Based upon release of 2017 standardized test results, D.C.’s charter school experiment may be wilting

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education released the 2017 PARCC standardized test results yesterday and the findings were sobering.  For all students, including those attending both charter and traditional schools, those scoring in the college and career readiness categories of four and five are just 30.5 percent in reading and 26.9 percent in math.  However, to put a positive spin on the findings, the results are an improvement over last year overall and for all subgroups.  Especially noteworthy is that economically disadvantaged students in both sectors increased in proficiency rates by 5.3 percent in English and 3.8 percent in math.

But it was former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson who pointed out yesterday on Facebook that for the first time since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 and since schools were required to make standardized test scores public, the traditional schools led charters in these findings.   For example, in English, charter school students in grades three through eight overall showed 29.5 percent of students at the four and five level while 32.1 percent of DCPS pupils were in this range.  A similar pattern exists in math with 30.6 percent of charter students earning fours and fives while 32.8 percent of DCPS students are in this category.  When it comes to testing in high school, charters do lead the traditional schools slightly in math but the proficiency rate is so low that its nothing to brag about.  For high school English the trend of DCPS leading charters continues.

But charters, which concentrate on teaching poor students, are better than DCPS in this category, aren’t they?  Not according to the 2017 PARCC.  For economically disadvantaged students, in reading DCPS leads charters in proficiency rates 23.7 percent to 23.5 percent. For English Language Learners, DCPS is ahead 17.7 percent compared to 13.7 percent for charters, and for students with disabilities, DCPS is ahead 6.8 percent to 5.8 percent.  Only in math are low income charter school students ahead slightly of those of DCPS but for the other two categories the traditional school students score higher.

A couple of areas where charters do outperform DCPS are the categories of At-risk students and those that are black.  For the first category, charters lead in English 18.2 percent compared to 14.1 percent proficiency for DCPS, and 17.8 percent compared to 11.9 percent in math.  For African-American students, charters scored higher, 24.4 percent to 19.9 percent in English, and in math charters have 22.5 percent of students proficient while DCPS has this statistic at 15.0 percent.

Some charters did post some extremely impressive results.  The following proficiency rates are from the DC Public Charter School Board press release:

English Language Arts

  1. BASIS DC PCS (High School) – 71%
  2. Washington Latin PCS – High School – 71%
  3. Washington Latin PCS – Middle School – 65%
  4. Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS – 58%
  5. Washington Yu Ying PCS – 58%
  6. BASIS DC PCS (Middle School) – 57%
  7. District of Columbia International School – 55%
  8. DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School – 54%


  1. BASIS DC PCS (High School) – 75%
  2. KIPP DC – Promise Academy PCS – 74%
  3. KIPP DC – Heights Academy PCS – 65%
  4. KIPP DC Spring Academy PCS – 65%
  5. KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS – 61%
  6. DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School – 57%
  7. BASIS DC PCS (Middle School) – 57%
  8. Early Childhood Academy PCS – 54%

But overall this was not a great report for D.C.’s charter school sector.

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