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Fenty: D.C. Schools Test Scores Up

Could Mayor Adrian Fenty's school takeover be working faster than anyone could have imagined, or did former School Superintendent Clifford Janey's reforms finally take hold--a year after Fenty fired him?

That's the question today after Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that test scores for public school students rose on reading and math across the board on the latest D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams. (These are the tests that measure whether schools have made adequate progress under No Child Left Behind.)

According to preliminary results provided by the administration, 46 percent of elementary school students scored proficient in reading and 40 percent in math, up 8 points and 11 points, respectively, from last year. At the secondary level, the news was just as good. Thirty nine percent scored proficient in reading and 36 percent in math, up 9 points in both categories.

Although the overall level of proficiency is still very low compared with suburban jurisdictions, the gains are significant. Fenty and Rhee chose to make the announcement at Plummer Elementary in Ward 7, a school that made a 17-point gain in reading (to 40 percent) and a 15-point gain in math (to 32 percent).

But just how much of the success can be attributed to the changes brought by Fenty and Rhee, who took over in June 2007? At the news conference, they acknowledged that Janey deserves credit for installing some reforms that helped lead to the improvement. At the same time, it's almost certain that the current administration will reap much of the shine in the public's eye, as Fenty has made school reform his top priority and has staked much of his political future on the success of the system.

By David A Nakamura  |  July 9, 2008; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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This year has been so different. Everyone knows they are accountable. Janey gets credit for the more rigorous standards and the Readers Writers Workshop staff development is really good - it is shame that is it not being funded anymore.

Posted by: DCPS Parent | July 9, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Congratulate the teachers.

Posted by: hogboss | July 9, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Yes, give Janey his due but lets also celebrate the new administration, both Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee and their staffs for the the new climate of high quality teaching and accountability in instruction.
We are on the right track. Lets keep the momentum going.

Posted by: Jerome Feucht, DCPS Teacher | July 9, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Thank You teachers and principals, some of which I am sure have, since, been terminated by Chancellor Rhee.

Thank you Clifford Janey.

Thank you concerned and devoted parents.

Thank you most to the academically dedicated young people.

And Fenty/Rhee? Well, we'll see in 2 years.

Posted by: Concernedaboutdc | July 9, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

the plan was established and set in place by Janey. rhee and fenty acknowledge that his plan is what will guide them. they cannot take credit for it. they can take credit for next year.

Posted by: RobGreg | July 9, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

This makes you think about all the people she has been firing, maybe some Teachers and Admin. Folks have been trying to improve DCPS. Rhee failed at teaching and she is off to a bad start with DCPS. This is a problem that will take some time to fix, but you have to have vision and leadership skills.(Not just talk)

Posted by: KPLION | July 9, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course this terrific news will make it below the fold on page 4 of the Metro section in tomorrow's Post because it concerns the District. If test scores had gone up in Loudon this much it would be Page 1 news.

Posted by: DC Proud | July 9, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Janey's vision has started to come to fruition. I just hope that Rhee, and the Fenty administration, will try to build on these gains.

Posted by: Dwayne Smith | July 9, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

What happens to the 54 percent of students that are not proficient in reading and the 60 percent of students that are not proficient in math?

Do they just get moved along in the system until they are in the 10th grade and the school finally realizes they cannot read at all? This is the problem many high schools face. You cannot expect a student with a 3rd grade reading level to pass the 10th grade unless you just push them through the system.

It is sad to see students come to an open enrollment college like the one I used to work for and need to take remedial classes. At that point we are just taking their money and not to mention devalue a high school diploma (although I do not know how it could get any lower).

Congrats on the improvements but we are still leaving many children behind.

Posted by: Dave | July 9, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"Could Mayor Adrian Fenty's school takeover be working faster than anyone could have imagined, or did former School Superintendent Clifford Janey's reforms finally take hold--a year after Fenty fired him?"

The answer is, Mayor Adrian Fenty's school takeover is working.

Posted by: Karl | July 9, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

1. Is this the same test?
2. Was the test modified?
3. How much prep time (testing to the test?) was done this time compared to last year?
4. What is the percentage of students who took the test this year took it last year?
5. Was the scoring system changed?
6. Remember, the test compares last year's 5th grade to this year's 5th grade. They are not the same students.

Posted by: Ted | July 9, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The story talks about elementary and high schools... what about middle schools?

