DC reports slight improvement in students’ math, reading scores

WASHINGTON — D.C. school officials unveiled new citywide Common Core test scores Tuesday showing only slight improvements from last year.

Just over one quarter — 27 percent — of students taking the PARCC exams in D.C. public and charter schools scored at or above the college or career-ready expectations on the English portion. That’s up from 24 percent last year. Just one quarter of students matched that achievement level on the math exams — up from 22 percent last year.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

Despite the fact that a high number of D.C. public and charter school students still aren’t meeting the exam’s benchmarks, Kaya Henderson, the outgoing D.C. public schools chancellor, said the incremental progress is actually a good sign.

“If we had come to you where our scores were off the chain, you would tell us we are cheaters, right?” Henderson told reporters during a briefing Tuesday. “But when we show you slow, steady progress, you say it’s not fast enough. Well it can’t be both, right?”

The PARCC exams measure students' proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and math. Students considered proficient have to score at level 4 or higher. In 2016, 27 percent of students scored proficient on the English portion and 25 percent scored proficient on math. (Source: D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education).
The PARCC exams measure students’ proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and math. Students considered proficient have to score at level 4 or higher. In 2016, 27 percent of students scored proficient on the English portion and 25 percent scored proficient on math. (Source: D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education).

Continuing to defend the progress being made, Henderson said, “What I’m here to say is, I’m proud of our charter schools; I’m proud of our public schools. We will continue to push.”

Some individuals schools, including one top-rated high school, reported some surprising results.

Scores on the English portion of the PARCC test dropped by as much as 30 points at Wilson High — a school that’s long been seen as a bright star in the District’s school system.

Asked about the Wilson scores, Henderson said the steep drop on the English exams there may be a result of timing: The PARCC tests and AP exams fell within the same week. A high score on the AP, or advanced placement, exam can lead to college credit.

“What we saw in a lot of cases were students not completing the entire exam,” Henderson said, referring to the PARCC test. She added that more than 100 parents wrote to her office asking that their children be allowed to opt out of the PARCC tests in favor of the AP exams. She added that the timing of the exams is something the school system will look at.

Benjamin Banneker High School, meanwhile, saw double digit gains on test scores in English and math. Scores were up by 24 percent on the English portion and 30 percent in math. Principal Anita Berger told reporters she has the best job in the District and attributed the gains to the hard work by teachers and the students. She called the gains “proof that hard work pays off.”

At the same briefing, Mayor Muriel Bowser was asked about the process for choosing the next schools chancellor. Henderson announced last year this would be her final year as chancellor of the D.C. school system. Bowser was asked if the school system should move in a different direction under a new school chief.

“I think overall we’ve seen the scores move in the right direction, so if you’re asking me do we want to continue to move in the right direction, the answer is yes, obviously,” Bowser said.

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