Standardized Test Scores For D.C. Public School Students Show Growth In Three Subject Areas

Standardized test scores for D.C. public school students showed growth in three subject areas, according to statewide 2012 DC CAS results released Thursday.

The District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) is administered to students in third through eighth grades, as well as 10th grade. This year’s results mark the district’s inaugural assessment under an expanded accountability system granted by the Department of Education that waives certain provisions of No Child Left Behind.

D.C. public schools experienced gains in math -- up 2.8 percent from 2011 -- and science, up 5.3 percent. Reading scores also increased by 0.5 percent, reversing a two-year decline. Although overall growth was above state average, overall proficiency for DCPS fell below that benchmark.

The District’s charter schools, which now enroll more than 40 percent of the student population, saw slight declines in science and reading scores at 0.9 and 0.3 percent, respectively, though math scores were up by 1.4 percent. Unlike D.C.'s traditional public schools, the charter schools experienced overall growth that fell below state average, but boasted proficiency above the average.

“Although we would have preferred higher overall growth, the District of Columbia’s charter school sector once again outperformed the state average while serving a higher percentage of low-income students; this is something we will continue to build upon,” Brian Jones, chair of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said in a statement.

Fourth graders showed the greatest score gain, and were also the first kindergarten class tested under PERAA, the Public Education Reform Amendment Act introduced by current D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in 2007. At that time, Gray committed early-childhood programming, resources and support to community-based organizations, as well as the District’s public and charter schools.

2012 DC CAS reading and composition assessments were also aligned to the Common Core State Standards for the first time, making D.C. only the second state in the nation to do so.

The 2012 exams -- which tested 32,624 students at 220 schools -- were seemingly administered without incident -- a far cry from last year’s testing session, when a forensic report revealed that three schools tampered with the 2011 DC CAS.

The exam was administered in 262 schools in 2011, and analyses found irregular wrong-to-right erasure ratios, unusual gains in test scores and scores within a classroom that don't fit a bell curve.