enrolled in any local schools. Some of you do have children, and know interesting things about what’s going on in your child’s and other children’s schools.

Can you share some of these? You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in education or be a professional education researcher, though we also would welcome hearing from those folks. When we talk about buildings or bike lanes or parks or Metro, we try to look at things from the perspective of the regular person, and mix in a little bit of context. A post does not need to be a research paper.

Our commenters know a lot, too. Often a good post just poses some interesting thoughts and then gets a topic going. It’s definitely not necessary to cover all of the bases of a subject to bring it up. A good post is the start of a conversation, not the end of one.

Nor does every post has to answer the broad question, “what is the most important educational policy issue”? Often very small things, at the local level, make the greatest difference. One of the best ways to talk about an issue on a blog is by example: we discuss one specific architectural decision or intersection design or local zoning fight, and through a large number of these, creates a collage that builds up to the bigger picture.

Are you trying to pick a school for your kid? Why not write about what you’re learning and what factors you’re weighing? Have a kid in a school with a great principal? You could interview him or her and write about what he or she does really well. Or are you sitting on a gold mine of useful statistics of some kind? Share them!

If you have access to really great information that would help advance the discussion, but can’t publicly put it under your byline, we’re interested in that too. However, we don’t have a staff of reporters who can take a general tip or topic suggestion and do their own research for an article; that’s what we need contributors to do. Most articles don’t need a lot of research; you can just write about what you already know.

Can you help out? Let us know on this form. Even if you can only do a little, with a lot of people it will add up. I hope you can.

Tagged: education, meta

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.