The D.C. charter school experiment is over

Yesterday, the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education released the 2019 PARCC standardized test results and the findings could not be more disappointing. Coming off an anemic year in 2018, charters failed miserably in an attempt to distinguish themselves from the traditional schools. We will be concentrating today on the percentage of students that scored a four or above on the examination, meaning that they are judged to be career or college ready, which is a measure of proficiency. Let’s delve into the details.

For all students in English Language Arts, charters saw an increase compared to 2018 going from 31.5 percent to 34.2 percent, a 2.7 percent change. However, DCPS students gained 4.8 percent, increasing from 35.1 percent to 39.9 percent. For black students, charters had 29.2 percent of pupils in the four plus category, a jump of 2.6 percent from last year’s 26.6 percent. DCPS had a slightly lower proportion of students in this group at 26.8 percent but the improvement over last year was larger at 3.9 percent. Hispanic students in charter schools were proficient at a rate of 33.8 percent, 1.5 percent compared to last year, while DCPS experienced a 7.4 percent increase in this subgroup’s results coming in at 39.4 percent.

For at-risk students, the proficiency rate in charters is 22.2 percent, similar to DCPS at 20.6 percent. However, again DCPS gained at a faster clip improving by 3.6 percent compared to 1.9 percent for charters. For English Language Learners, charters actually decreased its score by 1.5 percent to 14.0 while DCPS rose in this category by 2.0 percent to 22.2.

In Math the patterns are basically the same. Overall, charters improved from 2018 by just 0.3 percent to 28.7 percent proficient. DCPS improved to 32.4 percent, going up 1.9 percent from the previous year. Black students scored better in charters in this subject at 24.4 percent, compared to 18.1 percent for the regular schools, but for Hispanic students the trend was reversed with charters at 24.5 percent and DCPS at 33.0 percent. In charters, at-risk students came in at 18.6 percent proficient, an upward change of only 0.1 percent from last year. DCPS scored at 14.6 percent, improving by 1.2 percent from 12 months ago. Interestingly, for homeless students in math, charters actually experienced a 3.9 percent decrease for those recording a four or higher, going from 22.0 percent in 2018 to 18.1 percent, while DCPS increased 2.8 percent in this category to 12.8 percent. Again, for English Language Learners, DCPS tops charters at 25.9 percent versus 15.3 percent, respectively.

In case anyone wants to know, the academic achievement gap in the nation’s capital remained essentially the same as last year at 63.9 percent.

How can we tell just how devastating these results are as a group for the charter sector? We need to look no farther than the comments by Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, contained in an article that appeared yesterday by Perry Stein regarding the 2019 PARCC assessment:

“Pearson also noted that English-language learners are performing better in the traditional public school system — a trend that has endured in recent years. He says he has encouraged charter leaders to learn from the traditional public system’s strategies in working with English-language learners.”

Excuse me, charters are supposed to learn from DCPS how to teach English Language Learners? Isn’t this one of the areas where charters are supposed to excel? Is this what we have come to, charters turning to the regular schools to figure out how best to educate its students? It is truly a sad day.

There are many reasons that charters are failing to perform when it comes to the PARCC. The facility issue is still proving to be a significant drain on the attention span of school leaders. The financial challenges, especially around teacher salaries, are not helped by the substantial inequity in funding compared to DCPS. The pressure placed on these schools by the PCSB in the way of accountability through the Performance Management Framework, and other regulatory burdens, makes it almost impossible for them to be the centers of innovative learning envisioned when they were created.

Charter schools have been charged with siphoning students away from the traditional school system, which results in loss of funds for our neighborhood schools. With test results such as these, it is logical to ask whether they should continue to exist.

D.C. schools standardized test scores go up for fourth consecutive year, results disappointing

The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education yesterday released the PARCC assessment results for 2018 and there are a few clear takeaways.  For the third year in a row the percentage of students scoring in the four and five range, which measures career and college readiness, went up.  In English Language Arts for traditional and charter schools combined, the proficiency rate is now at 33.3 percent, an improvement of 2.8 points compared to last year.  In math the percentages of those ranking four and five also increased, this time by 2.5 percent, to reach 29.4 percent.  What I also liked seeing is that the proportion of students scoring in the categories of one and two, did not meet expectations and partially met expectations, respectively, decreased with level one going down by 3.4 percent to 21.2 percent and level two dropping by 4.0 points to 23.9 percent.  Quoting directly from OSSE’s findings:

  • Scores are up across almost all grades and subjects.
  • There is especially strong improvement in middle grades in both ELA and mathematics.
  • All major groups of students improved.
  • We are proud of our educators and students for the improvements we’ve made since 2015, however, results remain lower than we need, and we continue to see persistent gaps between groups of students.

This is the fourth year that public school students in the nation’s capital have taken the PARCC assessment.  It is especially encouraging to see participation rates in the exam hovering around the 98 percent to 99 percent range depending on sector and whether it is the math or ELA portion of the test.

The Washington Post’s Perry Stein makes the point that DCPS scored better than charters.  This is true for overall students.  In ELA, DCPS had 35.1 percent of students coming in at the four and five range while charters had 31.5 percent of students in this category.  In the subject of math, DCPS had 30.5 percent of students scoring in the four and five category and charters had 28.4 percent.  DCPS also showed the greatest improvement from 2017 with a 3.2 percent increase in ELA compared to charters 2.7 percent growth.  In math, DCPS went up by 3.1 percent compared to last year while charters increased by 1.8 percent.

