DC Public School Officials Release ‘Sobering’ Results of Math and English Assessments

DC Public School Officials Release ‘Sobering’ Results of Math and English Assessments
(Left to right) Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and U.S. Capitol Building view from Arlington, Va., on Aug. 21, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Masooma Haq

The results from the District of Columbia statewide spring 2023 education assessments in English language arts (ELA) and math were released on Aug. 23, and the district’s public school officials said they were sobering.

The report (pdf), released by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), assessed students in third grade through eighth grade and some high school students.

According to the report, only one-third of students, or 33.6 percent, are “meeting or exceeding expectations” in ELA, and 21.8 percent of these students reached the same standard in math.

“The data remains sobering, with many of our district students continuing to score at Level 1, indicating they’re furthest away from grade level expectations,” said Kelley Scholl, assistant superintendent of data, assessment, and research for DC Public Schools.

Ms. Scholl went through the results of the study at a round table discussion at Friendship Blow Pierce Elementary and Middle School in Washington on Aug. 24.

Also at the event were Josephine Bias Robinson, executive director for the District of Columbia’s Education Research Collaborative at the Urban Institute; Christina Grant, state superintendent of education for the district; Lewis Ferebee, chancellor of DC Public Schools; Michelle Walker-Davis, executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board; and Paul Kihn, deputy mayor for education.

Small Gains

Excluding students with disabilities, the students surveyed in the study had a 2.6 percent gain in math and a 2.9 percent gain in ELA.

More specifically, elementary school students in grades three to five had a 2.8 percent increase in ELA and 4.2 percent increase in math. Middle school students had a 4.5 percent increase in English and 2.3 percent increase in math.

High school students’ scores increased by only 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent in ELA and math, respectively.

Ms. Walker-Davis said this is especially true among students with disabilities or those students who have individualized education plans, or IEPs.

“It is a sobering reminder of the work that we still need to do for our students with disabilities,” said Ms. Walker-Davis.

According to the report, over half of students with disabilities scored at the lowest level on both the math and ELA assessments.

Mr. Kihn said his focus will be to continue to scale up the strategies that are working, especially for children with IEPs.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference at the John Wilson Building in Washington on March 14, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference at the John Wilson Building in Washington on March 14, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“In particular, when we look at what we’ve called here the very sobering differential results among some of our student groups—the economically disadvantaged students that we are serving, students with special needs—it is, of course, an ongoing priority that we understand how to serve those students better,” Mr. Kihn said.

Ms. Grant said she is glad to see some progress and believes it is because of all the investments the public school system has made in literacy training for teachers, but the results also show that the district needs to invest more in math training.

“For me, that will be more high-quality professional development opportunities, but we’re also going to weigh in on curriculum, models, programs, interventions that will allow our educators to have more tools in their toolbox when we think about mathematics instruction,” she said.

Long Road Ahead

Mr. Ferebee said that over 75 percent of students are being provided paid tutoring with the extra funding from the federal government.

Out of the $1 billion in federal stimulus funds that were allocated to support multiyear recovery in public education and child care sectors, approximately $300 million is allocated to support DC Public Schools.

Ms. Grant said she wants to make sure all parents know the abundance of resources that are available for children with a disability, including the DC Special Education Hub.

“We are heading into the new school year ready to make sure our young people are connected to all the programs and people that will help them succeed,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement.

According to the report, there were no district-wide assessments given to students in 2020 or 2021 because of the pandemic, and this year’s results were worse than the 2019 results. OSSE officials and the mayor believe the low achievement is partly due to COVID-19 school closures.

“What we know is that the pandemic had a significant impact on our children and teens,” the mayor said, adding that she believes with continued support and effort by teachers, students will keep making academic gains.

Mr. Ferebee said there is hard work ahead of the school district.

“We acknowledge that the road to academic recovery is still long ahead of us, but these gains fuel our commitment to continue striving for excellence in education,” he said.

Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.
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