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D.C. elementary test scores show decline


D.C. officials announced Tuesday that reading and math test scores declined in elementary schools this year, halting a two-year run of significant gains and dealing a setback to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee as she seeks to overhaul city schools.

The news was better for middle and high schools, which saw continued gains in reading and math on the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS), administered every April.

After rising 20 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, the elementary math proficiency rate dipped 4.6 points this year, to 43.4. The elementary reading proficiency rate, which had risen 11 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, fell 4.4 points, to 44.4 percent. The proficiency rate is essentially a measure of the portion of students who pass the tests.

School-by-school scores will not be available until later this month.

Rhee, who joined Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to announce the 2010 scores in a mid-morning news conference at Ballou High School, said she couldn't account for the drop in elementary scores, and that it would require some study.

"We're going to dig into the data," she said.

Rhee and Fenty emphasized the overall record of test score gains since the mayor appointed Rhee in 2007. School reform has become a key issue in Fenty's reelection campaign against challenger Vincent C. Gray (D), the D.C. Council chairman.

Rhee called the three-year gains at the middle and high school levels -- an average of 14 percentage points in reading and 17 points in math -- a significant achievement. In a statement distributed to reporters, Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which consults with urban school districts, called the growth "unusual and important," adding that the District is one of the few cities in the country to see double-digit growth at the secondary level.

Officials also reported that the percentage of students scoring at advanced levels has doubled in elementary and secondary schools since 2007.

--Bill Turque

By Washington Post editors  |  July 13, 2010; 2:19 PM ET
 
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Comments

By the time we arrived at the DCCAS test my students were tested out and said so. Teachers received directives from our administrator and letters from Rhee herself telling us of the importance of creating a positive atmosphere around the tests. When the week before the CAS test arrived my students looked up at me with very weary eyes and said "How many tests are they going to give us this year?" I said it earlier in the year: we are testing these children so much that there is no time for real, substantial instruction. Everything this year was about test prep - every grade level meeting, every other PD that wasn't IMPACT, everything. I knew on the third BAS test that the scores were going to go down. There is such a thing as over-testing.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | July 13, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I cannot wait for the WP spin on this story.

Posted by: bnew100 | July 13, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Bill:
The Post WILL NEVER let you write this story in their newspaper. We better copy this now before Joanne Armao and Fred Hiatt of the editorial board get a hold of this and do their hatchet job. The Post only covers up the news and this isn't good press for Hizzonner Fenty and Rhee-Rhee. We need to bow at Dr. Janey's feet with an apology.

Posted by: teacherspet | July 13, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The initial press release lacks the specific data needed to substantiate claims of "significant improvement" under the Fenty/Rhee administration. If the intent of collecting data is to facilitate meaningful educational reform, it is essential that complete and accurate data is presented, carefully reviewed, analyzed objectively and evaluated with the goal of improving learning opportunities for children that will ensure continued progress. Anything less smacks of "manufactured consent".

Posted by: highquality4kids | July 13, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Will the Washington Post stop reporting these bogus results?

2009 national 4th grade tests DC proficient or above
math 17 percent
reading 11 percent

Now we have claims of DC tests results of elementary schools that indicate 44 percent of students being proficient in reading and 43 percent being proficient in math.

Yes DC can degrade tests to such an extent that it can make false claims but unfortunately for Ms. Rhee, DC has so many Title 1 poverty public schools that she can not use bogus test results when national tests for DC clearly indicates very large numbers of students that are not proficient.

By the way the 2009 national tests for DC of proficient and above in the 8th grade were:
math 11 percent
reading 14 percent

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/

Posted by: bsallamack | July 13, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

For all the individuals making comments.

The DC tests and the test results are totally bogus.

Bill Turque has not done his job.

Imagine a business reporter that publishes claims from a company that they are in very good financial shape and totally ignores a public report from a reliable source that the firm is close to bankruptcy.

National tests of 2009 of DC indicates these claims are bogus.

Mr. Turque should have included the results of national tests for DC in 2009 and let the reader wonder how DC can claim 44 percent of students being proficient in reading when the national test in 2009 indicated only 11 percent.

DC can make as many spurious claims as they want but they still can not offer any valid explanation why their test results are so different from the test results of national test for DC.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 13, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Okay...does this erase all the progress that has been done so-far regarding management improvements of DCPS? If all the nay-sayers are touting this as a Rhee failure, then let's stop the "pay raises" while we at it, misery does love company...so bring back all the RIF'd disgruntle teachers back into the fray.

If data is result driven...then does this not prove a point that the raise in test scores at the elmentary level of the past...might have just impacted the secondary jump of scores of the current.

This is such a seasonal mess...merely because the test was given in the spring, the results were provided in the summer and it won't be until the fall that if anything can be done about it...and then the winter-blues set in and we are all at ground zero again. USELESS!!!

