Add one more to the long list of recent DC public education scandals* in the era of education ‘reform’:

DC’s NAEP** test scores are increasing at a lower rate now (after the elected school board was abolished in 2007) than they were in the decade before that.

This is true in every single subgroup I looked at: Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, 4th graders, 8th graders, in reading, and in math.

Forget what you’ve heard about DC being the fastest-growing school district. Our NAEP scores were going up faster before our first Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, was appointed than they have been doing since that date.

Last week, the 2017 NAEP results were announced at the National Press Club building here on 14th Street NW, and I went in person to see and compare the results of 10 years of education ‘reform’ after 2007 with the previous decade. When I and others used the NAEP database and separated out average scale scores for black, Hispanic, and white students in DC, at the 4th and 8th grade levels, in both reading and math, even I was shocked:

In every single one of these twelve sub-groups, the rate of change in scores was WORSE (i.e., lower) after 2007 (when the chancellors took over) than it was before that date (when we still had an elected school board).

I published the raw data, taken from the NAEP database, as well as graphs and short analyses, on my blog, ( which you can inspect if you like. I will give you two examples:

  • Black 4th grade students in DC in math (see ):
    • In the year 2000, the first year for which I had comparable data, that group got an average scale score of 188 (on a scale of 0 – 500). In the year 2007, the last year under the elected school board, their average scale score was 209, which is an increase of 21 points in 7 years, for an average increase of 3.0 points per year, pre-‘reform’.
    • After a decade of ‘reform’ DC’s black fourth grade students ended up earning an average scale score of 224, which is an increase of 15 points over 10 years. That works out to an average growth of 1.5 points per year, under direct mayoral control.
    • So, in other words, Hispanic fourth graders in DC made twice the rate of progress on the math NAEP under the elected school board than they did under Chancellors Rhee, Henderson, and Wilson.


  • Hispanic 8th grade students in DC in reading (see: )
    • In 1998, the first year for which I had data, Hispanic 8th graders in DC got an average scale score of 246 (again on a scale of 0-500). In 2007, which is the last year under the elected board of education, they earned an average scale score of 249, which is an increase of only 3 points.
    • However, in 2017, their counterparts received an average scale score of 242. Yes, the score went DOWN by 7 points.
    • So, under the elected board of education, the scores for 8th grade Latinx students went up a little bit. But under direct mayoral control and education ‘reform’, their scores actually dropped.


That’s only two examples. There are actually twelve such subgroups (3 ethnicities, times 2 grade levels, times 2 subjects), and in every single case progress was worse after 2007 than it was beforehand.


Not a single exception.


You can see my last blog post on this, with links to other ones, here: or .




Why isn’t there more outrage?


*For many years, DC officials and the editorial board of the Washington Post have been bragging that the educational ‘reforms’ enacted under Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her successors have made DCPS the fastest-improving school district in the entire nation. (See or for just two examples.)

It didn’t matter how many lies Chancellor Rhee told about her own mythical successes in a privately run school in Baltimore (see ).  She also got away with falsehoods about the necessity of firing hundreds of teachers mid-year for allegedly being sexual predators or abusers of children (see ); there were always acolytes like Richard Whitmire willing to cheer her on publicly (see ), even though the charges were false.

A lot of stories about widespread fraud in the District of Columbia public school system have hit the front pages recently. Examples:

  • Teachers and administrators were pressured to give passing grades and diplomas to students who missed so much school (and did so little work) that they were ineligible to pass – roughly one-third of last year’s graduating class. (see ) You may recall that the rising official (but fake) high school graduation rate in Washington was a used as a sign that the reforms under direct mayoral control of education had led to dramatic improvements in education here.
  • Schools pretended that their out-of-school suspension rates had been dropping, when in actual fact, they simply were suspending students without recording those actions in the system. (see )
  • Less than half of the 2018 senior class is on track to graduate because of truancy, failed classes, and the like. ( see )
  • High-ranking city officials, up to and including the Chancellor himself, cheated the system by having their own children bypass long waiting lists and get admitted to favored schools. (see )
  • A major scandal in 2011 about adults erasing and changing student answer sheets on the DC-CAS test at many schools in DC in order to earn bonuses and promotions was unfortunately swept under the rug. (see )
  • About those “public” charter schools that were going to do such a miraculous job in educating low-income black or brown children that DCPS teachers supposedly refused to teach? Well, at least forty-six of those charter schools (yes, 46!) have been closed down so far, either for theft, poor performance on tests, low enrollment, or other problems. (see ).



