The Lioness in the Winter?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’m seeing increasing eduland chatter that DC Mayor Adrian Fenty is trouble in his reelection bid.  Rick Hess provides an on the scene view of what is at risk:

When it comes to teacher evaluation, the teacher contract, textbook distribution, special education, scheduling, data systems, and much else, Rhee’s team has gotten DCPS to the point where it is functional. It isn’t yet an especially good school system, but it’s no longer broken and it’s positioned to be something much more.

I’m even a bit more bullish than this on DCPS. In our rankings of state NAEP performance for ALEC’s Report Card on American Education, DC came up with the second highest overall gains between 2003 and 2009, behind only Florida. The NAEP gains in the District predate Rhee’s tenure, but accelerated between 2007 and 2009.  If the Fenty/Rhee regime survives, an academic golden age of improvement lies within the grasp of the long-troubled district.

If not, it will likely take longer. The bottom-up pressure on DCPS in the form of a large and growing charter school sector will remain.  I have some hope that the union’s pillow smothering of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program might be reversed after many of their minions are forced out of Congress.

That's my lobbying job! No MINE!!!!!

The path to reform is difficult. There have been and will continue to be bitter losses along the way. For the sake of the 56% of DC 4th graders who still can’t read at a Basic level despite the progress to date, I hope that prematurely losing Rhee will not be one of them.

3 Responses to The Lioness in the Winter?

  1. Aaron says:

    I live in Nevada and many of the politicians point to the reforms in Florida as a means of fixing Nevada’s education problem. (We’re ranked 50th). When I look at Florida’s NAEP scores—the measure people point to as evidence of Florida’s success—I notice that they excluded huge percentages of their subpopulations from the test. For example Nevada tested over 90% of their ELLs while Florida tested fewer than three quarters of theirs.

    Maybe I am missing something. After all, I am not a scholar. I am an educator. But, it appears as if NAEP is being gamed like many other tests. Am I wrong?

  2. Patrick says:

    A good question. We can exclude ELL students in the analysis. For example the average non-ELL kid in Nevada scores 218 on the 4th grade reading test (lower than the Miami Dade scores including ELL students). Meanwhile the average non-ELL student in Florida scores 227.

    The difference is slightly more dramatic when you compare non-ELL low-income (11 point difference) or even non-ELL middle to high income students (12 point difference).

    Florida’s K-12 education beats ours any way you slice it.

  3. matthewladner says:

    Patrick is correct- I ran the 2009 numbers for students who were neither ELL nor having an IEP. The scores and gains were virtually unchanged.

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