D.C. schools report card finds achievement remains low, gaps wide

WASHINGTON – A study of the District’s public and charter schools shows some improvement in student performance, but also finds that achievement is low and that wide disparities among student groups and wards remain since a 2007 reform law was passed giving control of the city’s public schools to the mayor.

Members of the committee that issued the report briefed the D.C. Council education committee Wednesday morning.

Diana Pullin, who served on the 10-member committee that compiled the report, told the council members that there have been some improvements based on test scores on the District’s statewide assessment system and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Yet overall, she said academic achievement is very low. The study called the District’s graduation rates “disturbingly low.”

In 2014, the graduation rate for public schools was 59 percent and for charter schools the graduation rate was 69 percent.

“There are stark gaps in academic achievement and graduation rates across student groups,” Pullin told the council members.

The study by the National Research Council, which the District government commissioned, looked at school governance including how placing schools under mayoral control affected performance. Committee members said making that assessment was challenging because there is no central data point for the school system so gathering information in order to analyze school performance proved a difficult task.

Findings include:

  • DC CAS and NAEP scores show improvement
  • Proficiency in math and science remain low
  • Graduation rates have fluctuated but remain low
  • The monitoring of students with particular needs (for example students with disabilities, English language learners) is not adequate
  • Students with greatest need of academic support aren’t assigned to teachers with the highest ratings (under the IMPACT teacher rating system)

Recommendations include:

  • Monitor the progress of students with particular needs including students with disabilities, English language learners and low income students
  • Make sure students with greatest need have some of the most effective teachers
  • DCPS should have a “data warehouse” where information can be obtained so that principals and teachers can track and guide the education of individual students
  • DCPS should have an ongoing independent assessment of the school system’s progress
  • DCPS should have the “fair distribution of educational resources” across the city, not just in some areas
  • Make data about DCPS schools more accessible and transparent including making it more accessible to the public

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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