**Data notes:

  1. NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is given about every two years to a carefully chosen representative sample of students all over the USA. It has a searchable database that anybody with a little bit of persistence can learn to use: .
  2. I did not do any comparable measurements for Asian-Americans or Native Americans or other such ethnic/racial groups because their populations in DC are so small that in most years, NAEP doesn’t report any data at all for them.
  3. In the past, I did not find big differences between the scores of boys and girls, so I didn’t bother looking this time.
  4. Other categories I could have looked at, but didn’t, include: special education students; students whose first language isn’t English; economically disadvantaged students; the various percentiles; and those just in DCPS versus all students in DC versus charter school students. Feel free to do so, and report what you find!
  5. My reason for not including figures separated out for only DCPS, and only DC Charter Schools, is that NAEP didn’t provide that data before about 2011. I also figured that the charter schools and the regular public schools, together, are in fact the de-facto public education system that has grown under both the formerly elected school board and the current mayoral system, so it was best to combine the two together.
  6. I would like to thank Mary Levy for compiling lots of data about education in DC, and Matthew Frumin for pointing out these trends. I would also like to thank many DC students, parents, and teachers (current or otherwise) who have told me their stories.



A List of Closed Charter Schools in Washington, DC

Quick: How many “public” charter schools have closed in Washington, DC?

Would you say five?

A dozen?

Maybe twenty?

Guess what: According to the board in charge of these things, it’s forty-six. Yes: 46!

Here is the list, in alphabetical order:

Academia Bilingue de la Communidad PCS
Academy for Renewal in Education PCS
Academy of Learning Through the Arts PCS
Arts and Technology PCS
Arts Explorer PCS
Auto Arts Academy PCS
Barbara Jordan PCS
Booker T. Washington PCS
Children’s Studio PCS
City Collegiate PCS
City Lights PCS
Colin L. Powell PCS – First Petition
Colin L. Powell PCS – Second Petition
Community Academy PCS Amos 1
Excel Academy PCS
High Road School and Alterative Learning Center PCS  [sic]
Hope Academy PCS
Hospitality High PCS
Howard Road Academy PCS
Imagine Southeast PCS
Jos-Arz PCS
Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers PCS
Marcus Garvey PCS
Mechanical Industrial Technical PCS
Meld Evenstart PCS
New School Enterprise and Development PCS
New Vistas PCS
Nia Community PCS
Options PCS
Phillips Academy PCS
Potomac Prepratory PCS
Richard Milburn PCS
Sasha Bruce PCS
Septima Clark PCS
SouthEast Academy PCS
Techworld PCS
The School for Arts in Learning PCS
Thea Bowman Preparatory Academy PCS
Tree of Life PCS
Tri-Community PCS
Village Learning Center PCS
Washington Academy PCS
World PCS
Xcelerate Insitute PCS
Young America Works PCS
Young Technocrats PCS


(To be clear: I am not counting certain schools that gave up on having, say, a middle school or a high school. However, I am counting schools that never opened at all, even though they had raised funds, wrote curricula, were approved by the board, hired staff, began enrolling students, but never actually got their act together to hold classes and teach students. This list also leaves out several schools where the founders were found to be using their institution mostly to enrich themselves illegally, and the charter was transferred to another institution.)

So much brilliant success! (Not.)

