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Mayor Gray and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan Hail Continued Improvement in District’s Test Scores

Thursday, November 7, 2013
DC Students Post Nation-Leading Results in National Assessment of Educational Progress

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Acting State Superintendent of Education Jesús Aguirre, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Henderson, and D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) Executive Director Scott Pearson today hailed impressive improvements in test scores among 4th and 8th graders in the District’s public schools.

The education leaders announced the District’s 2013 National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP) results for 4th and 8th graders in reading and mathematics, which showed significant increases not only in the most recent testing period, but also steady improvement for several years.  NAEP is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, and is the largest nationally representative continuing assessment of what students in the United States know and can do in several subject areas.  NAEP is commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” and provides a clear picture of student academic progress over time.

“Once again, I’m delighted to see that we are on the right track in education reform, and our continued investments in the District’s public-education system are paying off,” said Mayor Gray. “I’m especially heartened to see that notable gains were posted among both the lowest-performing students in our system – the bottom 10 percent – and among African-American students. While we still have much more to do, these results highlight the need to maintain the path we’ve laid out.”

“Leaders in D.C. have shown tremendous courage and taken bold steps that are resulting in strong growth. These impressive improvements reflect the hard work of teachers, principals and other educators, who are receiving thoughtful, coordinated support as they implement the transition to higher standards,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “The reforms D.C. has put in place are working. This is incredibly promising for D.C. students’ future.”

In the District, over 4,200 students in the 4th grade took either the math or reading tests, and over 3,600 students in the 8th grade took one of the NAEP tests during the 2012-2013 School Year (SY).  These results are statewide and represent aggregated scores for both D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and the District’s Public Charter Schools (PCS).

The District’s statewide scores indicate steady improvement since 2003, according to results released today by the NAEP.  The District’s performance on the 2013 NAEP showed more improvement than during any other two-year period in the last decade; D.C. experienced an increase of five (5) to seven (7) average scaled score points in both subjects for 4th and 8th grade between 2011 and 2013.  These results show that the District is showing strong, steady growth that is outpacing the national trend. 

“Today’s assessment results validate the efforts that our students, teachers and administrators have undertaken in the past few years.  The fact that D.C.’s NAEP performance improved more from 2011 to 2013 than in any two-year period in the last decade, shows that the hard work is paying off,” said Acting State Superintendent Jesús Aguirre. “Reading and Mathematics proficiency is critical for student success and these results highlight what we are doing right as a District and where we need to continue to improve.”

The District was one of only two states nationwide (along with Tennessee), showing statistically significant gains in both math and reading in average scaled score points for both 4th and 8th grade students. On average across all NAEP grades and tests, D.C. was the top performing jurisdiction in the nation in terms of growth. Additionally, on each individual test, the District was among the top three performing states in terms of growth (along with Tennessee and California). District students’ growth in 8th grade math was the strongest in the nation, with a 5 scaled score point increase; growth in 4th grade reading and math tests was second in the nation, with a 5 and 7 scaled score point increase respectively; and growth in 8th grade reading was third in the nation, with a 6 scaled score point increase. 

Over the past decade, the percentage of D.C. students scoring “at or above basic” has shown marked improvement, with a near 50 percent reduction in the mathematics achievement gap between District students and their peers nationwide. Additionally, over the past decade, D.C. has more than tripled the percentage of students who score “at or above proficient” in mathematics, and doubled the percentage of students who score “at or above proficient” in reading.

“DC is showing the nation that when you embrace higher expectations for teachers and for students, they rise to the challenge,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “This work is difficult and it takes time, but our breakthrough gains demonstrate that the reforms we have put in place are working and our students are making great progress.”

"Congratulations to DC students. The credit for these results belongs to the thousands of public school educators in D.C., including those at D.C.'s 109 charter school campuses,” said PCSB Executive Director Scott Pearson. “We are proud in D.C. to have choice and public schools options and it is clear from these results that our reform strategy is successful."

Although there were substantial gains among most subgroups of students, the scores reveal a need for continued work to ensure that all students are benefiting from our efforts.  While students with special needs, students that qualify for free and reduced meals through the National School Lunch Program, and the District’s lowest-performing students saw exceptional growth, students who are English language learners did not experience statistically significant growth.

Additional highlights of subgroup performance:

  • The lowest performing students in D.C. (the bottom 10 percent of performers) improved more than any other reported percentile.
  • D.C. experienced exceptional gains among students with special needs, in contrast to the national average, which saw no statistically significant gains for this subgroup in 2013. As compared to other states, D.C. saw the largest point increases for 4th and 8th grade math (11 and 9 scaled score point increase respectively), as well as 8th grade reading (8 scaled score point increase), and the second largest point increase in 4th grade reading (8 scaled score point increase).
  • Additionally, since 2011, African American students experienced statistically significant gains between four (4) to six (6) scaled score point increases in Reading and Mathematics for 4th and 8th grade.
  • Students eligible for free and reduced meals (FRL) through the National School Lunch Program saw statistically significant gains across all NAEP grades and tests between 2011 and 2013 with an average of five (5) scaled score point increase.
  • Despite high gains in other subgroups, English Language Learners did not see statistically significant changes on any of the NAEP tests for both grades.

The NAEP is the only nationally representative, longitudinal tool for comparing student achievement in reading and math across the country. NAEP assessments are administered every two years by the National Center for Education Statistics and use the same sets of test booklets across the nation to provide a common comparative metric across all states and selected urban districts. The “Nation’s Report Card” additionally provides a clear picture of student academic progress over time in several subject areas.

Results from the 2013 Reading and Mathematics NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) are expected in December 2013.

Note: Additional information along with complete results of The Nation’s Report Card: Reading and Mathematics 2013 is available for review and can be downloaded from www.nationsreportcard.gov.