Posted by: mimi mapp | July 9, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Let's give Janey most of the credit for this. When were the tests given? I would assume that not even a year into Rhee's term.

I give Adrian Fenty credit for a focus on schools but it is Janey's focus on learning that has made this difference. Chancellor Rhee doesn't even have a Chief Academic Office in place yet. Her first year changes were mostly cosmetic.

Then one also needs to ask- what was the test given- was it the same as in previous years?

Posted by: peter | July 9, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

All the questions posed by "Ted" above are very valid. However, credit for any improvement goes to both Janey, for setting the course for change, and to Fenty/Rhee, for mandating that all teachers and schools are to be accountable for staying the course. Janey had the vision (hurray!), but Rhee has the balls. I can easily see that if Janey had stayed on (and, to his credit, tried to implement more visionary change) there would have been continued resistence, complacency and indifference within the system, which is one key reason why so many parents and students were complaining their needs were not being met. Before, there was no sense of urgency to take action. Now, under Rhee's leadership, there has definitely been a noticable shakeup at DCPS. The teachers are less depressed, the staff is more motivated and on-the-ball, and the kids are more excited. There is new energy--including new buildings, new fields, new walls, new lighting, new landscaping, and new bathrooms which are all tangible evidence of change kids can see, understand and embrace due to the positive affects on their self-esteem. Not sure if all this has helped fuel the rise in test scores and hopefully a rejuvenated interest in school as well...but it surely couldn't hurt! Let's all help keep this momentum going and ultimately reach the goal of NO child ever being left behind again.

Posted by: DCPS Parent in NW | July 9, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I am with the parents who question the following:

a) what about middle school scores - this is the gap through which most DC students fall

b) don't compare last year's 5th graders to this year's 5th graders (they are different students) - compare each student's current test scores with his/her previous year's test scores - did they improve on an individual level?

JANEY deserves all of the credit - period!

Rhee has not implemented any educational program changes, just administrative changes. In fact, she mandated that schools could not take field trips before or during testing time, so was it that students were 'forced' to focus on test taking versus actually learning all year long so that they could 'naturally' do well on these tests.

Again, the best measure is to compare a student's progress from year to year; not comparing him/her to others.

Posted by: Parent Concerned about the Middle Schools | July 9, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

congratulations to Michelle Rhee, to Mayor Fenty, but most of all to the students themselves who are taking their lives seriously!

Posted by: DCer | July 9, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

What the heck does it mean to "naturally" do well on a test? Are some students genetically programmed for success or are they taught. Parent, your rationalization is just creepy. I don't believe like you that a successful student has a particular genetic background.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm the biggest Rhee fanboy on this site, but I do give a large heaping spoonful of the credit for this improvement to Janey. The changes he made to curriculum and standards were excellent. The question was would he ever be able to implement them?

Rhee does get bonus points for not changing standards or the exams in her first year like most Superintendents do.

Most praise goes to the teachers and the students who worked every day during the year.

Next year, let's strive for "Average!" 40 something percent is still pretty bad.

Posted by: Chris | July 9, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Let us not forget the now defunct school board was in place when Janey was superintendent. His hands were tied fiscally as was every other superintendent before him. Janey's vision is producing results now NOT Fenty/Rhee who don't even have their budget and programs in place until the next school year and who knows how many after that. All fenty has done is eliminate the school board and established one source of accountability. While I voted for Fenty, the next two years will be a litmus test to my loyalty to his administration. If WE succeed, given success is NOT measured in single point improvments and averages still under the NCLB standards, Fenty/Rhee can recieve due credit. However, if these "new" programs being installed fail, Mayor Cropp, are you ready to take your oath of office?

