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Despite recent testing gains, educational achievement in the region remains distinctly unequal — and the gap between low-income students and their higher-income counterparts isn't narrowing.
A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that while reading proficiency among fourth graders in D.C. increased from 2003 to 2013, the achievement gap increased by more than 30 percent in D.C. and 12 states — including Maryland and Virginia.
In 2003, 90 percent of all D.C. fourth graders rated below proficient on reading. A decade later, that number dropped to 77 percent, a 14 percent improvement, second only to Maryland nationally. But according to the report, by last year 87 percent of low-income fourth graders rated below proficient, while only 39 percent of higher-income students rated the same.
That trend held nationally over the same time period: while 66 percent of all fourth-graders were below proficient in reading in 2013, the percentages differed by race (whites at 55 percent, blacks at 83 percent) and income level (low-income at 80 percent, higher-income at 49 percent). Still, the growth of that gap was more pronounced in the 12 states and D.C. highlighted by the report.
Last November, D.C. officials cheered the news that D.C. students outpaced their counterparts across the country in math and reading improvements on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card. But those same scores showed that D.C. still ranked behind all the states in overall scores, and that gains were tempered by a stubborn achievement gap between white and black students.