THE ANNOUNCEMENT that reading and math test scores for D.C. public school students rose across the board this year is good news, but its importance should be neither exaggerated nor diminished. Most students still are not proficient in basic skills, and the schools have a long way to go. But the increase in achievement is a sign that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's reform efforts may be taking hold.
Preliminary data released yesterday by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee showed significant gains in student achievement on the latest D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests measuring school progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Testing this spring found that the percentage of elementary school students who are proficient is up eight points in reading and 11 points in math over the past year's measures. The percentage of secondary students scoring proficient was up nine points in both categories. The scores had been rising previously, but this year's gains are dramatic, outpacing the experience of other cities with mayoral control of the schools.
So, it was more than ironic -- if predictable -- to hear criticism that the gains had nothing to do with Ms. Rhee but really were the work of former superintendent Clifford B. Janey. Imagine what these naysayers would have said if the scores had plummeted. We doubt that they would have been looking Mr. Janey's way. There is no question his reforms were a factor, as was Ms. Rhee's wise decision to continue them, instead of starting from scratch. Then, too, Ms. Rhee put in place programs to improve test preparation and student participation. What's really important is what students showed: that they can achieve when their interests are placed first. That's to everyone's credit.