Posted by: Rugby Coach and Parent | July 9, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

This is typical BS from Fenty via David Nakamura.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Rhee and Fenty will try and take credit for the rise in test scores -NOT - Teachers teach- they have had to repair the damages of the "missionaries" from Teach for America-New Teacher Project- Teaching Fellows -- Real teachers do what they do TEACH
testing as parent and educators accross the country know - needs to to stopped

experienced teachers -
FULLY funded schools -reduced class size supports and interventions-

OUR children will be sucessful - in ALL areas - not just a test where scores can be manipulated with an eraser

Posted by: Parent | July 9, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Okay...we give credit to Janey...then who has egg on their face? How does one honestly say that we dismissed principal who made AYP last year...and to others who raised test scores this are not the "right" person for Chancellor Rhee DCPS? I just can't fathom...the role of being a principal within do everything right under Janey and results show but you are given the boot. You do everything right under Rhee and results show but you are still given the toe-pointed boot. Well one thing for sure...the vacancy announcements at the New Jersey school district where Janey is now the superintendent...has "relocation expenses from DC" enscripted somewhere...don't you think? Weren't we just voted as the best city to tele-commute...? A New Jersey to DC connection does not look too bad. Unfortunately, we have to wait for this time next year to see whether the Ohio to DC connection is worth its weight... Until then, Janey party like a rock-star!!! Oh! Michele continue being the rock of gibraltar for the Mayor...he too needs strength to make this education take-over worth it.

Posted by: It cost to be the boss | July 9, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I just lower my expectations and things look great. For instance, instead of giving a student a "C," they now score the new "B," which is the old "C." It works for the other grades too, with amazing results!

Posted by: Felix Smallbottoms | July 9, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I attended the Mayor and Chancellor's press conference on the DCPS test scores. David Nakamura did not. I find absolutely dishonest foe The Post have Mr. Nakamura to write this blog about a press conference he did not attend. I also find it unfortunate Mr. Nakamura did not raise the question about how the Fenty/Rhee team can assert the firing of teachers and principals, along with closing schools in June has an effect on test scores taken in April/May. Oh I forgot, Mr. Nakamura did not attend the press conference. These very principals and teachers who gave the system these dramatic rise in test scores are the same ones Rhee fired.

The rise in test scores are the direct and only result of former Superintendent Clifford Janey's implementation of a curricula and standards, not Chancellor Rhee.

Posted by: Robert Vinson Brannum | July 9, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

After only one year there is no way Rhee can take full credit for the increase in scores. She has done alot aesthetically and tried to put programs in place but the results of that work won't show up until next year. Give Credit to Superintendent Janey's work. The programs he put in place are working. The standards he initiated are working. The training he put in place is working.

Rhee understood that if it wasn't broken don't fix it.

Posted by: Sarah | July 9, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Parent, I have yet to meet a teacher in the DC public schools who comes close to being a "real" teacher. Only one of the teachers at my son's elementary school has a PhD and I've only met one other who has a master's degree. I've met so-called teachers who never got their certification and who deride the certification process as being phony. But they are still lousy teachers. My first grade teacher in the early 1970s was a former college professor who moved to DC and decided to teach instead. She had a PhD, had written a book on her experiences teaching in the 60s, and was unbelievable. Find me one elementary school teacher in DC who has written a published book on teaching and I'd like to meet them.

No, there isn't a single "real teacher" in DC, you're lying to us, yourself and your kids, and it shows "parent."

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Test theory is little bit tricky. This theory requires that lots of conditions be met, so that one can reliably make inferences about the results of a test. Without putting down the results of the city, I will note that we should all be very cautious reading into these gains. Yes there are gains, but how was the test given from school to school? What test was it? Several school system or district have learn how to manipulate the system so that they can report gains. One should also note that the tests given across the nation varies in difficulty level. But again you have to be smart to know all of this and how to manipulate things around...

Posted by: curious | July 9, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

When the base of students achieving proficiency is so low, small changes can do a lot. I don't know why it has to be either/or. Janey did some good stuff, Rhee has done a lot of good stuff too. And there is so much room for improvement. BTW I know some excellent and qualified teachers in DCPS but without materials and support they can't teach to their best capacity and the students suffer.

Posted by: Judith | July 9, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

--No, there isn't a single "real teacher" in DC, you're lying to us, yourself and your kids, and it shows "parent."--

How would you feel if I said there isn't really one "real parent" in DC that cares about the quality of their child's education and is doing a poor job as a parent? It's easy to generalize things based on your own experiences, but I have met and work with many "real teachers" within DCPS.

Some of which have given up more financially lucrative careers to teach. Some of which have retired from other careers to become teachers. Some of which have come from the TFA and DCTF programs. Some of which work unbelievably hard after school hours to tutor students, call parents, and go way above and beyond what any of my teachers ever did for me.

I'm glad to see the reform going on within DCPS and I think a lot of credit is due to what Janey left in place as well as for Fenty and Rhee, but we all still have a long way to go... Hopefully, we will continue to move in a positive direction.

