A couple of days ago the editors of the Washington Post, reacting to DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson's first State of the Schools address, pointed out that enrollment in traditional schools has increased this year and that researchers at Stanford University and the University of Virginia have concluded in a recent study that her IMPACT teacher evaluation tool is driving poor instructors out of the system and that others are improving in their performance. The observations, according to the editors, support "what Ms. Henderson called a 'turning tide' that is transforming public education in the nation’s capital."
I really hate to spoil the party but a dose of reality is called for here. The 2013 DC CAS scores showed DCPS proficiency rates for economically disadvantaged students, those who all of us involved in education reform have been desperately trying to help, at 40.4 percent for math and 37.6 percent for reading. This is frankly disgusting. Charter schools, while doing better, may not be justifying the public's Fiscal Year 2013 $540 million investment. Their proficiency rates for the same category of kids are 54.5 percent for math and 48.4 percent for reading, equating to about half of the student body for each subject.
This after 15 years of effort to fix our schools.
Now don't get me wrong. I, like many of you out there, thoroughly enjoy Ms. Henderson's glowing Facebook messages and Tweets. In addition, I must admit I am guilty of frequently lending strong written moral support to my weary warriors in the local charter school movement. But when are we going to wake up?
If the actions we have been taking to improve are schools are working, and it appears that they are based upon this year's improvement in standardized test scores, then it is past time to put them on overdrive. The alternative is to continue graduating students from high school who cannot read or write, or add, subtract, multiply or divide simple numbers.
In 1999 I walked into a classroom on Florida Avenue N.W. of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for the Public Policy to tutor a 15 year old boy who could not tell me what the words meant that were in his textbook. The fact that this is still going on today in our educational institutions should make those of us who care about our nation's capital ill.