- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said Thursday that standout gains on a national math test reinforce recent local test results and further validate her aggressive approach to school reform in the District.

“I never like to say that I expect anything,” Ms. Rhee said at a news conference at Mary Church Terrell Elementary School in Southeast Washington. “We just are glad to see that the progress that our kids are making academically is consistently being seen in lots of different kinds of data.”

The District and four states were the only jurisdictions to see improvements from both fourth- and eighth-grade students since the semiannual National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test was last given in 2007, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education.

D.C. fourth-graders led the country, rising five points to 219 on a 500-point scale, while the national average remained flat at 240 points. Eighth-graders’ scores rose six points to 254, while the national average rose two points to 282.

Ms. Rhee, who has encountered resistance from parents and education advocates, acknowledged some of her reform efforts have seemed “controversial or difficult,” but she said the results speak for themselves.

Erika Landberg, program director of D.C. education advocacy group DC VOICE, said the gains are a good sign for the school system and have the added credibility of being designed by the federal government.

Ms. Landberg said progress is laudable despite the fact that D.C. students still lag behind most of the country in performance.

“We’ve been sitting at the bottom without making any progress,” Ms. Landberg said. “This is good news for the school system.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty acknowledged the District’s low standing among other jurisdictions, saying work remains to be done.

“While we still have a long way to go, these results show that we are making steady progress,” Mr. Fenty said.

Ms. Landberg applauded the chancellor’s efforts, but added that she thinks the improvements are in part because of strategies implemented by former schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, Ms. Rhee’s predecessor.

“Test scores don’t go up in one year or two years,” Ms. Landberg said. “The foundation of this began before the chancellor came.”

Ms. Rhee, who took over as head of the school system in June 2007, reiterated the importance of results from the last school year’s D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DCCAS) test, which showed gains in multiple student demographics.

The number of elementary school students who scored “proficient” on the DCCAS rose 3 percent in reading and 9 percent in math. Among secondary students the number rose 2 percent in reading and 4 percent in math.

Elementary students made double-digit gains in math, and secondary students did the same in reading in the English-language-learner group.

The results also included gains by elementary and secondary special education students and economically disadvantaged students.

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