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Huge achievement gap still exists in D.C. schools

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Despite 15 years of school reform on the charter school side and about one half of that time trying mightily to improve the traditional system the latest Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) data demonstrate that the academic achievement gap is alive and well in the nation’s capital. The measurement is comprised of the NAEP reading and math tests given to random 4th and 8th graders every other year and, according to Emma Brown of the Washington Post, is combined with additional data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

DCPS scores showed dramatic improvement over the previous assessment and Chancellor Kaya Henderson has boasted that her schools “made greater growth in every grade and subject area” than any other urban district tested in 2013. But let’s look at the findings.

In 4th grade reading white students in DCPS scored a 260 while black kids tested at 192, a 68 point difference. In the charters black students had a result of 204, 12 points higher than the regular schools. Charter schools do not have a sufficient number of white students to be tested.

In math for the same grade DCPS white pupils had a result of 277, blacks were at 218, a gap of 59 points. Black charter school students were at 225.

For the 8th grade a similar pattern exists. In reading DCPS white students scored at 301, black students at 237, a difference of 64, with black charter students at 250. In math, black DCPS kids were at 253 and white kids were at 315, a delta of 62. Charter black students are at 269, 16 points higher than the traditional schools.

What conclusion can be reached regarding all of the time and money we have expended to fix our schools? Obviously we have improved but they are still broken. We have a long way to go and we have to figure out a way to accelerate change in the positive direction.

So for our charter support organizations I have an important suggestion. In 2014 let’s become less dependent on the Mayor or city council to determine our school system’s fate. Focus your resources on obtaining buildings, lots of them in every part of town. You will then negotiate with the extremely high performers to take over these spaces and simply allow them to do what they do best: educate our children.

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