The results: Schools that serve a more affluent population were more likely to receive five stars, the top ranking. Every school in Ward 3 — the wealthiest corner of the city — earned four or five stars.
The highest concentrations of one- and two-star schools were in the poorest wards of the District. Four of the 36 schools in Ward 8, a part of the city with high poverty rates, received four of five stars. More than half of schools in that ward received one or two stars.
“There’s a lot of ways in which parents make decisions about schools,” said Paul Kihn, the District’s deputy mayor for education. “And I think the star rating is one aspect of that.”
This is the second year D.C. schools have received star ratings. The system is the city’s answer to the Obama administration’s 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which mandated that states and the District develop uniform and easily accessible report cards for schools by the end of 2018.
State governments have flexibility in determining how to assess schools, but the federal law says certain data, including standardized test scores and graduation rates, must be a significant part of the measurements.
In elementary and middle schools in the District, student performance on a national standardized exam taken during the previous academic year accounts for 30 percent of the calculation used to determine how many stars a school receives. An even larger share of the rating — 40 percent — reflects whether a school improved on exams.
In high school, improvement is not considered, and SAT and national standardized exams account for a total of 40 percent of a school’s grade.
The star ratings are one part of the broader D.C. School Report Card, which includes more than 15o data points for each school and is published online. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which publishes the report cards, said the website received 62,000 unique visitors in its first year — an impressive number for a government website and a sign that residents are using the resource.
Despite disparities among campuses, school leaders Tuesday celebrated citywide improvements on the star rankings.
Each of the city’s eight wards is home to at least one five-star school. Seventy-six schools earned four or five stars, compared with 56 campuses last year.
That means 37,000 of the city’s nearly 95,000 students attend these top-ranked schools — 9,100 more students than last academic year.
And more than 25 percent of the District’s public schools earned at least one additional star, according to data from the school report cards.
The city said it would invest $11 million over three years in schools that scored in the bottom 5 percent on the star ranking.
“As a system, we hold ourselves accountable,” said Hanseul Kang, state superintendent of education. “Right now, we have a range of performance. I think it’s important that we are transparent about that.”
Schools in the traditional public and charter school sectors earned four and five stars.
The only middle and high schools in Wards 7 and 8 — two wards with high concentrations of poverty — that received at least four stars were charters. But the populations at those charter campuses are not the same as the traditional public schools in the wards. Even though both sectors serve a significant number of students living in poverty, each of the traditional campuses in those wards has larger populations of students from low-income families than the top-ranked charter schools.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee celebrated significant gains at Kimball Elementary at a breakfast with D.C. Council members. Kimball, in Ward 7, earned four stars.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the Education Committee, called the citywide gains “amazing.”
“This, I think, shows great improvement in our city,” Grosso said. “Obviously, there’s work to do, but this is really amazing work.”
DaSean Jones, a Ward 8 father who has four children in three D.C. schools, said he has looked at the star ratings but does not believe they tell the whole story about a school. His children are enrolled in low-rated traditional public and charter schools — and he does not believes they are receiving a low-quality education.
Jones said he believes the rankings reflect challenges that students face, not necessarily the quality of instruction.
“For me, it’s just surface level,” Jones said. “What really sold me on the schools is when I talked to the staff and administration about their ideas for education, what support and services they have, and how they utilize them.”