Posted by: PowerandPride | July 13, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I think IMPACT is to blame. The rubric for an IMPACT lesson requires three different learning styles in 20 minutes. I think that lessons based on the IMPACT framework promote a lack of focus in elementary school children given the fact that the average period is 45 minutes long. Essentially students are taught a lesson and then after that time frame it is time on task. Students have to absorbe three different learning styles via various activities in a short time. I think that the three learning styles is fine in a block schedule period that tends to be longer than 45 minutes, but this only occurs at the high school level.

Posted by: marylight | July 13, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

You have to understand that lower tests are good and prove that Rhee is wonderful. If the go even lower that would be great because only she can raise them, and this would allow ALL of us to appreciate her greatness

Posted by: mamoore1 | July 13, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

These scores are substandard to say the list! Is there some way to compare these scores with demographically similar systems in Maryland and Virginia? It just goes to show that student achievement takes an entire village approach and that Dr. Janey was probably responsible for the earlier gaines not Rhee.

Isn't it time for DC to take back control of the school system from Mayor Fenty and Rhee? Where are the checks and balances? Please ask Dr. Jerry Weast (Montgomery County) and Dr. Sydney Cousin (Howard County) for assistance!

Posted by: lacy4 | July 13, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

If data is result driven...then does this not prove a point that the raise in test scores at the elmentary level of the past...might have just impacted the secondary jump of scores of the current.

Posted by: PowerandPride
.............................
The bogus numbers that were released only indicate that if you use bogus numbers you can prove anything.

The 2009 national test results for DC clearly indicate that these numbers are bogus.

How else explain:
2009 national 4th grade tests DC proficient or above
math 17 percent
reading 11 percent

2010 bogus scores of DC
math 43 percent
reading 44 percent

Of course there is also the truth that if you catch someone with bogus numbers you naturally assume that any past numbers of the individual were also bogus.

Wake up DC. The only miracle in DC is in how long bogus numbers could be used in DC when valid national test scores for DC totally contradicted the bogus numbers.

This is not a question of scores dropping but of bogus numbers and bogus tests.

Just imagine that if the Federal government was convinced to use the bogus tests of Ms. Rhee on national tests we could fix the problems of Title 1 public schools overnight.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 13, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

These scores are substandard to say the list! Is there some way to compare these scores with demographically similar systems in Maryland and Virginia?
Posted by: lacy4
........................
What is the point when it is so easy to compare them with the 2009 national tests of DC?

The numbers and tests are bogus and show that Ms. Rhee claims to improvements are totally based upon lowering standards where failing basic skills on national tests is now equivalent in many cases to being proficient on DC tests.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 13, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

adcteacher1, you are absolutely correct. Many of the students in my schools shared the same sentiments about the the excessive testing. They basically had "tested out" (i.e., were extremely weary of the entire process). As a result, many did not give their best on the tests. I suspect this decline will continue, especially with reports of adding even more testing protocols to the calendars of future school years.

So much for caring "about kids." michelle rhee, YOU FAIL!

Posted by: schooletal | July 13, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Story for the New York Times.

Ms. Rhee in the past has made claims of significant gains in public education based upon DC test results.

In the past there never has been totally objective evidence to refute these claims or support these claims.

Recent DC test results released by Ms. Rhee show that these claims were not valid.

DC test results for 2010 for elementary students
proficient or above
math 43 percent
reading 44 percent

These results are impossible to reconcile with the national tests.
2009 national 4th grade tests DC
proficient or above
math 17 percent
reading 11 percent

It is impossible to make any valid claim regarding DC test results when the concept of proficiency on a DC test is so far removed from the concept of proficiency on national tests.

It is apparent that improved test scores in DC have been simply obtained by lowering the standards of these tests and that there is no evidence to support the claims of Ms. Rhee of improvement of public education in DC.

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/

Emailed to the public editor and reporters covering education.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 13, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Rhee and Fenty emphasized the overall record of test score gains since the mayor appointed Rhee in 2007.
_____________________________

And to what do they attribute the rise in test scores BEFORE her arrival? This makes it sound like test scores didn't rise until Rhee came along. Fact is, test scores in DCPS have been rising for the last decade. It's interesting to note that now, as Rhee's "reforms" begin their destruction, we are seeing scores drop. Perhaps she's not the "miracle worker" everyone thought she was. Scales falling from anyone's eyes now?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 13, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that DC CAS results are even worse than what's reported here. In the past, Michelle Rhee has always released the most positive news first, and left it to Bill Turque to dig up the dirt three weeks later, when the Post can relegate it to page 4 of the Metro section. There are no raw numbers being released here. Fenty and Rhee are telling us that the weather is lovely, but they won't let us look out the window.

