D.C. schools that lag in rat­ing sys­tem will get help

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY DEB­BIE TRUONG

Half of the Dis­trict’s low­est­per­form­ing schools are east of the Ana­cos­tia River, ac­cord­ing to a rat­ing sys­tem un­veiled Fri­day that as­signs the city’s schools one to five stars.

Five of the 10 D.C. pub­lic schools — tra­di­tional or char­ter — in the bot­tom 5 per­cent of rat­ings are in Ward 8, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Of­fice of the State Su­per­in­ten­dent of Ed­u­ca­tion. The su­per­in­ten­dent’s of­fice will di­vide $11 mil­lion in fed­eral grant money among those 10 schools over the next three years in a bid to boost them, Su­per­in­ten­dent of Ed­u­ca­tion Hanseul Kang said.

Kang’s of­fice pre­vi­ously sent im­prove­ment grant money to about 30 schools but will con­cen­trate the money on the need­i­est schools in com­ing years.

“We know that this kind of sig­nif­i­cant and sus­tained in­vest­ment is what it takes to help a school im­prove,” Kang said.

The 10 schools that will re­ceive the grants were among 19 — 9 per­cent of schools over­all — that re­ceived one-star rat­ings un­der the new sys­tem.

Three-star rat­ings were awarded to 36 per­cent of schools. Sev­en­teen schools boasted five-

rat­ings, ac­cord­ing to the su­per­in­ten­dent’s of­fice.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) noted dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at Tub­man El­e­men­tary School in Columbia Heights that each of the Dis­trict’s wards had schools that re­ceived four-star rat­ings.

“There are, across ev­ery ward, schools that are per­form­ing at a high level,” Bowser said. “If we know that we have schools that are chal­lenged and need in­ter­ven­tions, this gives us a com­mon frame­work to be able to dis­cuss those chal­lenges and in­ter­ven­tions.”

Char­ter schools fared slightly bet­ter on the star rat­ing sys­tem than the city’s tra­di­tional pub­lic schools: 67 per­cent of charters and 60 per­cent of the city’s tra­di­tional pub­lic schools were is­sued a three-star rat­ing or higher.

Amanda Alexan­der, in­terim chan­cel­lor of D.C. Pub­lic Schools, said her of­fice plans to work with ad­min­is­tra­tors at the low­est­per­form­ing schools to iden­tify re­sources they may need.

“Each school is unique,” Alexan­der said. “Each school has its own con­text, its own strengths and weak­nesses. We want to work re­ally close with them.”

Scott Pear­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the D.C. Pub­lic Char­ter School Board, noted that just five char­ter schools re­ceived one-star rank­ings. Three of those schools, he said, are be­ing re­viewed by the Char­ter School Board this year.

“Each of those schools, as in­de­pen­dent pub­lic char­ter schools, needs to chart its own course for im­prove­ment,” he said.

Dis­trict ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials de­vel­oped the rat­ing sys­tem af­ter the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2015 Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act man­dated that states and the Dis­trict cre­ate uni­form and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble re­port cards for schools by the end of this year. The fed­eral law re­quires that cer­tain data, in­clud­ing stan­dard­ized test scores and grad­u­a­tion rates, fac­tor promi­nently into the mea­sure­ments.

In the Dis­trict, stan­dard­ized test scores — and whether they are im­prov­ing — ac­count for 70 per­cent of el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school rank­ings. For high schools, test scores are re­spon­sis­tar ble for about 40 per­cent of the rat­ing.

The rank­ings also re­flect how ef­fec­tively schools ed­u­cate stu­dents from un­der­served pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing English-lan­guage learn­ers. It also con­sid­ers the per­cent­age of stu­dents who re-en­roll in the school and par­tic­i­pa­tion and per­for­mance in Ad­vanced Place­ment classes and on AP ex­ams.

State ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials scored schools by us­ing a nu­mer­i­cal scale on which schools could re­ceive up to 100 points. That was then con­verted into a star rat­ing.

The high­est-scor­ing school was Ben­jamin Ban­neker High in North­west, which re­ceived 99 points. The low­est-scor­ing school was Ana­cos­tia High in South­east, which re­ceived about 3 points.

Crit­ics have ar­gued that the Dis­trict’s em­pha­sis on test scores will re­sult in the high­est marks go­ing to schools that teach the wealth­i­est stu­dents and sad­dle schools that teach the need­i­est chil­dren with the worst rat­ings, even if the schools are im­prov­ing.

Scott Gold­stein, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Em­pow­erEd DC, a teacher ad­vo­cacy group, said he is wor­ried that the star rat­ings will ex­ac­er­bate in­equal­i­ties and pun­ish schools with more stu­dents con­sid­ered at risk — de­fined as those who are home­less, re­ceive wel­fare or food stamps, or have strug­gled in high school.

Par­ents, he said, may over­look schools with a lot to of­fer be­cause they are poorly rated. For ex­am­ple, Roo­sevelt High School, where Gold­stein once taught, pro­vides a dual-lan­guage pro­gram and of­fers arts, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar and vo­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties that he said many par­ents may seek.

He en­cour­aged par­ents to visit a school and ex­plore whether teach­ers and the prin­ci­pal re­turn to their posts year af­ter year — sta­bil­ity in lead­er­ship, he said, can point to growth.

“My fear is that par­ents are go­ing to look at those scores and per­haps ig­nore those schools,” Gold­stein said.

The rat­ing sys­tem is one as­pect of a larger re­port card fam­i­lies can ac­cess on­line or in printed copies that de­tails teacher ex­pe­ri­ence and re­ten­tion, stu­dent dis­ci­pline rates and other fac­tors.

Dis­trict of­fi­cials said the re­port card of­fers a clear and ac­ces­si­ble way for fam­i­lies to as­sess a school’s per­for­mance. The rat­ing sys­tem was de­vel­oped with in­put from thou­sands of par­ents and other com­mu­nity mem­bers.

The re­port card, Bowser said, pro­vides fam­i­lies with “a set of com­mon, re­li­able and trans­par­ent data . . . that fam­i­lies can use as they make de­ci­sions about which school or schools are a best fit for their chil­dren.”

BON­NIE JO MOUNT/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

The Dis­trict’s state su­per­in­ten­dent of ed­u­ca­tion, Hanseul Kang, ex­plains the new sys­tem for rat­ing the city’s schools dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at Tub­man El­e­men­tary School on Fri­day.

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