These results are almost certainly due to DCPS having a greater proportion of generally more affluent white students compared to charters.  For example, for black students charters scored higher in English with 26.6 percent of students in the four or higher category and for DCPS this statistic was 22.9 percent.  For math, charters were at 24.4 percent proficient and DCPS was at 17.0 percent.  However, for Hispanics charters post results slightly higher than DCPS in English at 32.3 percent proficient versus 32.0 percent, but are behind DCPS in math with 23.9 percent proficient for charters compared to 30.5 percent for DCPS.  For those students designated as at-risk, charters scored better than DCPS in English and math, and for English as a Second Language learners DCPS did better in both subjects.  However, proficiency rates are extremely low coming in at about 20 percent.

Finally, the achievement gap is alive and well for all to see.  For a student living in Ward 3 the ELA proficiency rate is 72 percent compared to a 17 percent proficiency rate for a kid in Ward 8.  For math, the pattern continues with a Ward 3 proficiency rate of 64.4 percent.  For Ward 8 residents this number is 14.9 percent.  These results are depressing.

There are some charter schools that posted some impressive scores.  In English, besides Basis DC PCS and Washington Latin PCS showing strong results, Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS came in at 59.7 percent of students at the four or five level.  Washington Yu Ying PCS had 58 percent of students in this category, Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS had 57.6 percent and the District of Columbia International School PCS had 57.0 percent proficiency.  In math, KIPP DC – Promise Academy PCS had 73.5 percent proficiency, KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS had 69.7 percent of students at four and above, KIPP DC – Heights Academy PCS was at 67.3 percent, and KIPP DC – Spring Academy PCS was at 61.1 percent.

Lastly, the DC Public Charter School Board highlighted schools that increased scores in ELA and math more than twice as high as the overall state improvements.  These include Harmony DC PCS, Friendship PCS – Woodridge International Elementary, Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS, KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS, KIPP DC – Will Academy PCS, Cesar Chavez PCS for Public Policy – Chavez Prep, Friendship PCS – Technology Preparatory High School, and Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS.

You have to wonder whether, even with all the union distractions, Ten Square Consulting is having a positive impact at Cesar Chavez PCs.

2017 national report card on student proficiency shows little progress in D.C.

Today, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores are being released and it appears that District of Columbia students have made little progress compared to when these results were revealed a couple of years ago.  In addition, the achievement gap between rich and poor is basically unchanged.

Let’s get right to the results for D.C. on this examination known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”  In 2015, the proficiency rate for fourth grade white students in math was 85 percent.  Last year it was 80.  For black students the math proficiency rate was 20 percent in 2015 and in 2017 it was 23 percent.  Hispanic students scored 28 percent proficiency in 2017, and that number was 30 percent in 2015.  For students living in poverty, the math proficiency rate was 18 percent in 2015 and two years later it stands at 22 percent.

In reading, white students as a group were 77 percent proficient in the fourth grade for 2017 compared to 81 percent in 2015.  Black students went from 18 percent proficient in 2015 to 11 percent last year.  Hispanic students went down from 22 percent proficient in 2015 to 18 percent proficient in 2017, and those qualifying for free or reduced lunch went from 14 percent proficient in reading in 2015 to 11 percent in 2017.

For the eighth grade the patterns are basically the same.  In math, white proficiency was at 74 percent proficiency in 2015; it went to 77 percent proficiency in 2017.  For black students the math proficiency was basically the same at 12 percent in 2017 and 13 percent in 2015.  Hispanic student results were 19 percent proficient in 2015 and 18 percent in 2017.  Low-income students were 11 percent proficient in 2015 and 10 percent proficient in 2017.

The reading results for eighth grade included white students being 76 percent proficient in 2015 and 77 percent proficient in 2017.  Black students went from 12 percent proficiency in 2015 to 11 percent in 2017.  Hispanic students went down a point from 19 percent proficient in 2015 to 18 percent proficient a couple of years ago.  Low-income students remained almost the same regarding proficiency, going from 10 percent in 2015 to 11 percent in 2017.

If we take a look at trends over time, students in the nation’s capital continue to make exceedingly slow improvements compared to national averages.  The city is eight points below the average score in fourth grade math and seven points away from the mean in reading.  These are the lowest variances ever recorded, but that’s only one point from the previous report card.  In fourth grade math, the difference from the national average is 16 points, again a record low.  But for fourth grade reading, the D.C. average went up from 2015 going to a variance of 19 points in 2017 from 16 percent in 2015.

The Washington D.C. results on the NAEP roughly follow the pattern seen across the U.S.  Writing for the Washington Post, 

“Averages for fourth- and eighth-graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card, were mostly unchanged between 2015 and 2017. The exception was eighth-grade reading scores, which rose slightly.

But scores for the bottom 25 percent of students dropped slightly in all but eighth-grade reading. Scores for the top quartile rose slightly in eighth-grade reading and math.”

The bottom line of all this data is that if you are an affluent student in the District you are doing quite well academically.  If you are not so fortunate to be born into a well-off family, then the odds of being proficient in math and reading is low.

Nothing has really changed.