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DCPS Students Achieve at Highest Levels Ever in Recent History

Monday, July 29, 2013

DCPS Students Achieve at Highest Levels Ever in Recent History

2013 District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System exam (DC CAS)
DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson (center) surrounded by DCPS students.

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202-535-1096

More District of Columbia Public (DCPS) students than ever before are proficient in math and reading on the 2013 District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System exam (DC CAS), according to data released today by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). DCPS students grew in every tested subject area from 2012 to 2013 in math (up 3.6 percentage points from 2012), reading (3.9 percentage points), science (1.8 percentage points) and composition (4.6 percentage points).  African-American, Asian, Hispanic and White students, as well as students relying on free and reduced priced meals, saw growth from last year in both reading and math.

“Today, everyone can see what I’ve long known – our educators are working hard and our students are learning. Our approach, with great educators in every building and strong curriculum in all our schools, is working and we’re on the right track,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “I’m very proud of our progress, I’m encouraged by our gains and I’m excited for the work ahead.”

In the 2012-2013 school year, DCPS showed the highest growth in proficiency since 2008 in reading and since 2009 in math. In addition, the percentage of students most behind in subject areas is at its lowest. In 2007, DCPS’ below basic rate was 23 percent in reading and 33 percent in math; today DCPS’ below basic rate is 17 percent in reading and 18 percent in math. Below basic rates went down 2 percentage points in both subjects compared to last year.

Students in every ward in the city made gains in math performance compared to 2012 and students in six out of eight wards have shown double-digit gains since 2007.  Students in all but one ward, Ward 3, improved reading performance compared to 2012 and students in every ward have shown steady reading progress since 2007.

Students in middle grades saw the largest gains. Middle grades students increased proficiency by 4 percentage points in math and 5 percentage points in reading.  In addition, this year, Janney Elementary School crossed the 90 percent proficiency threshold in both math and reading and Banneker High School had 100 percent proficiency in math.

85 percent of the 40 lowest performing schools in DCPS showed gains in reading or math. 26 schools made gains in math, 30 made gains in reading. Thirteen of these 40 schools had double digit gains.

“We provided a significant number of resources to our lowest performing schools to help all their students achieve and succeed. It’s clear from the news today that we are on the right path with these schools and will continue our efforts,” said Henderson.

School Level Highlights:

The story of Tubman Elementary School’s success under the leadership of Harry Hughes is a five year journey. Since 2007, Tubman has grown by 54 percentage points in math and nearly 30 percentage points in reading. Principal Hughes attributes this huge success to implementing structures that maximized the talent of the staff at the school. Tubman invested in its teachers and allowed them to focus on their strengths, which ultimately better supported students. Tubman’s talented educators volunteered their time before and after school, as well as during their lunch hours to help tutor and support their students. In addition, Tubman holds their students accountable for their own learning. Students know their reading and math scores, where they are excelling and where they need to make progress. They know how to shop for independent reading books that are appropriate to their reading levels inside their own classrooms. Tubman also rewards its students regularly at rallies and assemblies and celebrates their success. In addition, Tubman focused this year on guided reading and the ongoing professional development provided by the assistant principal and the instructional coach improved this practice.

At Jefferson Academy and Middle School, student achievement has grown significantly this year, increasing by more than 12 percentage points in math and 11 percentage points in reading. Principal Natalie Gordon attributes the impressive gains to teacher talent and key instructional changes. Jefferson Academy school leadership focused time and energy to finding top-notch teachers to support their students. Teachers worked this year to differentiate math instruction and the school created both advanced and intervention math classes to help support student growth. In addition, the whole school was focused on celebrating growth throughout the year on district-wide exams and other assessments. In preparation for the DC CAS, Principal Gordon and her team rallied students, their families and the community to help encourage students, a plan that was embraced by all and made a major impact on student achievement.

The Kelly Miller Middle School Lions have made significant and impressive progress over the past three years. Since 2010, math achievement at Kelly Miller has almost tripled, with 52.87 percent of students scoring proficient in math on the 2013 DC CAS. Reading scores have also increased significantly nearly doubling since 2010, with 37.46 percent. Kelly Miller Principal Abdullah Zaki sets a high bar for his students and faculty and he has ramped up expectations for all each year since he took the helm at Kelly Miller in 2010. Teachers and school leaders work to help meet students’ where they are, which in some cases means taking a group of highly motivated students and placing them in advanced courses, then working backwards to build skills. Instead of focusing solely on grade level skills, Principal Zaki and his faculty work extremely hard and think creatively to take students to the next level at an accelerated rate.

At Columbia Heights Education Campus, students made huge growth from last year to this year, growing by four points in math and over 6 points in reading since 2012. To achieve this success, Principal Maria Tukeva and her leadership team have implemented student and family engagement models to help make students an active part of their own growth. In particular, students set their own goals between each interim unit test, setting a goal for each standard of how many more they can answer correctly. This gives students a sense of power over their achievement. CHEC staff also use the data they receive from interim assessments to help guide their teaching and learning. Staff analyzes data by grade, by student and by subgroup and adjust teaching and learning depending on what the students need.

DCPS’ Academic Journey

In 2011-2012, DCPS established a rich, content-based, common core aligned reading curriculum for all grades, including the highest quality texts and literature for all students. As part of this overhaul, teachers received additional supports in how to help students access what they learn and how to think and write about the texts. DCPS also integrated science and social studies content. DCPS also provided strong professional development opportunities to help teachers improve guided reading practices for students at all levels. DCPS also invested in proficient and advanced through programs like Junior Great Books and the School-wide Enrichment Model.

In math, DCPS worked with teachers in three ways. First, teachers focused on conceptual understanding, teaching and re-teaching the different ways to do the math. Second, teachers focused on application, applying school math and applying it to real world situations. Lastly, teachers received more resources, curriculum, scope and sequences documents and tool kits to, included classroom technology and blended learning programs proven to meet students where they are in math and move them ahead.

Nalle Elementary School, who had the highest gains in math of any school in DCPS, also was the highest user of ST Math, a blended learning model that helps students develops a conceptual understanding of math rather than rote memorization.

In April 2012, Chancellor Henderson announced with Mayor Vincent C. Gray A Capital Commitment, a strategic plan to dramatically improve student achievement in DCPS by increasing proficiency, improving graduation rates and increasing enrollment and student satisfaction.

“There is good news everywhere and reasons to celebrate,” said Henderson. “The data from DC CAS will help inform the work ahead. What’s clear here is that our teachers are teaching and our students are learning in every corner of this city. We know however that our work is not over and we still have huge strides to make to achieve our Capital Commitment goals. We are well on our way.”

One of the goals outlined in A Capital Commitment is doubling the number of advanced students. On the 2013 DC CAS, DCPS reached this goal.  In 2007, DCPS had an advanced rate of 5 percent in reading and 6 percent in math; today DCPS’ advanced rate is 11 percent in reading and 16 percent in math.

18,697 students in 116 schools took the DC CAS. This year, DCPS followed all protocols for test security that are required by OSSE and also adds its own layers of security. The new protocols this year included rotating test proctors during testing so that teachers did not administer or proctor a test to their own class as well as using tamper evidence seals to secure containers to store testing materials overnight at schools.