Local: Education

D.C. students show math, science gains while reading stalls

By |
Photo - Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is shown in a file photo. A new report shows that many of the aggressive reforms taken under her leadership have started bearing fruit. (Examiner file photo)
Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is shown in a file photo. A new report shows that many of the aggressive reforms taken under her leadership have started bearing fruit. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Less than half of D.C. students showed proficiency in science, math or reading this spring, as the percentage of students passing the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System increased in some subjects over last year but remained mostly flat over time.

The most significant gains were made in science, as 41 percent of D.C. students passed the test, up 3 percentage points over 2011.

Forty-nine percent of all students showed proficiency in math, a two-point uptick from 2011, while the reading rate was essentially unchanged at 45.7 percent passing.

Put to the test
Percentage of students passing the 2012 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests
Math
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
DCPS 27.9% 38.6% 43.9% 42.8% 43.2% 46.0%
Charters 39.4% 45.1% 48.9% 49.8% 53.6% 55.0%
State 30.9% 40.6% 45.7% 45.4% 47.0% 49.3%
Reading
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
DCPS 34.0% 42.8% 44.9% 43.3% 43.0% 43.5%
Charters 42.2% 46.0% 49.1% 48.2% 49.7% 49.4%
State 36.1% 43.8% 46.4% 45.1% 45.5% 45.6%

Results of the DC CAS exams have been under a microscope as leaders and residents look for evidence that the aggressive school reforms begun by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee are bearing fruit.

(See an interactive chart of the test scores)

While District students made dramatic gains on the math and reading standardized tests between 2007 and 2009, the percentage of students passing the math exam has increased by only 3.6 points since 2009, and the percentage passing the reading exam has dropped by 0.8 points.

"Most states would be excited about a two-point growth, but because we're coming such a long way, we'd want to be around five or six points," said state superintendent Hosanna Mahaley, whose agency oversees the tests. "But we're trending in the right direction."

With a nearly three-point jump in math, and a half-point uptick in reading, D.C. Public Schools enjoyed larger gains than charter schools. But charter schools, which saw a 1.4-point bump in math and a 0.3-point decline in reading, still claimed more students proficient in both subjects.

(Look up scores for individual schools)

Brian Jones, chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said the growth was "smaller than we'd like," but said parents still could feel confident in charter schools.

Students' year-to-year growth on the DC CAS exams is heavily factored into some teachers' evaluations, also prompting scrutiny of the scores. At the two DCPS schools where teachers were caught telling students the right answers in 2011, the percentage of passing students dropped by 10 points. At a charter school where cheating occurred in 2011, the passing rate dropped 4.2 percentage points.

Still, those were not the most significant year-to-year changes of the 220 tested schools. Hospitality Public Charter School in Petworth was honored by city officials last year for increasing its math proficiency by 26.2 points and reading by 22.2 points. But this year, the math proficiency rate dropped by 24.6 percentage points, and the reading by 25.8.

Tiffany Godbout, the executive director of Hospitality, said she would examine the steep ascent and drop. "We have the same staff, the same interventions," Godbout said.

Other schools, like Ward 7's Thomas Elementary, enjoyed the praise of Mayor Vincent Gray for this year's gains. Although less than half of students passed the reading test, Thomas saw a 14 percentage point bump in reading and a 20-point increase in math.

"That's Team Thomas," Gray said.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

 
View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner