Monday, May 17, 2010

DC NAEP Scores-Where is the Death Spiral?

Matthew Ladner on the progress in DC on NAEP scores (from an extremely low base).  If you check out the NAEP web site ( and click on DC, you can see the gains, which have been especially great from 2007-09 under Michelle Rhee:

Since 1994, however, scores have climbed 23 points. The percentage scoring basic or better increased from 24% in 1994 to 44% in 2009. Math improvement has also been impressive and shows the same trend- progress after the mid 1990s.

One blindingly obvious cause for the improvement: the 100 charter schools operating in the district educating over 30,000 children. DC's charter law passed in 1996 (near the bottom of DC performance) and the opening of schools has been very strong. In 1996-7, DCPS had 78,648 students enrolled. In 2007-08 it had dropped to 58,191.

This is no doubt why DCPS spending per pupil has spiralled to such absurdly high levels. No one apparently thought that it might be appropriate to cut the budget for a district that is 20,000 fewer students, but I digress. DC's scores still stink, but in the progress department they have clobbered all states other than Delaware and Florida.

I'm not willing to celebrate a district that spends over $20k per student per year and has 56% of 4th graders illiterate. I am however willing to celebrate progress, and DC has momentum. If they would like to accelerate that progress, parental choice policies that would be helpful would be to reverse the shameful decision of the NEA robots majority of the Democratic caucus to kill the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program merits not only renewal but a large expansion.

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