Originally published in GFBrandenburg’s Blog
Add one more to the long list of recent DC public education scandals* in the era of education ‘reform’: DC’s NAEP** test scores are increasing at a lower rate now (after the elected school board was abolished in 2007) than they were in the decade before that.
This is true in every single subgroup I looked at: Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, 4th graders, 8th graders, in reading, and in math.
Forget what you’ve heard about DC being the fastest-growing school district. Our NAEP scores were going up faster before our first Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, was appointed than they have been doing since that date.
Last week, the 2017 NAEP results were announced at the National Press Club building here on 14th Street NW, and I went in person to see and compare the results of 10 years of education ‘reform’ after 2007 with the previous decade. When I and others used the NAEP database and separated out average scale scores for black, Hispanic, and white students in DC, at the 4th and 8th grade levels, in both reading and math, even I was shocked:
In every single one of these twelve sub-groups, the rate of change in scores was WORSE (i.e., lower) after 2007 (when the chancellors took over) than it was before that date (when we still had an elected school board).
I published the raw data, taken from the NAEP database, as well as graphs and short analyses, on my blog, (gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com) which you can inspect if you like. I will give you two examples:
- Black 4th grade students in DC in math (see https://bit.ly/2JbORad ):
- In the year 2000, the first year for which I had comparable data, that group got an average scale score of 188 (on a scale of 0 – 500). In the year 2007, the last year under the elected school board, their average scale score was 209, which is an increase of 21 points in 7 years, for an average increase of 3.0 points per year, pre-‘reform’.
- After a decade of ‘reform’ DC’s black fourth grade students ended up earning an average scale score of 224, which is an increase of 15 points over 10 years. That works out to an average growth of 1.5 points per year, under direct mayoral control.
- So, in other words, Hispanic fourth graders in DC made twice the rate of progress on the math NAEP under the elected school board than they did under Chancellors Rhee, Henderson, and Wilson.
- Hispanic 8th grade students in DC in reading (see: https://bit.ly/2HhSP0z )
- In 1998, the first year for which I had data, Hispanic 8th graders in DC got an average scale score of 246 (again on a scale of 0-500). In 2007, which is the last year under the elected board of education, they earned an average scale score of 249, which is an increase of only 3 points.
- However, in 2017, their counterparts received an average scale score of 242. Yes, the score went DOWN by 7 points.
- So, under the elected board of education, the scores for 8th grade Latinx students went up a little bit. But under direct mayoral control and education ‘reform’, their scores actually dropped.
That’s only two examples. There are actually twelve such subgroups (3 ethnicities, times 2 grade levels, times 2 subjects), and in every single case progress was worse after 2007 than it was beforehand.
Not a single exception.
You can see my last blog post on this, with links to other ones, here: https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/progress-or-not-for-dcs-8th-graders-on-the-math-naep/ or https://bit.ly/2K3UyZ1 .
Why isn’t there more outrage?
*For many years, DC officials and the editorial board of the Washington Post have been bragging that the educational ‘reforms’ enacted under Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her successors have made DCPS the fastest-improving school district in the entire nation. (See https://wapo.st/2qPRSGw or https://wapo.st/2qJn7Dh for just two examples.)
It didn’t matter how many lies Chancellor Rhee told about her own mythical successes in a privately run school in Baltimore (see https://wapo.st/2K28Vgy ). She also got away with falsehoods about the necessity of firing hundreds of teachers mid-year for allegedly being sexual predators or abusers of children (see https://wapo.st/2qNGxqB ); there were always acolytes like Richard Whitmire willing to cheer her on publicly (see https://wapo.st/2HC0zOj ), even though the charges were false.
A lot of stories about widespread fraud in the District of Columbia public school system have hit the front pages recently. Examples:
- Teachers and administrators were pressured to give passing grades and diplomas to students who missed so much school (and did so little work) that they were ineligible to pass – roughly one-third of last year’s graduating class. (see https://bit.ly/2ngmemi ) You may recall that the rising official (but fake) high school graduation rate in Washington was a used as a sign that the reforms under direct mayoral control of education had led to dramatic improvements in education here.
- Schools pretended that their out-of-school suspension rates had been dropping, when in actual fact, they simply were suspending students without recording those actions in the system. (see https://wapo.st/2HhbARS )
- Less than half of the 2018 senior class is on track to graduate because of truancy, failed classes, and the like. ( see https://bit.ly/2K5DFx9 )
- High-ranking city officials, up to and including the Chancellor himself, cheated the system by having their own children bypass long waiting lists and get admitted to favored schools. (see https://wapo.st/2Hk3HLi )
- A major scandal in 2011 about adults erasing and changing student answer sheets on the DC-CAS test at many schools in DC in order to earn bonuses and promotions was unfortunately swept under the rug. (see https://bit.ly/2HR4c0q )
- About those “public” charter schools that were going to do such a miraculous job in educating low-income black or brown children that DCPS teachers supposedly refused to teach? Well, at least forty-six of those charter schools (yes, 46!) have been closed down so far, either for theft, poor performance on tests, low enrollment, or other problems. (see https://bit.ly/2JcxIx9 ).
- NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is given about every two years to a carefully chosen representative sample of students all over the USA. It has a searchable database that anybody with a little bit of persistence can learn to use: https://bit.ly/2F5LHlS .
- I did not do any comparable measurements for Asian-Americans or Native Americans or other such ethnic/racial groups because their populations in DC are so small that in most years, NAEP doesn’t report any data at all for them.
- In the past, I did not find big differences between the scores of boys and girls, so I didn’t bother looking this time.
- Other categories I could have looked at, but didn’t, include: special education students; students whose first language isn’t English; economically disadvantaged students; the various percentiles; and those just in DCPS versus all students in DC versus charter school students. Feel free to do so, and report what you find!
- My reason for not including figures separated out for only DCPS, and only DC Charter Schools, is that NAEP didn’t provide that data before about 2011. I also figured that the charter schools and the regular public schools, together, are in fact the de-facto public education system that has grown under both the formerly elected school board and the current mayoral system, so it was best to combine the two together.
- I would like to thank Mary Levy for compiling lots of data about education in DC, and Matthew Frumin for pointing out these trends. I would also like to thank many DC students, parents, and teachers (current or otherwise) who have told me their stories.