An analysis of standardized test scores in all DC publicly funded schools ‘ including DC Public Schools and DC public charter schools ‘ shows that the share of students scoring at a proficient level at the typical school fell slightly between 2008 and 2012.  Among all 152 schools in existence in both years, one-third saw a notable decline in proficiency, one-third had modest changes, and another third saw notable increases.  While student performance on standardized tests is only one measure of educational success, test scores are the primary measure used by school leaders, policymakers, and the general public to assess whether schools are moving their students towards higher levels of academic achievement from year to year. 

This paper examines the share of students scoring at the “proficient” or “advanced” level on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) test. This analysis examines proficiency rates in 2008 and 2012 for publicly funded schools, including both DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools (PCS).  The DC CAS tests are taken by students in the spring of each school year to measure their academic proficiency in English language arts, mathematics, science, and health.  Student scores are divided into four performance levels — Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced — and those scoring at “proficient” or “advanced” are counted in the proficiency rate.  For the purpose of this four-year trend analysis, only reading and math scores were studied; these subject area tests are administered to students in grades 2-10 and grades 3-8 and 10, respectively. 

The unit of analysis for this paper is the individual school.  Rather than examining average scores across all schools, this analysis looks at changes in math and reading proficiency at the median, or mid-point school.  For any measure in this analysis, half of all schools performed below the median, while the other half performed above the median.  This analysis examines test score changes by age level (elementary school, middle school, high school), by system (DCPS or Public Charter) and by ward.  It also analyzes changes in proficiency rates based on each school’s performance level in 2008 to see how schools at different starting points progressed over the four years.  The analysis is limited to schools that were in operation in both 2008 and 2012, which means that it does not include new schools or schools that have closed since 2008.

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