NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Use D.C.'s Failing Schools as Choice Showcase

December 2, 2002

Public schools in the nation's capital are among the nation's worst. Every year that children stay in them, they fall further behind academically.

Some education specialists are pressing Congress, which has overall responsibility for the schools, to put in place a full-fledged school-choice program. With some 86 percent of D.C. students being black, the present failing system amounts to a racist scandal, they charge.

  • Scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show the District ranking rock bottom in math and reading for fourth-graders, and at the bottom again in math, reading, science and writing for eighth-graders.
  • By grade 11, fully 47 percent of D.C. student do not meet basic proficiency levels in reading -- and 72 percent are not proficient in math.

Advocates of education reform point out that the new political landscape presents the Republican party in Congress with a rare opportunity to push school choice and allow competition to create a showcase for the rest of the nation.

The District's 1996 school-charter law has already shown positive results, but experts say other forms of choice must be introduced before D.C. will be able to climb out of the pit it is in.

Source: Editorial, "Let These Pupils Go," Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2002.

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