NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

D.C. Schools Perform Abysmally

July 28, 2003

Apologists for the D.C. public schools have some explaining to do. Not only do D.C. public schools fare poorly against suburban districts, they also perform abysmally against other urban districts, according to results from the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) project.

Last year, the project tested reading and writing skills among fourth- and eighth-graders in six urban school districts (the District, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Houston and Los Angeles).

Among the project's findings:

  • While 49 percent of all central-city public-school students in the fourth grade read below the basic level, 69 percent of D.C. fourth-graders failed to meet that minimal standard.
  • Seventy-four percent of D.C. male fourth-graders and 72 percent of D.C. black students, who comprised 88 percent of the District's fourth-graders, read below the basic level.
  • That means seven out of 10 D.C. fourth-grade students could not "make relatively obvious connections between the text and their own experiences."

Among TUDA cities, D.C. fourth-graders tied for last with their Los Angeles counterparts. But 72 percent of the L.A. students were from Hispanic families (compared to 7 percent in the District) where English may not be the primary language.

On the writing test, the average D.C. fourth-grade score of 135 was dead last, 12 points below the central-city average.

Source: Editorial, "No more excuses for D.C.," Washington Times, July 25, 2003.


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