Posted by: berniehorn | July 13, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

These results are to be expected; when a school system aggressively hires individuals who have never taught then you add to the mix IMPACT and novice principals who are also learning on the job; a train wreck waiting to happen. I am all for hiring new teachers and principals but there are too many at one particular time, and the balance is way off. Let' take Shaw at Garnet Patterson; that school purged most of its veteran teaching staff during the first year of the late Brian Betts tenure. Well what happened, the test scores went down. Also add to the mix IMPACT, three learning styles in 20 minutes, with young children who need more time on task than a teacher putting up a show for the master educator or the principal.
This is a failing formula,
NOVICE PRINCIPAL + NOVICE TEACHER + IMPACT = LOWER TEST SCORES.

Posted by: marylight | July 14, 2010 4:24 AM | Report abuse

The DC-CAS is like the SAT or other standardized tests where there is significant analysis that takes place after all the dots are filled in. It is a 'benchmark test', but those benchmarks are set, not to a curve, but in consideration of many factors.

For instance, a question may be thrown out as being unreliable. And the entire graded test may be determined to be more difficult or more easy than the preceding years as judged by a panel under OSSE's direction. The scores required to reach the levels of Basic, Proficient and Advanced are then set accordingly.

-------------

From the Q & A page of the OSSE website:

"3. What is the test proficiency standard that students have to meet?

Starting in 2006 students have to meet the DC-CAS proficiency standards that were recommended by a committee of teachers and administrators and approved by the Board of Education in the summer of 2006. The standard setting committee included educators who work with all kinds of students including students with disabilities and English language learners.

Prior to 2006 students had to score at the national 40th percentile or higher on the SAT9."

My Comment: The 40th percentile of the SAT9 was NOT a high standard for "Proficiency"; and the divergence in the percentage of students rated Proficient or Advanced by the DC-CAS as compared to a much more carefully designed and evaluated NAEP test should be a cause of great concern for all.

And Bill Turque writes about the first round entry RTTT evaluation of the DCPS: "The District earned just six out of a possible 24 points because its education data system is much less robust than those in Tennessee and Delaware. The District's fledgling effort, known as the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Warehouse (SLED), has been plagued by problems, including the dismissal last year of its main contractor."

-------------

OSSE staff and others who have been involved in the testing process have said to me that less than 50% correct answers can be considered Proficient. I remember a conversation where the number was below 45% for one test. Since I am not in the inner-circle that actually sets these threshold levels, I cannot state with certainty what the actual percentages are, but I do believe the people who have reported very similar numbers and who are involved in the process.

If I could get someone on the record, or obtain raw data, I would distribute this to the community if OSSE agreed this was not confidential. It is important that we can be confident in these metric systems that not only evaluate our children, but will determine whether teachers and administrators keep their jobs.

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 14, 2010 5:26 AM | Report abuse

There was a time when the Washington Post actually did investigative reporting. Look up the multiple day report on "Fixing D.C. Schools" published in June of 2007. The series had seven contributing reporters and the city schools system were skewered on all fronts for its many glaring failures.

Now there are no negative stories about the schools - ever. There are no fires, no brawls, no weapons, no vermin infestations, no incompetent administrators or teachers.

We only read the glowing essays on the benefits of reform that are put out by the DCPS officials. There is no independent investigation of nor reporting on the test scores or very little of anything in the schools. The very real conversations about schools and school reform deserve to be in the public domain.

Those who believe that the the test scores are fine really do need to learn why there is such a discrepancy between what is "Proficient" on the DC tests, and what the U S Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) calls "Proficient." One difference is that the NAEP tests use the same proficiency levels for all children tested throughout the country.

The Post's "reporting" now sounds like it has been written by the DCPS Office of Communication.

It is stunning in 2010 to still be sold the bill of goods that is offered to the public as news about the "public" schools. And meanwhile, back at the schools, all who work in schools can be replaced with scurrilous evaluations at best, and all will be right for the kids.

Posted by: 4thekidsorforthe | July 14, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

My Comment: The 40th percentile of the SAT9 was NOT a high standard for "Proficiency";
_______________________________________

It may not be a very high standard, but it's still mathematically impossible. The goal is for every child to be proficient. How do we get 100 percent of the kids into the 40th percentile or above?

Posted by: berniehorn | July 15, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I agree. Too much test prep bores children and many drop out or have a lot of absences. The only way to make kids prep well for tests is do things like they do in other countries. You fail the test you get put with the dumb kids. Tracking is a bad word in DC but many of the top performing countries do this. Why hold the bright kids back in classes with kids who misbehave or have no interest in learning.4 or 5 troublemakers in a class can make a teacher's day hell and the students who do want to learn get frustrated.
WHY DOES THE DC AND OTHER US SCHOOL SYSTEMS FAIL TO HOLD CHILDREN ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR PROGRESS? Children are coddled here. Make them compete for everything. If they don't strive to compete put them in a warehouse until they are 16.

Posted by: mountainsister41 | July 19, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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