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D.C. School Test Scores Inch Up, But No Repeat Of 'Historic' Jumps

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D.C. test scores have continued rising, but not as quickly as last year's "historic" jumps.
D.C. test scores have continued rising, but not as quickly as last year's "historic" jumps.

D.C. officials announced today that math and reading proficiency rates were again up for the city's public and charter schools, though some of the gains were modest and others uneven.

According to results from annual tests, math proficiency among all students increased by 1.4 percent to 54.4 percent, while reading proficiency rose 0.4 percent to 49.9 percent. The gains were more modest than last year, when public and charter schools saw combined proficiency gains of four percent, which city officials called "historic."

While Mayor Vincent Gray and other officials touted consistent proficiency increases since mayoral control of the city's schools was granted in 2007, D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson sounded a more somber tone.

"I have to be very honest with you and say that I’m disappointed because I was expecting more growth," she said. In the city's traditional public schools, math proficiency rose 1.6 percent, making it over 50 percent for the first time in decades. In reading, proficiency increased 0.3 percent to 47.7 percent.

Still, Henderson said that the city's six high schools had posted four-percent jumps in math and reading proficiency among 10th graders, which she said served as evidence that improvements in high schools were taking hold. She also said that despite the modest gains across the board, the city's public schools were on the right path.

"We are on the right track and now we just need to accelerate our progress," she said.

Charter schools posted smaller gains in math and reading, though they continue to outpace public schools in overall proficiency. Close to 60 percent of charter school students are proficient in math, and 53 percent are proficient in reading.

Underneath the four straight years of proficiency gains, though, remained an achievement gap between racial and economic groups. While 91 percent of white and 86 percent of Asian students in public and charter schools are proficient in math, only 48 percent of black and 58 percent of Hispanic students were similarly proficient.

Gray said that tens of millions in additional funding that will flow to at-risk students in the coming academic year will help close that gap — but that it won't happen quickly.

"There will be a substantial increase in funding to be able to address what we know is a daunting challenge, and that is the achievement gap, which has been with us for decades and we’re beginning to chip away at but recognize that we have significant distance yet to travel," he said.

He also said that he was more focused on closing the achievement gap than meeting the ambitious goals he and Henderson said in 2012 as part of the five-year Capital Commitment strategic plan, which promised 70 percent proficiency by the 2017 school year.

"I think [closing the gap is] the most important thing to me, not whether we make it to an arbitrary point in an arbitrary period... but are we making progress," he said.

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