Scores Rising in the Capital; District's Charter Schools Show Significant Test Gains

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Lerner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Preliminary data compiled by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education show that the test scores of students in D.C. public-charter middle and high schools increased significantly in the last academic year. Student proficiency in math increased 9 percent, and reading proficiency rose 7 percent. This compares to increases in math proficiency of 4 percent and reading proficiency of 2 percent in the city-run middle and high schools.

Overall, math proficiency among secondary-school students in the District's public charter schools is 57 percent (compared with 40 percent in the noncharter public schools) and for reading 53 percent (41 percent in the city-run schools).

At the elementary school level, the charter schools' gains were more modest than those of the city-run public schools, overseen by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who was appointed two years ago by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Students at city-run public schools increased their reading proficiency 4 points and their math proficiency 8 points to reach 49 percent in both. Charter elementary schools' reading proficiency increased 1 percent in math and one-half of a percent in reading to reach 42 percent in math and 43 percent in reading. This reverses last year's results when charter elementary schools were slightly ahead of the city-run schools in student proficiency.

Charter advocates highlighted the strong increases in proficiency at the secondary level.

The significant gains of D.C. public-charter middle and high school students indicates that the longer children stay in public charter schools, the better they do, said Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. This result underscored findings from a recent Stanford University study, Mr. Cane said.

Addressing the charter elementary school results, charter advocates pointed out the somewhat different demographics of the District's public charter schools compared to their city-run counterparts.

Charters are concentrated in underserved District communities, and the vast majority are located in high-poverty neighborhoods, said Mr. Cane. Many city-run elementary schools are in the District's high-income Ward 3, but no charters are located there.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board, the charters' regulatory body, was impressed with the improvement in secondary school test scores. …