Could Mayor Adrian Fenty's school takeover be working faster than anyone could have imagined, or did former School Superintendent Clifford Janey's reforms finally take hold--a year after Fenty fired him?
That's the question today after Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that test scores for public school students rose on reading and math across the board on the latest D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams. (These are the tests that measure whether schools have made adequate progress under No Child Left Behind.)
According to preliminary results provided by the administration, 46 percent of elementary school students scored proficient in reading and 40 percent in math, up 8 points and 11 points, respectively, from last year. At the secondary level, the news was just as good. Thirty nine percent scored proficient in reading and 36 percent in math, up 9 points in both categories.
Although the overall level of proficiency is still very low compared with suburban jurisdictions, the gains are significant. Fenty and Rhee chose to make the announcement at Plummer Elementary in Ward 7, a school that made a 17-point gain in reading (to 40 percent) and a 15-point gain in math (to 32 percent).
But just how much of the success can be attributed to the changes brought by Fenty and Rhee, who took over in June 2007? At the news conference, they acknowledged that Janey deserves credit for installing some reforms that helped lead to the improvement. At the same time, it's almost certain that the current administration will reap much of the shine in the public's eye, as Fenty has made school reform his top priority and has staked much of his political future on the success of the system.