DCPS scraps Saturday Scholars
A weekend test prep program established by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee to help raise DC CAS scores has been discontinued because of low attendance, budget pressures and "limited effectiveness." A memo to principals Thursday said that Saturday Scholars, offered between January and April for the last three years to help students prepare for the standardized tests, would not return in 2011.
"The decision not to offer this program was made because of historically low attendance, limited effectiveness and ongoing efforts to maximize resources," the memo said, adding that money from the initiative would be redirected into the DCPS after-school program.
Figures on cost or attendance were not available, but in 2008 officials said Saturday Scholars was budgeted at $1.5 million annually for about 7,500 students
Rhee's predecessor, Superintendent Clifford Janey, launched a similar four-week version of the test prep program. But Rhee targeted the new Saturday effort to students whose scores indicated that they might reach proficiency levels with extra attention from teachers. About 5,000 students were invited each year, although officials said the program was open to all in testing grades.
DC CAS scores did trend upward during most of Rhee's three-and-a-half-year tenure. But DCPS spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said in a statement that an analysis found that Saturday Scholars did not greatly impact student achievement.
"The data shows that while the program benefited some of the participants, its impact on achievement in terms of number of students served didn't warrant continued investment. In these financial times it is even more important that we identify and promote the programs that most effectively and successfully improve student achievement."
Saturday Scholars was ripped by some critics as "educational triage," designed for those kids who needed the help least--but who offered the most potential to elevate school test scores.
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