In the Aug. 31 Metro article “D.C. test scores deliver shocks,” D.C. Public Schools officials suggested that Wilson High School students are either so focused on Advanced Placement tests or so contemptuous of testing that they intentionally flubbed the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized tests. This is certainly plausible. But I do not recall a similar hypothesis to explain poor student performance at any of the District’s other public high schools, particularly those with more low-income and minority students. It is worth giving those schools and their students the same benefit of the doubt. My experiences at a school with teenagers from every ward and from all socioeconomic backgrounds suggest that all students are equally capable of flubbing tests whose relevance they doubt. They are also equally capable of flourishing on assessments that hold meaning in their lives.
I admire fellow educators at Wilson and other D.C. public and charter schools who have the challenge of inspiring kids to do well on a test with less meaning for their futures than the SAT, ACT or IB or AP tests. I am fortunate that the school where I work can hold teachers accountable using assessments that are more easily integrated into students’ aspirations for themselves than PARCC. The culture of accountability seeks to treat all students equally. I hope we are as fair in analyzing students’ motives as we are in studying their scores. PARCC tests not just outcomes but also people; all meaningful assessments must take that reality into account.
Beth Blaufuss, Washington
The writer is president of
Archbishop Carroll High School.
Regarding the Sept. 4 editorial “ ‘Steady progress’ in D.C. schools”:
The nine years preceding mayoral control of D.C. Public Schools, when black and Hispanic students’ average scores on the four National Assessment of Educational Progress tests rose 57 and 81 points, respectively (they have risen only 22 and 20 points, respectively, since then), were not “years of . . . school failure.” The rise in the scores of all students since 2007 was largely because of unprecedented demographic changes since 2007: Black fourth-graders fell from 84 percent to 64 percent of the public schools population while tests by white DCPS students, the highest-scoring white urban subgroup in the United States by more than 25 points, rose from 6 percent to 16 percent.
Unsurprisingly, score totals of disadvantaged students rose 25 points while those of their not-disadvantaged peers rose 147 points.
We need a chancellor who will change course by basing policies on an analysis of deficiencies and an understanding of what works for children at all levels of proficiency.
Erich Martel, Washington
The writer is a retired DCPS high school teacher.