D.C. Test Scores Show Mixed Results

By Dakarai I. Aarons — July 13, 2010 1 min read
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The latest test results for District of Columbia public schools are a mixed bag: Scores dipped for elementary students on the DC CAS assessments, while middle and high school students posted gains, the district reported Tuesday.

In fact, according to the district, test scores for middle and high school students have improved an average of 14 percentage points in reading and 17 percentage points in math overall over the past three years—the period of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s tenure.

Even with the progress, the proficiency scores themselves aren’t exactly what you’d want mom or dad to put on the refrigerator. Here are the numbers, as supplied by the district, with a year-over-year comparison:

• 44.4 percent of elementary students in reading, down 4.4 percent from 2009
• 43.4 percent of elementary students in math, down 4.6 percent from 2009
• 43.3 percent of secondary students in reading, up 3.2 percent from 2009
• 43.7 percent of secondary students in math, up 4.1 percent from 2009

Rhee told The Washington Post’s Bill Turque she is unsure what accounted for the drop in elementary school scores.

“We’re going to dig into the data,” she told Turque.

D.C.'s public charter schools are mostly ahead of traditional middle and high schools, but score on par with elementary schools in the nation’s capital.

Meanwhile, Michael Casserly of the Council of the Great City Schools cheered on Rhee’s efforts, sending a lengthy release to reporters celebrating the progress made over time and saying research in other urban districts shows that progress rarely continues in a continuous upward trajectory. Peaks and valleys are normal, he said.

“The overall health of D.C. school reform remains excellent and robust despite any year-over-year changes in test scores,” Casserly wrote.

“Our analysis of big city school reading and math state test scores shows that most urban school districts that have made significant academic improvements since 2006 have also shown periods where one or more grades declined before rising to—and sustaining—higher levels of achievement,” he said.

We’ll see how this latest news plays out in the election battle between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who controls the schools, and challenger Vincent Gray, chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia. Both have staked a claim to D.C.'s educational progress in their campaigns.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.