Given that nearly all of these schools had student bodies which were almost entirely black, Hispanic, and/or low-income, this makes me wonder: would we as a city tolerate this degree of failure and ineptitude if these charter schools were serving higher-income students and large percentages of white kids?

I don’t think so.

DC’s Black, Hispanic and White Students Progress on the NAEP Under Mayoral Control and Before – 8th Grade Reading

8th grade naep reading, DC, B + W + H

We are looking at the average scale scores for 8th grade black, Hispanic, and white students in DC on the NAEP reading tests over the past two decades. Ten years ago, Washington DC made the transition from a popularly-elected school board to direct mayoral control of the school system. Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson, our first and second Chancellors under the new system, promised some pretty amazing gains if they were given all that power and many millions of dollars from the Walton, Arnold, and Broad foundations, and I showed that almost none of their promises worked out.

In the graph above, the vertical, dashed, green line shows when mayoral control was imposed, shortly after the end of school in 2007, so it marks a convenient end-point for school board control and a baseline for measuring the effects of mayoral control.

For 8th grade black students in reading in DC, their average scale scores went from 233 in 1998 to 238 in 2007, under the elected school board, which is a (very small) rise of 5 points in 9 years, or about 0.6 points per year. Under mayoral control, their scores went from 238 to 240, which is an even tinier increase of 2 points in 10 years, or 0.2 points per year.

Worse, not better.

For the Hispanic students, scores only increased from 246 to 249 before we had chancellors, or 3 points in 9 years, or about 0.3 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went DOWN from 249 to 242 in 10 years, or a decrease of 0.7 points per year.

Again, worse, not better: going in the wrong direction entirely.

For white DC 8th graders, it’s not possible to make the same types of comparisons, because there were not sufficient numbers of white eighth-grade students in DC taking the test during five of the last ten test administrations for the NCES statisticians to give reliable results. However, we do know that in 2005 (pre-mayoral control) white 8th graders in DC scored 301 points. And since the mayors and the chancellors took over direct control of education in DC, not once have white students scored that high.

Again, worse, not better.

Why do we keep doing the same things that keep making things worse?


My previous posts on this topic:



Comparing DC’s 4th Grade White, Black, and Hispanic Students in the Math NAEP

4th grade math naep, DC, w + B + H

Here we have the average scale scores for DC’s white, black, and Hispanic fourth graders in math on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, prompted by the data rollout earlier this week of the 2017 results.

The vertical, blue, dashed line at the year 2007 shows where DC changed from having an elected school board with real power, to having a mayor who sets educational policy on his/her own, appointing a Chancellor (starting with the serial fabulist, Michelle Rhee).

If mayoral control of the schools, along with the firing or forcing out of hundreds or thousands of teachers, and all the other ‘reforms’ that have been instituted since 2007, were such a great success, then you would see the purple, orange, and green lines going sharply upwards to the right after the year 2007.

But you don’t.

In fact, let’s do a little math here, and look at rates of change pre- and post-mayoral control

For black 4th graders in math in DC, under the elected school board, the average scale scores went from 188 in the year 2000 to 209 in the year 2007. That is an increase of 21 points in 7 years, or about 3.0 points per year. After mayoral control, those scores went from 209 in year 2007 to 224 in year 2017. That is a rise of 15 points in 10 years, or a rate of change of 1.5 points per year.

That’s worse, not better.

For Hispanic students, during period under the school board, the scores went from 190 to 220 in 7 years, which is a growth of about 4.3 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went from 220 to 230, which is an increase of 1.0 points per year.

Once again, that’s worse under mayoral control, not better.

For white students in DC, pre-Rhee, the scores went from 254 to 262 in 7 years, or a growth of  roughly 1.1 points per year. After mayoral control (and under Rhee and her successors), their scores went from 262 to 273 in 10 years, which is exactly 1.1 points per year.

No change.

So, to sum things up: for black and Hispanic students, who are obviously the two main groups of economically-deprived students in DC, if we look at scores on the NAEP over the past 20 years, there has been LESS improvement under mayoral control (and under IMPACT, VAM, PARCC and everything else) than there was before.

