- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

D.C. Public Schools released scorecards Tuesday that grade 119 campuses on safety, student progress and other measures, allowing parents to decide where to send their children in a system attempting to close achievement gaps and rise above past failures.

DCPS promoted the statistics, which were posted online Tuesday afternoon, as a “tremendous undertaking” that allows users to compare each school’s statistics in areas such as reading, math, attendance and discipline with a Districtwide average. Scorecards also were sent home with students this week, officials said.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board released a similar set of data in December, yet it divided its elementary, middle schools and high schools into three tiers based on a 100-point scale. About 40 percent of the city’s public school students attend charter schools, according to the board.

Chancellor Kaya Henderson said scorecards for the city’s traditional public schools build on the “profiles” released last year and serve as a likely precursor to an accountability ranking or rating.

“This is brand new for the public school system as far as being this transparent, sharing this much information,” she said. “This is about both the good and the bad.”

The ratings arrive while D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown touts legislation to ensure each D.C. student has a “quality seat” and will be competitive in the modern workplace. A recent report from the Center for Education Statistics said the District has the biggest black-white and Hispanic-white gaps in the country by every measure used in the study.

Legislation from Mr. Brown’s office would provide incentives for highly effective teachers to work at low-performing schools and crack down on Maryland and Virginia residents who send their children to D.C. schools without paying tuition. Another, more radical proposal would require D.C. high school students to take the SAT or ACT college entrance exams and apply to at least one college.

Ms. Henderson said she hopes parents will use the recent ratings to shirk pre-conceived notions and “uncover some of the gems in DCPS.”

Ms. Henderson cited MacFarland Middle School and Powell Elementary School, a pair of Ward 4 schools that have seen marked upticks in safety and community satisfaction since 2009, as examples of such gems.

The District is not the only city school system to offer scorecards. The Chicago Public Schools website also allows users to compare as many as four schools at a time, while New York City schools post surveys and progress reports about its schools.

“To our knowledge, our online tool is one of the most robust out there,” DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said.