In 2003, when only a handful of urban districts participated, DCPS fourth-graders trailed the other cities by 28 points in reading and 29 in math. (Because 10 points is considered a year’s learning, this was an enormous gap.) In 2019, the gap was down to 5 points in both subjects. DCPS should be proud.
Sadly, however, one group has been left out of this good news: low-income children. In 2019, DCPS eighth-graders eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) scored 25th out of 27 urban districts in reading, 21st out of 27 in math.
The gap between these children and others in DCPS was 49 points in reading — almost five grade levels. In math it was even worse, 53 points.
Though low-income fourth-graders did a little better, they still had a 51-point gap in reading and a 41-point gap in math.
The bottom line: DCPS has improved by leaps and bounds, but it has not figured out how to educate its poorest students. In contrast, many of the city’s charter schools have figured that out. The 2019 NAEP score gap between D.C.’s FRL-eligible charter students and other charter students in eighth grade was 12 points; in fourth grade it averaged just 10 points.
Read the full op-ed here.