The average test scores of public school students in Ward 3, Washington's wealthiest and only predominantly white ward, were higher than the average scores of students in the other seven wards of the city this year, according to results of standardized test released last week by school officials.
The most dramatic difference between Ward 3 schools and other schools was at the secondary level. The average scores of Ward 3 junior and senior high school students were above national norms, while those of secondary students in nearly all other wards were three months to two years below those norms.
In most cases, however, the financial status of the wards did not have a direct correlation to the test scores of its students. For instance, Ward 5, which has one of the city's top three median family income levels, had one of the three lowest ward averages on the test scores.
A ward-to-ward comparison of scores on the exams, called the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, also indicated the following:Ward 1, the second poorest area in the city, was last in average test scores by students in grades three, six and eight. However, the high scores of ninth and 11th graders at Banneker Academic School, which attracts the city's top scholars, boosted the ward's overall averages in those grades. While citywide averages for third and sixth graders were above national norms for the fourth year in a row, several elementary schools still recorded scores far below the norms. From highest to lowest scores, this is how the wards ranked according to the combined averages among third, sixth, eighth, ninth and 11th graders in reading and math:
In reading, Ward 3 was first, with Ward 2 second and Ward 1 third. Wards 4 and 7 tied at fourth, followed by Ward 5. Wards 6 and 8 tied for lowest scores.
In math, Wards 3, 2 and 1 again had the top three average scores, again, followed in order by Wards 4, 7, 5, 8 and 6.
"Schools are not all going to progress at the same rate," said James Guines, associate superintendent for instruction in the D.C. schools, explaining the differences in test scores among various schools. "We have enough schools doing very well on the tests, so that the scores at many of those schools that are having serious problems are glossed over.
"It's the goal of the administration to bring all scores up to the national norm or above," Guines said. He said that Ward 3 schools "at one time . . . were the only ones that reached the national norm, but now we have in every ward some schools above the national norm in reading and math. That indicates that academic excellence can be achieved in every area of the city. It requires strong leadership from principals, dedicated faculty and a lot of parental support."
Public schools are legally required to allocate an equal amount of financial resources to individual schools, but Guines said that some students may be educationally deprived because of the income level of their families.
"If a student lives in a rich neighborhood, there are probably more books in the home, more opportunities to travel and expand his horizons . . . ," he said. "It is our job to give all students the best education we can provide."