DC ranks poorly in nationwide school study

"We think it's really important to recognize that students gain knowledge well outside the walls of our classroom," said Laura Wilson Phelan, Ward 1 representative of the D.C. State Board of Education and co-chair of the task force. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — Public schools in the nation’s capital fared poorly in a nationwide ranking of states.

On a list, which included all 50 states and the District, D.C. was ranked 49th overall by WalletHub. Only Louisiana and New Mexico fared worse.

“D.C. specifically, had a lot to work on when it comes to its dropout rate; it’s the highest in the country,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with WalletHub.

Gonzalez said the results, which did not take into account D.C.’s charter schools, showed one of every three high school students in D.C. are dropping out of school, including 40 percent of low-income students.

Some states have lowered dropout rates by providing alternative high schooling options, such as online courses. Gonzalez believes similar options, to avoid students dropping out of school altogether, could be beneficial for the District.

When it comes to test scores, fourth and eighth graders didn’t do well in math and reading, which led to lower SAT scores.

“Test scores and dropout rates really were D.C.’s demise here,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said that in addition to graduation rates and test scores, WalletHub ranked schools based on student-to-teacher ratios, the number of students who reported being threatened on school property, reports of bullying and disciplinary numbers.

Maryland and Virginia landed high on the list. Virginia finished at No. 6; Maryland, at No. 8.

“When it comes to test scores across the board, specifically in grades 4 and 8 for math and reading, Maryland and Virginia both did very well,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said Maryland took a fall regarding SAT scores, dropping to No. 40.

Virginia and Maryland averaged 15 students per teacher. The District did better in that category, with 12 students per teacher.

The comparison of the District to a state been criticized in previous rankings such as this one. Gonzalez said while D.C. may be smaller than most states, the money it spends for education is similar to that of its neighbors.

“When it comes to its schools expenditures, per capita, that looks very similar” to Maryland and Virginia, she said. “When it comes to that spending, most of it is on par with other states.”

Massachusetts came out on top in the rankings. High test scores and high safety ratings pushed the state to No. 1.

Check out the survey and the methodology.