Posted by: DCPS "Real" Teacher | July 9, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Its amazing how test scores rise when people get paid off....

Viva La DC!

Posted by: ... | July 9, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

If test scores for DC students don't rise in the next two years by at least as much as they did this year, Rhee should be fired(That's Accountability). Don't try to take credit for other peoples work, especially people that you let go for "Not doing the Job". Don't pi** in my face and tell me it's raining.

Posted by: KPLION | July 9, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Why are so many comments snarling with extremism? Let's be real:

1) Janey gets credit. So do Fenty and Rhee. So do principals. So do teachers. So do kids. Couldn't have happened without massive effort from all of the above.

2) Definitely more time spent "teaching to the test." This is a nationwide trend that isn't going away as long as schools have to meet AYP. Not the best but it's still a vast improvement over what was going on previously in a lot of classrooms, believe me.

3) Good improvement. Let's be proud, hopeful - NOT satisfied. Rhee's not, I assure you. Still a long way to go.

3)KPLION said "this makes you think about all the people she has been firing, maybe some Teachers and Admin. Folks have been trying to improve DCPS. Rhee failed at teaching and she is off to a bad start with DCPS."

A. This statement needs to be challenged because it's just so factually untrue. Rhee co-taught 60 students for 2 years and they jumped on average from about 15th percentile to 90th percentile. This is backed up by numerous coworkers, and her principal called the achievement gains "dramatic," regardless of exact numbers. She assigned 2 hrs. of homework a night, visited houses, and tutored before school and on weekends. How is this failing as a teacher?
B. Apparently she's not off to a bad start at DCPS, judging by the scores. She fired all these people because when the status quo is so miserably inadequate, you have to do more than tweak it - you have to make shake things up and change the culture (which was one of acceptance of failure and lack of accountability) and that's what she's doing. This may make her unpopular within the DCPS bubble, but nationally she's pretty revered for her reforms and vision and leadership.

Anyone who teaches in a failing DCPS school knows that a few teachers - not all, not a lot, but too many - should never have been teachers and aren't cut out for the task ahead. If you teach in DCPS and you don't realize this then you're one of those teachers and you need to go because that's what's best for the children of this city.

I'm excited to see my children's scores. We worked exTREMEly hard for what I'm sure will be modest gains and I'll be proud of the scores and the kids, although I know that the scores are unacceptable by any rational standard, and that a lot of work lies ahead.

Posted by: Sousa Middle School DCPS Teacher | July 9, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I believe the academic gains this year are mostly due to Janey's education plan, which is excellent (and the result of years of work by many teams of DCPS stakeholders). In my own school after Janey's administration got underway, I saw great academic leaps in the past three years. I saw an excellent principal work extremely hard LAST YEAR under Janey's administration to turn our school's test score around and to get great programs like the Columbia Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop in place. In late July 2007, Rhee dangled a better adminstrative job in front of that "new leader" and she quickly "left our children behind" to get better pay and fewer hours in the OCC. Deeply involved parents scrambled to supplement the poor principal pool offered by Rhee's incoming team, and our panel unanimously selected a great replacement who kept the school on course this year. We have seen nothing but chaos, disruption, mixed messages, poor communication, and screw ups from Rhee's office this year. However, our school has continued despite the mess Rhee has made with high achievement, full implementation of the Reader/Writers program, and helped parents plan the bilingual program we overwhelmingly supported and lobbied for this year. I expect to see great things from our school's test scores. BUT despite the support of a vast majority of parents, the excellent reviews of her area superintendent, and numerous letters from our PTA, LSRT, parent leadership to the OCC, Rhee, the mayor, our elected councilmembers, and the press, Rhee FIRED our principal last month. She replaced her with a new principal coming from a failing school (which has failed to meet NCLB for 3 years). She has defunded the Readers/writers workshop too. Why? Because Rhee is incompetent. I am pulling my kids out of DCPS after deep activism for five years because I'm convinced Rhee is destroying the public school system and has no plan except union busting in her head.

Posted by: Active involved DCPS parent | July 9, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

It looks like DCPS teacher are using this opportunity to show off. But Let's be real. When Peggy Cooper-Cafritz said that DC had unqualified teachers, the union almost killed her. She was right, and still is right. It does not matter how much improvement the district post. The basic question is what test did they use? How did they achieve these results with the level of qualification of the school personnel? DC will gain some respect only when they raise their level to par either with Arlington, Fairfax Prince Williams County or Montgomery County.

