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D.C. Students Outpace Peers In Math, Reading Gains

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Acting State Superintendent of Education Jesus Aguirre, educator Shantelle Wright, Mayor Vincent Gray and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talk before the press conference Thursday.
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Acting State Superintendent of Education Jesus Aguirre, educator Shantelle Wright, Mayor Vincent Gray and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talk before the press conference Thursday.

A test commonly referred to as The Nation’s Report Card finds D.C. students — from both traditional and charter schools — have shown the most improvement in reading and math compared to other states.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP tests the abilities of 4th and 8th graders across the country. On a 500 point scale, D.C. 4th graders gained five points in reading and seven points in math. D.C. 8th graders improved six points in reading and five points in math.

"I'll probably say this to anybody who will listen in the western hemisphere, but I am ecstatic to share that we are the first in the nation for the most growth achieved in both 4th and 8th grade test," said D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

In addition, D.C. showed improvement among all subgroups such as race, income and special education — except for English Language learners. 

It's important to keep in mind, though, that even with this growth, D.C. ranks worst in the nation in terms of overall scores, compared to states. And Councilmember David Catania says that while the achievement gap has narrowed, it's still significant.

"Our fourth grade African Americans are 15 percent, our white students are 77 percent — so a 62 percent proficiency gap is really quite extraordinary," Catania said. "We really have to double down."

The gains for the nation as a whole have been small, one point improvement over the 2011 test in all categories except 8th grade reading which increased by two points.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says all of the eight states that implemented the Common Core State Standards showed improvement in at least one area, and none showed a decline.

But there are still challenges. He calls it “troubling” that achievement gaps between white and black students and white and Hispanic students failed to narrow since the last test. Also, even with the improvements, U.S. students are still well behind their peers in top-performing countries.

Maryland showed a decline in math for both 4th and 8th graders ( two- and one-point drops, respectively) but small gains in reading (one- and three- point increases, respectively). Virginia’s fourth graders showed improvement in reading and math (two- and one-point increases, respectively), a one-point decline in 8th grade math and no gains in 8th grade reading.

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