(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the 2011 NAEP would be the first real book on Michelle Rhee’s tenure running DCPS. The 2009 NAEP was a little early, and the 2013 numbers and those going forward will be owned increasingly by those in charge after Rhee, for better or worse.
So this morning I tried to devise a rough and ready analysis that would be informative (if certainly not definitive) and that I could run before making breakfast for the kids (Mrs. Ladner is off on a well-deserved vacation, daddy is gasping for air).
Here is what I came up with: Rhee took command in 2007, so I use the 2007 NAEP scores as the baseline. We all know the level of academic achievement is terrible in DC, but it was when Rhee got there as well, so I decided to focus on growth in scores.
Finally, DC has experienced a good amount of gentrification in recent years, so I chose to focus on the growth of free and reduced lunch eligible children on all four main NAEP exams (4R, 4M, 8R, 8M) for the 2007-2011 period.
Here’s what came out:
That’s pretty close to the top. Rhee’s critics will be quick to note that DC’s gains between 2003 and 2007 were also large. We of course can never know the counterfactual DC’s scores may have been due for a stall, or they may have kept up the same pace whether Rhee had shaken the District up or not. We’ll never know.
The most important point is: DC scores are still a disaster despite the large gains before, during and after Rhee. Rhee has moved on, but the rotten scores are still there.
DC policymakers, in my opinion, should now look to take a deeper dive on reform. Why does the District’s budget continue to swell when the enrollment continues to shrink? If money were allowed to truly follow the child, you’d see an even more robust charter school movement in the District.
When will the District finally clean up the special education disaster? Many blame it on the lawyers, but go and look at the scores in the post below: these guys are shooting fish in a barrel. Special needs vouchers could play an important role in a comprehensive plan to clean up the special needs mess in DC (no litigation, no ultra-Cadillac placements).
While the needle is moving in the right direction in DC, I believe that the Cool Kids came out of the experience sadder, wiser and undeterred. That’s for the best.