Posted by: Curious | July 9, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

DC will gain some respect only when they raise their level to par either with Arlington, Fairfax Prince Williams County or Montgomery County.

You know what's sad? I know three families who drive their kids in from PG County to DC Schools to get their kids out of PG County schools. Now THAT'S FAILURE!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

This is phenomenal, and it's definitely something of which to proud. I might not be so frightened to put my son in public school if this keeps up. As for who gets the credit, I didn't follow any news concerning Janey when he was in. I suppose his policies are responsible, but I don't doubt at all that Fenty and Rhee made some people tighten up their game and walk a straighter line since they started reigning.

Posted by: dcp | July 9, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who blieves this pack of lies are probably as dumb as Fenty.

These test scores were rigged.

Let an outside organization do the testing and we will see!!

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | July 9, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I am am very proud of the progress that DC Public Schools are making! There was growth in all academic areas and that's what it should be about.....GROWTH! I know my former colleagues at Ferebee-Hope did an outstanding job!

Posted by: R. Woodruff | July 9, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for a reasonable response "Sousa Middle School DCPS Teacher".

I'm really glad to hear your hopeful comments as well as your discontent for the fact that we at DCPS do still have a long way to go.

There certainly is a lot of unease and anger towards Rhee because of the firings that have taken place. It might not be the best solution, but we all know that there are MANY teachers currently in the position that are just not cut out to be teachers and have gotten all too comfortable in their positions. However, there are some really good and hard working teachers that are cut out for the job and a blanket statement that there aren't any "real teachers" in DCPS is just ridiculous.

I am very proud of all the progress my students made this year, but I am still troubled at how far we still have to go... within my own school and even more, the entire district.

As for teaching to the tests, no one seems to be up in arms about all the study guides and classes that teach to tests such as SATs, LSATS, GRE, GMAT, become "certified" or accepted in other forms of academia or professions. There has to be some form of assessment to judge and rank. It certainly isn't a fair way to judge though when across the U.S. from state-to-state that standardized tests are not uniform. Until tests across state and county lines are uniform, comparing them and their results is like comparing apples to oranges.

Posted by: DCPS Teacher | July 9, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Driving kids from PG to DC for school... that is pathetic... it like jumping from the frying pan into the fire..!

Posted by: Curious | July 10, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

If I had Rhee's position, I will do a lot more firing than she did. There some individual in the school system that do not deserve to be in the classroom with students. The are unqualified, they are bitter, they are mean, they are very unprofessional. As a matter of fact they do not know what it means to be a professional. They have been in the system for so long that it appears to management that they know their stuff..!
My word of advise to Mayor A. Fenty and Rhee is to have a five year plan to replace all of these incompetent bunch with some real teacher. Either by luring good teachers from the school districts that are doing good by giving them housing incentives so that they can come live in the district. In return they have to sign a ten year contract to teach in the district.
They will be very beneficial to the poor children.

Posted by: Curious | July 10, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

There are a lot of Parents that are driving kids into DC for school. (Curious) Do you think PG school are performing better that DCPS (LOL).Ward 9 schools are just as bad. You can't be a poor excuse for a Parent and expect Teachers to take up the slack. We need more "Real Parents", blaming Teachers is the easy way out.

Posted by: KPLION | July 10, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

To the above person who asked how I would feel if someone said that DC parents weren't "real parents" I just had to wait a few hours for someone to make that comment, as they do in every Post article on DC schools.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 10, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I have to say that the only thing that surprised me about this is that Rhee and Fenty acknowledged that Janey deserved a lot of the credit for this. That showed more grace and wisdom than I'd give either of them credit for. I hope they haven't broken any of the progress Janey made.

Posted by: Mary in DC | July 10, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How could people who are implementing much more progress than Janey "break" his progress. Janey had good ideas, but no one saw him implement those ideas, did they? No, they saw the teachers and administration successfully rebut him. Rhee isn't taking any of that nonsense. I am so confused at how people can willfully misread this to push their petty agendas.

The agendas of the "old DC complainers" are moot. Welcome to the New DC of success.

Posted by: DCer | July 10, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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