D.C. schools really are better
District of Columbia schools have improved more than schools in any other city (except maybe Chicago), writes Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Getting a teaching job is so competitive in DC that the district hires relatively few new teachers. Three quarters of their new teachers come with classroom experience, a far cry from the days when Teach For America was the district’s primary source of teachers and going back even further when they had to hire anyone who applied.
The district’s evaluation system is doing exactly what was intended, holding on to great teachers with a 92 percent retention rate and motivating low performing teachers to choose to leave.
With nine years of service, a great teacher can qualify to earn over $131,000. No other district in the nation comes close. . . .
The gap between white and black kids’ scores on 4th and 8th grade NAEP in both reading and math has shrunk over the last ten years. DC’s declines in the achievement gap in all these areas outpace the average among districts with NAEP data.
In any case, high school graduation rates are a “national scandal,” writes Walsh. She serves on the Maryland State School Board, which “approved (while claiming it was only a temporary fix, ha ha) a set of faux graduation standards to take care of the sizeable chunk of kids who weren’t going to meet Maryland’s real graduation standards.”
Don’t forget how far DC schools have come, editorializes the Washington Post.
So dysfunctional was the central office that textbooks went undelivered, teachers unpaid and student performance untracked. So ill-maintained were school buildings that students shivered in the winter and sweltered in the spring, assuming of course that officials managed even to get classrooms opened. So badly managed was special education that the courts had to take charge. All that has changed. So, too, have instruction, learning and student achievement. The teaching staff has been transformed, the curriculum made more rigorous and instruction enriched with new strategies and resources. The success of those efforts can be seen in the system’s increased enrollment following decades of decline, surveys showing teacher satisfaction and steady gains in student test scores, including the rigorous and independent National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement, the editorial concedes. Once the nation’s worst school district, D.C. is now ranks in the middle for urban districts. That’s not great.