Friday, May 21, 2010

DC schools celebrate higher score in reading. Still a massive fail on every level.

How horrible is the DC public school district?
For the District, the study offers fresh signs of momentum for a school system long regarded among the nation's worst and bolsters Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's contention that Michelle A. Rhee, the hard-charging but controversial chancellor he hired three years ago, is on the right track. The results also echo gains city schools made in the same span on federal math tests.

Despite the advances, the 44,500-student system continues to trail far behind schools in the suburbs, other big cities and the nation. It faces huge challenges to further improvement related to poverty in many parts of the nation's capital and troubles within its schools.

For Rhee and Fenty (D), the study comes at a critical moment. The chancellor and the Washington Teachers' Union are seeking ratification of a proposed contract that would give teachers big raises and offer privately financed bonuses tied to working in high-need schools and racking up student achievement gains. The mayor is seeking reelection and plans to make school overhaul an issue in his Democratic primary campaign against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

Federal test results show that fourth-graders in D.C. public schools -- not counting those in the city's public charter schools -- gained about six points on a 500-point scale from 2007 to 2009. Eighth-graders gained about four points.

"It's great for our kids and our teachers in terms of showing progress," Rhee said. "It puts us at the front of the curve." But she noted that D.C. scores (203 in fourth grade, 240 in eighth) still ranked well below averages for the nation (220, 262) and for large cities (210, 252). "We still have a ridiculously long way to go," she said.

Put another way, the D.C. scores also fall short of what the government defines as a basic level of achievement. That is the lowest possible ranking.

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