D.C. Posts Significant Gains on National Test, Outpacing Nearly Every State

Emma Brown, Washington Post, November 7, 2013

The District’s fourth- and eighth-graders made significant gains on math and reading tests administered by the federal government this year, posting increases that were among the city’s largest in the history of the exam.

Average achievement among D.C. students continues to trail the nation, according to the results released Thursday from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam administered every two years since the early 1990s and considered the Nation’s Report Card. But the District’s scores showed the biggest improvements in the nation in three categories and the second-biggest gain in the fourth category. That includes a 7-point gain in fourth-grade math, while the national average improved by just 1 point.

Annual D.C. tests also showed large, across-the-board gains this year, but those gains were called into question after revelations about how the tests were scored. D.C. education leaders embraced the results on the national exam—generally regarded as cheat-proof—as evidence that the District’s closely watched school-improvement efforts are working.

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The District’s performance has been improving for more than a decade, according to NAEP results, with steady growth in math and more fitful gains in reading.

Between 2011 and 2013, D.C. eighth-graders broke more than a decade of stagnation in reading and posted bigger score gains than in any other two-year period, climbing six points to 248 on a 500-point scale. Still, only 17 percent of D.C. eighth-graders scored well enough in reading to be considered proficient or above, compared to 36 percent nationwide.

In math, eighth graders posted a five-point gain, slightly slower growth than during the previous four years. The proportion of proficient students climbed from 17 percent to 19 percent.

By contrast, 65 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient on the city’s math exam, the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System, demonstrating a gulf between expectations for proficiency on the two tests.

Fourth-grade students gained seven points in math, which translated into a proficiency rate that jumped from 22 percent to 28 percent. In reading, proficiency increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

But the city’s achievement gaps between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts consistently have been the largest in the nation. The 2013 results show that those gaps narrowed slightly in some subjects and grade levels, but widened or remained the same in others.

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The demographics of test-takers in the District has shifted during the past two decades, with the proportion of white and Hispanic students growing as the proportion of black students has fallen.

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Scores

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  • NeanderthalDNA

    They can and do cook the books. Example: In the never ending effort to close the achievement gap, within 2 years we teachers were no longer allowed to give students less than a 50 on any assignment. When they still failed, the lowest grade was raised to 60.

    I just got into the habit of placing the “square root times ten” curve on everything. You could pass with a 49, but I did not have to stupidify the assessment too much. That way I was able to slough the flotsam through while still accurately assessing and challenging the ones with some potential and hope.

    • Erasmus

      On Sunday a few weeks back there was a feature article in the major rag of the greater metropolitan area in which I live touting how children in one of the lowest performing school districts in the state had made double-digit improvements in performance over previous years. My first thought: Look for cheating on the part of educators. We’ve seen educators cooking the books so often now, that when I see such a miraculous change, I’m going to continue to suspect cheating until it’s proven that none occurred.

      • NeanderthalDNA

        Oh, they’ve been cheating and cutting corners for years. Every time they lower the standards, the lowest common denominator invariably sinks there after an initial inertia to remain at the same substandard-but-passing level. This makes it look like there is progress. The pressure on classroom teachers to do the cheating without specifically saying it is great. As long as you can present your strategy for schlepping through the substandard chaff in the right educababble duckspeak (if even called out on it) you are golden.

        • NeanderthalDNA

          Actually in this case the results could be legit. See Mekong Delta’s comment below. The rises in performance are pretty accurately predicted by the changes in demographics cited.

          Duh…

          • Erasmus

            In this cases the results could be legit.
            The test score improvement trumpeted in the Sunday paper was for a district that had become even more “culturally enriched.”

          • NeanderthalDNA

            “The demographics of test-takers in the District has shifted during the past two decades, with the proportion of white and Hispanic students growing as the proportion of black students has fallen.”

            Somehow I missed that one on my initial read through.

            This alone could easily explain the improvements – I wonder exactly how much the demographics have changed. Compare this with the improvement in scores and I’m betting we’re on to something pretty ho hum/no duh. In the DC school district, more “diversity” does indeed result in measurable positive results.

            This still does not abnegate my earlier ruminations regarding dumbing down, but I suspect could be all the explanation needed.

      • Whirlwinder

        Yes, just review the articles in the Atlanta papers a couple of years back, about cheating starting with the Superentendant and including all positions down from there including the janitor. Cheating works! And it keeps the fed dollars flowing into the school district.

      • Brian

        Cheating, grade inflation, or demographic replacement.

  • Erasmus

    When your test scores are as low as those of the DC school districts students, there’s no place to go but up. Start with low enough scores, and even a 1 or 2 point improvement will register as a huge percent change.

    • Spartacus

      People from D.C. won’t understand what you just wrote .

      • JackKrak

        Ok, D’Quwaan, if you start out with half a kilo of coke…….

      • ShermanTMcCoy

        “People?”

  • Oil Can Harry

    The test scores rose after a drop in the number of black students and a rise in white ones?
    Probably sheer coincidence.

    • Reverend Bacon

      Yep. No other explanation. Just bad luck that the prior blacks weren’t there to receive the serendipitous smarts; had they been there instead, it would have been them making all those gains.

  • sbuffalonative

    The District’s fourth- and eighth-graders made significant gains on math and reading tests administered

    And in two years, it will be revealed that there was massive organized cheating.

  • MekongDelta69

    “The demographics of test-takers in the District has shifted during the past two decades, with the proportion of white and Hispanic students growing as the proportion of black students has fallen.”

    Well, as Ricky Ricardo once said, “That ‘splains it all Lucy.”

    • Erasmus

      The lefties cannot admit what this suggests. Were they to do so, their carefully crafted weltanschauung would come crashing down.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      Hey I missed that – CRUCIAL tidbit.

      Duh!

  • libertarian1234

    “The District’s fourth- and eighth-graders made significant gains on math and reading tests administered by the federal government this year, posting increases that were among the city’s largest in the history of the exam.”

    And the gain was due to a common practice among blacks called “cheating.”

    Are we to believe this black run government scored tests honestly?

    Next they’ll have some radical leftist, academic geek come up with a study that shows blacks are getting smarter because Obama is in office.

  • JohnEngelman

    In 2003 Washington, DC spend the most per pupil in the public school system. The DC public schools had a higher percentage of blacks than the school system of any state. The test scores were lower than for any state. Unfortunately, the website no longer exists.

  • dd121

    If their scores have gone up a significant amount then a fraud has taken place. Simple as that.

  • If your numbers look to good to be true, always go back and check your hypothesis.
    Or in this case, the teachers administering the test.

  • Alexandra1973

    Change in demographics, and better scores on the test?

    2 + 2 does indeed equal 4!

  • Whirlwinder

    Demographics rule. More white kids and less black kids equalls higher scores. This is not news!

  • Elfego

    You can rest assured there is a lot of cheating going on there!

  • Brian

    The demographics of test-takers in the District has shifted during the
    past two decades, with the proportion of white and Hispanic students
    growing as the proportion of black students has fallen.
    ===
    …and that what’s you call ‘burying the lede’.

  • Franklin_Ryckaert

    1) “We are working hard to create equality.”
    The delusion is staggering.

    2) Reality itself is racist, no humans can be blamed for that.

    3) “The West is gone.”
    Blacks and other non-Whites are not “the West”.