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School Without Walls Gets Blue Ribbon

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will come to School Without Walls Thursday to cite the high school as one of 300 National Blue Ribbon Schools for its progress in raising achievement levels among disadvantaged and minority students.

The school, located on the GWU campus, requires an application for admission and draws students from across the city.

On this year's DC CAS, 100 percent of the school's white sophomores read at proficiency level or better, while 92.4 percent of their African American classmates met the same benchmark.

In math, the two groups were almost identical: 94.3 percent of African American sophomores cleared the proficiency bar and 95 percent of white 10th-graders.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Duncan will announce all 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools. Also attending will be D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, George Washington University Provost Steven Lerman and School Without Walls officials. Come back here for more details later this morning.

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By Bill Turque  |  September 8, 2010; 7:55 PM ET
 
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Comments

"The school, located on the GWU campus, requires an application for admission and draws students from across the city.

On this year's DC CAS, 100 percent of the school's white sophomores read at proficiency level or better, while 92.4 percent of their African American classmates met the same benchmark.

In math, the two groups were almost identical: 94.3 percent of African American sophomores cleared the proficiency bar and 95 percent of white tenth graders."

So, what is the VAM for School Without Walls?
Did their kids start at the 13th percentile?

Posted by: edlharris | September 8, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Does the application process tend to draw higher performing students anyway?

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 9, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Arne Duncan should share the good news about how his program in Chicago is doing:

http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/assets/20100803/files/catsummer2010.pdf

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 9, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

In order to gain entrance to SWW, students must take a standardized test. Because the students are preselected for excellence on standardized tests, it it no surprise that they do well on the DC-CAS.

Posted by: parentof2redheads | September 9, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

SWW has always done well. I would like to know if the Rhee admin has made any changes to the staff?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | September 9, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Smoke and mirrors. Walls students must pass a standardized test, only the top scorers are admitted. Last year, with their newly remodeled space on the GWU campus, Walls had a record number of applicants.

It's like Sidwell boasting about their SAT scores.

The question is, or should be, what is the value-added of the school?

Posted by: trace1 | September 9, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Let's look at this another way. The school takes the cream of the crop in terms of standardized test-takers, and still, over 7 percent of African American students cannot even read at a "proficient" level (and this is not the highest score on the DC-CAS; the yardsticks are below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.)

Posted by: trace1 | September 9, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

School Without Walls! Great school, great new facility, great staff. Blue Ribbon Schools raises its own credibility by honoring School Without Walls.

Posted by: Trulee | September 9, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Proud of my alma mater!
To answer the question: Yes, in certain respects it does attract more top performing students just as Banneker and Wilson does.

Posted by: wildstyler | September 9, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

There's some interesting discussion going on here: The testing population at SWW is so small that one or two students often swing test scores up or down multiple percentage points. So when 7 percent of the 55 African-American students tested score basic, that's four students.

I understand that 100 percent should be scoring advanced, but I would caution against making statements on school quality based on, essentially, outlier data.
Do those students need help and support? Absolutely. But the previous year had three students of a larger African-American testing population score basic...for a proficiency level of slightly less than 96 percent. So this looks like a major swing (in SWW terms), but is one more student scoring basic.

Also, anyone familiar with the DC CAS knows that the tests are themselves not perfect measures and are only now being aligned with the practice/monitoring tests.

A better measure of school quality would be how many SWW students graduate from college/universities/equivalent institutions in 6 or fewer years. That might tell us something about the school's lasting effect.

Posted by: sydneybergman | September 9, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Awarding this school a blue ribbon is misguided. The Principal of Walls only accepts students of color that score high on the entry exam. He exercises authority as if he runs a private school. He doesn't risk his high DCAS scores on DC students that are motivated, but need additional help.

It is no accomplishment to only take high achievers and provide them with great teachers, new facilities, and all the resources they need. The "blue ribbon" should be reserved for those schools that do the hard work of helping those students with low test scores become successful.

Too bad for you Anne Duncan!

Posted by: TooBad1 | September 14, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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