Tuesday, July 13, 2010

D.C. elementary test scores show decline

D.C. officials announced Tuesday that reading and math test scores declined in elementary schools this year, halting a two-year run of significant gains and dealing a setback to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee as she seeks to overhaul city schools.

The news was better for middle and high schools, which saw continued gains in reading and math on the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS), administered every April.

After rising 20 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, the elementary math proficiency rate dipped 4.6 points this year, to 43.4. The elementary reading proficiency rate, which had risen 11 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, fell 4.4 points, to 44.4 percent. The proficiency rate is essentially a measure of the portion of students who pass the tests.

School-by-school scores will not be available until later this month.

Rhee, who joined Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to announce the 2010 scores in a mid-morning news conference at Ballou High School, said she couldn't account for the drop in elementary scores, and that it would require some study.

"We're going to dig into the data," she said.

Rhee and Fenty emphasized the overall record of test score gains since the mayor appointed Rhee in 2007. School reform has become a key issue in Fenty's reelection campaign against challenger Vincent C. Gray (D), the D.C. Council chairman.

Rhee called the three-year gains at the middle and high school levels -- an average of 14 percentage points in reading and 17 points in math -- a significant achievement. In a statement distributed to reporters, Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which consults with urban school districts, called the growth "unusual and important," adding that the District is one of the few cities in the country to see double-digit growth at the secondary level.

Officials also reported that the percentage of students scoring at advanced levels has doubled in elementary and secondary schools since 2007.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

-- Bill Turque

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