Monica Warren-Jones, a parent and Ward 6 representative to the D.C. State Board of Education, said she is thrilled by the results and looks forward to when there is no achievement gap between poor children and their more affluent peers.
But the intense focus on test scores has left many parents concerned about narrowing curriculum and what they call a classroom concentration on testing well instead of learning.
“Parents still want to know that their children are getting a full-bodied education that includes access to arts opportunities, to unique learning opportunities,” Warren-Jones said.
Although the 2013 results were positive overall, performance at individual schools varied widely.
The 14-point gain at Kelly Miller Middle, where 99 percent of students are from low-income homes, was among the largest in the school system. The school day was extended by an hour three times a week, and that helped, said Principal Abdullah Zaki. But there was no one silver bullet, he added, citing efforts to improve attendance and behavior and focus attention on struggling students.
Kelly Miller’s math scores have nearly tripled since 2010; reading scores have nearly doubled. “We have demonstrated that school reform doesn’t happen overnight,” Zaki said. “It’s a process.”
Across town, at Garrison Elementary in Logan Circle, which narrowly avoided closure this year, proficiency rates fell into the low 30s, dropping 18 points in math and 14 points in reading. Ballou and Dunbar, two traditional neighborhood high schools that have struggled with tight budgets and declining enrollment, saw declines and posted proficiency rates of below 20 percent.
Charter schools’ performance also varied widely.
Inspired Teaching, a young elementary school with only two years of test data, more than doubled its math proficiency, to 65 percent. Reading scores also climbed significantly. Meanwhile IDEA, a middle and high school in Northeast that was nearly shut down for poor performance a year ago, made double-digit gains in math and reading after restructuring its leadership and bringing in a new teaching staff.
On the other end of the spectrum, National Collegiate Preparatory, a high school in Southeast, dropped 21 points, to a combined proficiency of 25 percent.
Citywide, the single-year growth is based on 2012 proficiency rates that were recalculated after D.C. officials determined that adults in 11 schools cheated on that year’s tests. With the suspect scores removed, the 2012 scores dropped slightly — about one-tenth of a percentage point for the traditional schools and about three-tenths of a percentage point for charter schools — accounting for a fraction of this year’s growth.