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Five-year DC CAS Scores Show Steady Growth, Areas for Improvement

Thursday, July 26, 2012
2012 results show increases at elementary level, decreases at secondary level

Data collected over the past five years show significant gains in elementary math as well as secondary reading and math throughout the district since 2007, when DCPS was placed under the control of the Executive Office of the Mayor. 

And, according to five-year data provided by OSSE, all DCPS tested grades combined show an 18.1 percentage-point improvement in math and a 9.5 percentage-point improvement in reading since 2007.

The DC CAS math and reading tests are administered each year in grades 3-8 and 10. The test determines student proficiency rates in reading and math and whether schools have met accountability targets, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

  • Fewer students earned below basic in 2012 than in 2007.
  • In 2007, 25 percent scored below basic overall.
  • In 2012, 20 percent scored below basic overall.
  • Grades 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10 have made significant growth from 2007 to 2012; and
  • Science scores from all tested grades combined have increased by 9.9 percentage points.

“While I won’t be satisfied until all of our schools and all of our students are achieving at high levels, I remain optimistic about both the results we have seen in some key schools and the work we’ll do in the coming school year to help raise scores even higher across the board,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “The real story of our reform efforts is in the five-year data because we know this work can’t happen overnight.”

Scores from the 2012 DC CAS show encouraging trends, particularly at the elementary level where schools have been targeted for literacy interventions to improve reading achievement. This year, elementary reading scores have rebounded after a two-year decline.

Overall, DCPS composite scores showed DC CAS growth in math (up 2.8 percentage points from 2011) and science (up 5.3 percentage points) and reversed a two-year trend of declining reading scores with a 0.5 percentage-point increase.

Specifically, 2012 scores went up by 4 percentage points in elementary math and 2 percentage points in elementary reading.  Secondary scores went down by 0.5 percentage points in math and 2.3 percentage points in reading.

Chart: Percent Proficient By Year



  • Key and Lafayette elementary schools crossed the 90 percent proficiency threshold in reading and math.
  • The deliberate work done by the staff at Thomas Elementary School paid off with a 21 percent gain in math and 14 percentage-point gain in reading.  Throughout the year, Thomas led the field in its implementation of DCPS’ Academic Plan with strong support from the instructional coach. 
  • Stanton Elementary School increased math scores by more than 18 percentage points and reading scores by more than 9 percentage points by implementing strategic interventions, such as improving school culture, focusing on rigorous instruction and using a very different approach to parental engagement.


  • Wheatley Education Campus saw a 10 percentage-point gain in math and a 7 percentage-point gain in reading.  For the first time, Wheatley EC implemented a parent engagement model through which 70 percent of students received a home visit from teachers, and parents were actively engaged in monitoring their student’s progress through data.
  • Kelly Miller Middle School saw a 10 percent increase in math performance.
  • McKinley Technology High School crossed a significant threshold by achieving 90 percent proficiency in both reading and math.

This year, DCPS implemented a new Academic Plan, which included a new curriculum and redefined standards for grades K-12 in English/Language Arts that are aligned to the rigorous national Common Core State Standards. In the 2012-2013 school year, DCPS will fully implement the common core math standards. Other components of the academic plan include a comprehensive early childhood curriculum, scope and sequence documents and unit overviews for teachers to improve and support instruction and unit tests to regularly assess student progress.

“We need to identify what is working, replicate success where we saw it and make changes where we haven’t seen growth,” Chancellor Henderson said.  

At Plummer Elementary School, where student performance gained 13 percentage points to reach 45 percent proficient, Principal Christopher Gray focused heavily on the use of data, with quarterly assessments through Achievement Network (also known as ANet) and paced interim assessments every six to eight weeks. School staff then dig deep into the data collected through these assessments to see what students are doing well and where they are struggling, before developing re-teach plans to review skills in a different way. Teachers then retest until students master concepts.

Plummer also uses a guided math and guided reading strategies to identify students who are below grade level. Teachers group students of similar levels and work with them to strengthen reading and math skills so that students who are behind can catch up and grade-level students can improve to a more advanced level.  Additionally, 120-minute reading blocks have proven effective in improving literacy.

At Stanton Elementary School, where reading scores improved 10 percentage points to 19 percent proficient and math scores increased 19 percentage points to 28 percent proficient, Principal Caroline John involved the entire school community – families, staff and volunteers – in improving student achievement.  

Principal John shared her goals with families and teachers, and formed Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT) that convened three times a year in data sharing meetings. Parents participating in APTTs were given materials and good examples of activities they could do with their children to help them master specific math and reading skills.

Parents then reviewed materials and practiced activities with teachers before working with their children at home. At the data sharing meetings, parents were given their children’s scores from and how those scores ranked against others in the class. Then the school celebrated each family whose children showed growth.      


In the upcoming school year, DCPS will begin the school-based work to meet the goals outlined in its five-year plan to transform DCPS into a high-quality, world-class school district.

“In August, we will begin the first year of our five-year strategic plan, A Capital Commitment, with an intense focus on improving student achievement, among other key goals,” Chancellor Henderson said. “Now more than ever, we can see clearly where we need to put in extra effort to reach those goals.”

The plan outlines five key goals that include increasing math and reading proficiency, improving proficiency at the 40 lowest-performing schools, increasing high school graduation rates, ensuring students like their schools, and increasing overall enrollment in DC Public Schools.

DCPS also provided additional support to schools through the $10 million Proving What’s Possible program, which awarded 59 schools grant ranging from $10,000 to $490,000 to launch new initiatives that range from technology enhancements and extended school day programs to data systems for truancy and attendance.

About 85 percent of grant funds were awarded to DCPS’ 40 lowest-performing schools. Thirteen schools are currently planning to incorporate extended-day programming and 88 percent of the schools are infusing technology into their instruction through this grant.

“Entering the first school year of A Capital Commitment strategic plan, DCPS is well positioned to see significant gains going forward,” Chancellor Henderson said.

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202-535-1096