Loose Lips

D.C. Schools See Biggest Test Improvements Since 2008

Between the 2011-2012 school year and 2012-2013, D.C. students in public and charter schools averaged a 3.9 percent increase in math proficiency and a 4.1 percent increase in reading proficiency on the 2013 District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System, the largest gains in the system since 2008.

"Yes!" said Mayor Vince Gray, who kicked off the results announcement at Kelly Miller Middle School with a fist pump.

Gray used the results to push back against unnamed people —maybe Councilmember David Catania, who has introduced his own school reform proposals—-who say D.C. schools haven't changed fast enough. Gray advised Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who was in the audience, to "stay the course" on new school policies.

"We're impatient about seeing improvements, so oftentimes we make changes," echoed Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Gray defended the large gains against charges of possible cheating. DCPS has instituted measures, according to the mayor, to prevent new cheating scandals. "Unfortunately, it's kind of cynical when people don't assume that our kids can make these kind of gains," Gray said.

The results weren't all good news. Several schools, including Garrison and Houston Elementary, posted double-digit drops in both math and reading proficiency. Dunbar's reading proficiency declined by 9.8 percent points, while its math proficiency fell by 2.9 percent. Even at Kelly Miller, held up at the event as a success story, only 37.5 percent of the students are proficient in reading.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Blevins

    I can't stand Mayor Gray, but he is absolutely right about this:

    "Unfortunately, it's kind of cynical when people don't assume that our kids can make these kind of gains," Gray said.

  • Asuka

    The system-wide change in the demographics mix is the reason for this increase, nothing more. Report the improvements by school or ward if you want to give an accurate assessment of these improvements.

  • drez

    It will be interesting to see the school by school results. When will they be available?

  • Asuka

    @drez,

    The last paragraph seems to provide some school-specific data, so it would appear they already are. I wonder why this opinion journal doesn't drill down and provide a more comprehensive and informative report on the subject?

  • drez

    Yes you are right. A link to the report would have been a nice inclusion in this story.

  • Citydude

    Let us face it, Ms Catania spent billions of dollars when he was over health and human services..and look what we got with our spending ( so many on the taxpayer troll)..He now wants to do the same thing with education..He needs to stop buying votes and come up with solutions without spending more money... Spend some money on those who pay taxes and not look at them as bimbos..

  • neo/dino

    #1: Can't agree more on both counts.
    #'s 2,3,4 and 5: Are you two trying to play us?

    The game is old; only the players are new.
    You both make yourselves look foolish with the shallow tete-a-tete.

  • drez

    Thanks, CP, for adding the link.
    So... Are there any spaces at any of the high performing schools?
    I'll take my answer off the air. Thanks.

  • Will Sommer

    You got it. I wrote the original post at the middle school and couldn't get OSSE's site to work.

  • drez

    Thanks again.

  • NE John

    Thank you Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson

  • Northwesterner

    When Asuka talks about demographic shifts in population, what they are saying is that black kids are idiots and only white kids from new residents are smart. That's racism. Kids from all races and all economic levels can gets straight As. It's all in how they're taught and the quality of their teachers. Anyone who says the problem is their home environment is a closet racist claiming that ethnicity determines intelligence. STOP IT.

  • mizwillis

    THANK YOU, Northwesterner.
    But stopping those ignoramuses is not going to happen.
    People like that thrive on believing themselves superior to other human beings. That delusion is what wakes them up in the morning looking for someone to put down.

    Oddly enough it is not always White on Black. There are some Blacks who believe they are inherently superior to other Blacks.

  • Notinbred

    Northwesterner, that's just not true. Growing up in a shitty environment -- unstable family, no money, no food on the table, etc./,. makes it so so much harder to do well in school. otherwise no one would have a problem with growing up poor and hungry, surrounded by hard drugs and violence. Poverty sucks and it does have a bad influence on kids and education. Obviously not all white people are rich and black people poor, but in DC we know that that distinction can be made by ward and by race and by income so it's hard to get past that conclusion that if you grow up poor and in a shitty home enviornment in this city you're probably going to do worse even if yo ugo to the same school as some rich white kids from Chevy Chase.

  • Tom

    This is an absolute shame. The fact that city leaders are claming this as a victory is absurd. It still stands that more than 50% of students are not proficient or above in reading in math. Also no one is talking about how these small gains will help DCPS achieve its 5 year goals for profeciency! DCPS set a goal for 70% proficiency rates in reading and math by SY 16-17. If you look at their track records gains have only averaged between 1% and 2% per year since 2008!

    Has anyone at DCPS identified what the barriers to learning are? Have they come up with mitigation strategies? All this celebrating is sickening.

  • SEis4ME

    @Notinbred, and neither is what you said true. A black kid from Chevy Chase will fare just as well as a white kid from there. So no, race is not the main issue here..economics is.

  • Jeff Canady

    Mayor Gray has used an old rheorical line and strawman!! The DCPS was not able to count its students for ten years . Until a city law mandated an accounting firm tabulate the numbers. Books delivered to kids needed a law. Now you want to make us believe in test scores that mathematically impossible. What morons!! Jail will give city officials character I hope. If not then time to read on how to be an effective crook!!

  • drez

    @SEis4ME I agree with what you wrote at #15, but I'm pretty sure that you and Asuka and notinbred are saying the same thing.

  • SEis4ME

    Drez, notinbred specifically made the connection between rich=white and black=poor. So no, we're not saying the same thing. Race was on his/her mind

  • drez

    @ SEis4ME
    Yes that connection was made. But in DC it is true that blacks have disproportionately higher rates of poverty. I don't think it's racist to recognize this. My reading of notinbred's posts is that s/he implicates poverty, not race, as the reason for lesser school performance. In short s/he is stating correlation of race and school performance, not causation.

    An analogous statement would be something like: ESL students tend to perform worse on English Language standardized tests. No one (reasonably) would infer from this that Non-English speaking students were racially inferior.

    Anyway, just putting that out there. And only because I figure there's enough that people can genuinely disagree on that it's a shame to let actual points of agreement get tallied into the same catagory.

  • SEis4ME

    I actually have no idea what you are talking about since I said NOTHING about racism.

    Pointing out how race was unnecessarily brought into a discussion is NOT the same as claiming RACISM.

    It's a shame things like this can't be discussed without someone hurling charges of racism!

  • mizwillis

    @ #20: HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF!!!!!

    YOU KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TRYING TO SAY, THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TRYING TO SAY, AND I KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TRYING TO SAY.

    PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY OBAMA ARE BUT TWO EXAMPLES OF POOR FAMILIES SPAWNING CHILDREN WHO EXCEL ACADEMICALLY.

    THERE ARE MANY OTHERS I COULD MENTION, BUT THEY WOULD NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE ATTENTION. THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE AND THEY KNOW FROM WHENCE THEY CAME. THEY ALSO KNOW
    THAT EACH AND EVERY POOR CHILD (BLACK, WHITE, YELLOW OR WHATEVER) WHO HAS GRADUATED FROM TOP TIER SCHOOLS HAS HAD TO PROVE HIM/HERSELF WORTHY OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN TO SOME FACULTY MEMBERS AND TO SOME STUDENTS.

    I SPEAK FROM UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I CAN COUNT 1000'S OF EXCELLENT POOR MINORITY STUDENTS WHO MET THE CHALLENGES AND OVERCAME POVERTY, RACISM, CYNICISM AND THE UNFOUNDED BELIEFS OF STUPID PEOPLE LIKE THE ONES WHO HURL CHARGES OF RACISM WHEN IT IS THEY WHO ARE THE RACISTS.

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