Is anybody paying any attention to this?

Or will the beatings continue and intensify until morale somehow, miraculously, improves?


You can see my previous posts on this topic at these links:




How DC’s Black, White, and Hispanic Students Compare With Each Other on the NAEP Over the Past 20 Years

I will present here four graphs and tables showing how DC’s three main ethnic/racial groups performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math and reading at the 4th and 8th grade levels, as far back as I could find data on the NAEP Data Explorer web page. This time, I will compare the average scale scores for each group with each other.

4th grade naep reading, DC's W, B, H

The vertical, dashed, purple line in the middle of the graph shows the division between the era when we DC citizens could elect our own school board (to the left) and the era when the mayor had unilateral control over education, which he or she implemented by appointing a Chancellor and a Deputy Mayor for Education. That change occurred right after the end of school in 2007.

If direct mayoral control of education in DC were such a wonderful reform, then you would see those lines for black and hispanic students start going sharply up and to the right after they passed that purple line.

I see no such dramatic change. Do you? In fact, do you see any change in trends at all?

In fact, for both white and Hispanic fourth-graders, the average scale score in 2017 is slightly LOWER than it was in 2007.

For black 4th graders, there has been an increase in scores since 2007, but those scores were also increasing before 2007. In fact, if we start at 1998 and go to 2007, the average scale score in reading for black students went from 174 to 192, which is an increase of 18 points in 9 years, or about 2.0 points per year. If we follow the same group  from 2007 to 2017, their scores went from 192 to 207, which is an increase of 15 points in 10 years. Divide those two numbers and you get a rate of increase of 1.5 points per year.

That’s worse.

Not better.

(Anybody familiar with Washington, DC knows that there is essentially no working-class white population inside the city limits — they all moved away during the 1950s, 60s and 70s rather than live in integrated or expensive neighborhoods. A very large fraction of the white families still living in DC have either graduate or professional degrees (lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.). I  don’t know of any other city in the US which has shed its entire white working class. We know from all educational research that parental education and income are extremely strong influences on how their children perform on standardized tests (because that’s how the tests are constructed). White children in DC, as a result, whether they attend regular public schools, charter schools, or private schools, are the highest-performing group of white students of any state or city for which we have statistics.)


The One Area Where Some DC Students Improved Under Mayoral Control of Education

You have all heard the propaganda saying that test scores in DC have improved tremendously ever since the citizens lost the right to vote for their school board, and after foundations like the Broad, Arnold, Walton and Gates family fortunes took over. The editorial staff of the Washington Post never tires of repeating this line.

If you’ve been following this series of blogs on the latest (2017) NAEP scores for DC and elsewhere, you have found no evidence of that.

In this last installment on this topic, I finally found a group of students who DID see their scores rise under mayoral control.

White fourth-grade students in math.

Ain’t it ironical?

The highest-scoring group of white students in the entire nation (that I can find scores for) actually improved their scores when the citizens of DC lost democratic control of the school board. But no other group did.

See for yourself.

First, black fourth graders in DC and elsewhere in math:

4th gr math black naep dc + nation

Here is what I mean: the dotted lines are for African-American fourth graders in math. From 2000 through 2007 (just 7 years) their scores went up from 188 to 209, which is an increase of 21 points (or 3 points per year). However, from 2007 through 2017, their scores went from 209 to 224, which is 15 points (or 1.5 points per year). Or, if you only count students enrolled in DC public schools (and not the charter or private schools) fom 2003 through 2007, their scores went from 202 to 209, which is 7 points in 4 years, or 1.75 points per year. From 2007 through 2017, their scores went from 209 to 218, which is a rise of 9 points in 10 years, which means 0.9 points per year.

Clearly, mayoral control did NOT mean improved increases for black fourth grade math students in DC – using the standard national yardstick.

