Colbert King gets problem with D.C. schools correct, offers wrong solution

Last Saturday, the Washington Post’s Colbert King opined about the growing academic achievement gap found in D.C. schools which was highlighted by this year’s PARCC standardized test results.  About the elementary and middle school scores he writes:

“Overall English and math proficiency rates reached 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, only because white students, who make up 12 percent of the school system, scored proficiency rates of 79 percent in English and 70 percent in math.

The stark truth: Black students, who constitute 67 percent of the school population, had a 17 percent proficiency rate in both English and math, trailing Hispanics, who comprise 17 percent of the school population and recorded proficiency rates of 21 percent in English and 22 percent in math.”

The issue does not get any better regarding the high school findings.  Mr. King points out that while 52 percent of white children were proficient on the geometry test, that number is at 8 percent for Hispanics and 4 percent for Black kids.  In English, 82 percent of white students were found to be proficient while only 25 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of Blacks were college ready.

I  share Mr. King’s unhappiness that after almost 20 years of school reform here in the District we have this persistent and stubborn achievement gap.  But his solution does nothing to help.

“This new year, responsibility for a turnaround rests not only on principals and teachers but also on mothers and fathers behaving like supportive, participating parents, and a community — business, religious and social leaders, including elected officials — bent on providing all that is necessary, both school resources and family support, to close one of the widest racial academic achievement gaps in the country.”

We have waited long enough for parents, community leaders, and politicians to fix this problem.  There are proven charter schools that already know how to bridge the achievement gap like KIPP DC PCS, DC Prep PCS, Achievement Prep PCS, Friendship PCS, and Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS. As a society we should do everything we can do to help these charters and others that have been successful at this work expand and takeover traditional schools that aren’t.

I have a New Year’s resolution to replace the one offered by Mr. King.  By the end of this year, 2016, there will be an action plan for each facility that has a lower than 25 percent student proficiency rate in English and math which includes the takeover by a high performing charter.


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