A Thorough Analysis of DC’s PARCC Scores

Valerie Jablow of EducationDC has a lengthy and thorough column, guest-written by one Betsy Wolf, with way more analysis of the recently-released PARCC scores for DC’s charter schools and regular public schools than I could ever accomplish.

The conclusions that I draw are that:

(1) There is a huge amount of variation in PARCC test scores and proportions of ‘at risk’ students from school to school, both in the regular public schools and the charters;

(2) The public schools have slightly higher scores than the charter schools;

(3) There is a very strong and negative correlation between the proportion of ‘at risk’ students and the proportion of students scoring at the highest levels on this test;

(4) There is a much greater concentration of ‘at risk’ students in the regular public schools than in the charter schools;

(5) No, we have not overcome socio-economic segregation, and

(6) No, the charter schools do not have a secret method for achieving success for every kid, no matter what.

Here is the link: https://educationdc.net/2018/08/27/how-did-dcs-parcc-scores-grow/

I reproduce here a couple of Ms Wolf’s graphs, showing that close correlation between income and PARCC scores in both the charter and regular public sectors. The horizontal axis is the percentage of the student population at the school that is ‘at risk’ (a composite measure including the fraction of families being on food stamps, welfare, incarcerated, free and/or reduced lunch, etc), and the vertical axis is the percentage of students scoring either a 4 or a 5 on the PARCC (that is, the highest levels). Both are for mathematics; the first one is for regular DC public schools, and the second is for the charter sector.

atrisk-dcps - Rebecca Wolf


atrisk-charters - Betsy Wolf

(Both of these graphs are copyright 2018 by Betsy Wolf, and if you click on them you can see enlarged versions.)

The first one shows that Janney, Ross, SWS, Key, and Mann elementary schools all have zero percent of their students classified as ‘at risk’, and have some the highest percentages (about 80%) in the entire city of their students scoring 4 or 5 on the math portion of the PARCC in all of DC.

Conversely, Luke Moore, Washington Metropolitan, and Roosevelt STAY — all alternative high schools — have nearly 100% of their students ‘at risk’ and have zero percent of their students scoring 4s or 5s on the PARCC. There are roughly 30 regular DC public schools that have over 75% of their students ‘at risk’. That’s a lot of kids. So the segregation by socio-economic status in the regular public schools is rather extreme. (Luke Moore happens to be about 6 blocks from my house; I’m not sure how often the students there actually attend class on a regular basis, based on how often, and when, I see students come and go.)

By comparison, there are only about six charter schools with over 75% of their students ‘at risk’. The negative correlation between the fraction of ‘at risk’ students and the fraction that ‘passes’ the PARCC with a 4 or a 5 is very strong in both the charter schools and the regular public schools, but more so in the latter (the first graph).

In the charter sector, there are many fewer schools with greater than 60% of their students scoring 4s or 5s (that is, above the fourth gray horizontal line, counting from the bottom). Also, there are fewer charter than public schools with less than 25% of their students at risk (that is, to the left of the second gray vertical line, counting from the left).

Interestingly, there are a number of somewhat anomalous charter schools that don’t seem to fit the stereotypes: Lee Montessori, Shining Stars and Roots have NO students ‘at risk’, but fairly low fractions of their students scoring high on the math PARCC, and we have four of the KIPP Schools (Spring, Lead, Promise, and Heights) which have middling concentrations of ‘at risk’ students but relatively high scores on the PARCC. (Shining Stars happens to be less than a block from my house, and I see apparently prosperous, professional families, many European-American, dropping off and picking up their kids every morning and every afternoon.)

Why these anomalies? That bears some further investigation, but my colleagues who have taught at various KIPP schools have told me me that the KIPP system is quite effective at weeding out non-compliant students.


Answer: NO.



Accountability and Following the Law in DC Education

Valerie Jablow has yet another well-researched column on how the laws on accountability and transparency are NOT enforced in the education sphere in DC, especially for charter schools. I highly recommend reading and digesting it, and then figuring out how to act on her recommendations.


Setting Up Charter Schools Is Very Profitable

Millions, apparently, in the case of the leaders of Options Public Charter School, and including the chief financial officer of the Public Charter School Board.

Quoting from the most recent court documents: (page 15, section 44)

By arranging for the transfer of revenue from Options PCS to Defendant EES under the transportation agreements in SY2012-2013, Defendants Montgomery, Cranford, and Dalton were able to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars from Defendant EES’s revenue in 2012 and 2013. The chart below reflects the total amounts those Defendants paid themselves from Defendant EES’s funds during 2012 and 2013:

fraud at options pcs

At the time that Defendants Montgomery, Cranford and Dalton received these payments, they were each receiving a full salary from Options PCS.

Another section (46 through 52) accuses the school of  trying to win millions more revenue for the school and its owners by falsely re-classifying large numbers of the students at the school to Level 4 special education. Why would anybody care? you may ask. The following table explains why:

special ed fees options pcs



So, if a student is really Level 2, but mysteriously gets reclassified as Level 4, then he or she will earn the school about twenty-one thousand extra dollars. Multiply that by 50 students, and the school’s owners can rake in an extra million. Here’s more (sections 51, 52):

The levels of students with disabilities are generally determined through an evaluation process at their schools. Many of the students classified as Level 4 students at Options PCS in SY2012-2013 had been classified as Level 1, 2, or 3 students at Options PCS or another school in SY2011-2012, while few students classified as Level 4 students at Options PCS or another school in SY2011-2012 were classified below Level 4 at Options PCS in SY2012-2013.
The projected 42% increase in the number of Options PCS students at Level 4 accounts for most of the $2.8 million increase in District public school funding that, in December 2012, Options PCS was budgeting for SY 2012-2013.

There is more (sections 77-79 of the complaint):

While still the chief financial officer of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (“PCSB”), which is the District agency that oversees public charter schools, Defendant Williams became a member of the Options PCS Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee on February 25, 2013, and began acting as a business advisor to EEMC not later than March 2013. To assist EEMC, Williams regularly forwarded confidential, internal PCSB emails to Defendants Montgomery, Cranford and Dalton, including emails alerting those Defendants to a surprise inspection of Options PCS planned by PCSB staff. 
Shortly before his employment with PCSB ended and his job as chief financial officer of EEMC began, Defendant Williams assisted EEMC by surreptitiously inserting its Management Agreement (with Options PCS) onto the PCSB’s “reviewed contracts” list for its August 2013 board meeting. By doing so, Williams created the false impression that the Management Agreement had already been reviewed by the PCBS staff.

I would like to commend Emma Brown for reporting on this in the Washington Post.


Published in: on January 4, 2014 at 9:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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