Eliot-Hine MS. Photo by DCPS.

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said she would have a plan to improve middle schools by December 15. But all she’s come up with is a promise to focus on improving those schools next year.

Recently a lot of attention has been focused on the deficiencies of most DCPS middle schools. Even Henderson has acknowledged that DCPS hasn’t succeeded in making them attractive, with many families leaving the school system after elementary school.

At a DC Council hearing on November 15, Councilmember David Catania called on Henderson to come up with a plan for improving middle schools within a month. Yesterday, Chancellor Henderson responded with a letter. A similar letter addressed to the “DCPS community” appeared on the DCPS website.

Henderson wrote that DCPS has operated “with a sense of urgency in addressing the needs of our schools.” But the only commitment she made is that DCPS will “focus on improving our middle grades in FY 2015, and will then move on to improving our high schools in FY 2016 (the 2015-2016 school year).”

If you think that response is disappointing, you’re not alone.

Many parents have called for greater vertical integration between middle schools and the elementary and high schools in their feeder patterns. Henderson said they, too, will have to wait—until fall 2016. In her letter to Catania, she said that she would first focus on making sure there’s “horizontal alignment,” ensuring that all schools within a grade range offer the same kinds of programs at a similar level of quality. But why can’t DCPS focus on horizontal and vertical alignment at the same time?

Conspicuously absent from the letter is any acknowledgement of existing plans, like the Ward 6 Middle School Plan and the Ward 5 Great Schools Initiative. Does this mean DCPS is changing course on its commitments?

For now, you can give feedback via a survey form on the DCPS budget, as Henderson suggested in her letter to the community. The letter also promised that DCPS will hold focus groups on the middle grades in the future.

Is this enough to persuade DCPS families to keep their children in the system beyond elementary grades? What do you think?