Now let’s look at Hispanic fourth graders in math:

4th grade math, naep, hispanic, dc + elsewhere, 1996-2017

Once again, we see that Hispanic students at the fourth grade level in DC were making bigger improvements in math BEFORE mayoral control than they were after Mayor Fenty got that power.

However, the reverse is true for white students in DC:

4th grade math naep white students DXC + elsewhere, 1996-2017

Yup: to those who have much already, even more has been given.

I’m pretty sure that Perry Stein of the Washington Post will not reprint these graphs. How about Valerie Strauss?

One Area With A Bit of Improvement: 4th Grade Reading for Black Students on the NAEP

If you’ve been following this series, you’ve noticed that pretty much all of the trends for all subgroups in 8th grade math and reading have been flat — essentially no change after 20 years and billions of dollars of ill-spent money on ‘reforms’ that most teachers have found to be utterly worthless.

This graph, however, for 4th grade students in reading in DC and elsewhere, does show a little bit of improvement in DC only for the period 2013-now. However, there have also been drops. Mostly, there is not much change at all. But if you look very carefully you can see a small increase during that time period – just as there were small increases for DC’s hispanic students BEFORE mayoral control.

How good are your eyes?

4th grade math naep black students dc + elsewhere 1998-2017


EDIT: My bad: this was reading, not math. It’s fixed now, and I edited some of the text. GFB, 4/17/2018, 2:12 pm

Was There Any Progress in 8th Grade Math on the NAEP in DC or Elsewhere?

The answer is, basically, no.

You can see for yourself. This time I am posting a graph and table for average math NAEP scale scores for 8th graders who were black, Hispanic, or white. Honestly, they show that billions of dollars spent in dubious schemes such as having students spend an enormous fraction of the school year doing test prep, firing teachers based on students’ test scores (either their own students or those whom they’ve never met) and turning over much of our public educational system over to billionaires and profiteers — it’s all been a failure. Based on their own yardstick — test scores.

Here are the graphs. Read them and either weep or get determined to do something better about this ‘reformster’ charade.

8th grade math naep black students 1996-2017

8th grade math naep hispanic students 1996-2917

8th grade math Naep scores, white students, 1996-2017

Progress Perhaps With 8th Grade White Students in DC on NAEP After Mayoral Control?

I continue working my way through the various subgroups in DC and elsewhere, trying to see if the imposition of mayoral control back in 2007 has been a success or a failure. This post has to do with white (Caucasian) students in DC and elsewhere in the US.

What do you see:

8th grade reading, white students, naep, 1998-2017, dc and elsewhere

Here you will notice that the scores for European-American (white) students in DC are quite a bit higher than those of similar origins elsewhere in the US. For that, the explanation is relatively simple. Washington, DC is rather unique among large American cities in that virtually all of its white working class citizens moved out to the suburbs and later to the exurbs several decades ago. Even if white students in DC don’t live in luxury and wealth, a very large fraction of them have parents with graduate or professional degrees and more books around the house than the average American household — and so my own kids, who went through DCPS from K through 12, are and were quite different from the children of carpenters or mechanics that I grew up with in far Montgomery County, MD, sixty years ago. The reason that there are so many blanks in the table is that the number of white students in DC used to be so small that the statisticians at NCES could not draw valid conclusions. (My own kids graduated before 2000).

Again, this chart does not show any real signs of success for Mayoral control in DC, or for the entire ‘reform’ agenda which was supposed to revolutionize American education.

Maybe there was progress with Hispanic students in DC and elsewhere?

Continuing to look at 8th grade NAEP reading scores, I now concentrate on those for Hispanic students in DC and elsewhere in the nation. Here is the graph and the raw data, which I and other cobbled together by using the NCES website and the NAEP data explorer, and also from what I gleaned at the presentation at the National Press Club building on 14th St NW last week.


8th grade hispanic reading scores, 1998-2017, DC and US

Here, it is possible to see slight changes: NAEP reading scores for Hispanic 8th graders in DC are actually a bit LOWER than they were before mayoral control. Not better.

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