Academic Achievement in the District of Columbia Public and Public Charter Schools
Good morning Chairman Grosso and members of the Committee. My name is Rashida Young and I am the Chief School Performance Officer at the DC Public Charter School Board. Thank you for this opportunity to testify about academic achievement at DC’s public charter schools.
Public charter school students have shown steady improvement on statewide assessments, first on the DC CAS and now PARCC, for 13 consecutive years. This year the public charter sector saw increases in student performance on the ELA and Math PARCC of 2.7% and 0.3%, respectively. But there are some truly remarkable results from some of our schools.
Among schools that maintained or exceeded expectations on standards in the 2018-19 school year, BASIS DC Public Charter School’s middle school students saw 79.5% of students display proficiency on the ELA assessment along with 67.6% of students testing at a level 4 or above in Math. At Washington Yu Ying PCS, 55.9% of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 57.4% in Math. KIPP DC Heights Academy, Lead Academy, Promise Academy, and Spring Academy, all reported proficiency rates at or above 60% on the Math assessment, nearly double the District average.
Importantly, proficiency rates improved across almost all subgroups in both subjects. In particular, public charter schools outperform city averages for African American and at-risk students. As a subgroup, at-risk students saw increases in student performance on the ELA and Math PARCC of 1.9% and 0.3%, respectively, between SY 2017-18 to SY 2018-19. Public charter schools educate a student body that is 42.7% at-risk students, and we are proud to see that proficiency rates for at-risk students have increased for the fifth consecutive year.
KIPP DC Promise Academy and Washington Latin Upper School saw the highest proficiency rates for at-risk students on the ELA PARCC exam, with 58.3% of their students testing at level 4 or above. At Friendship Technology Preparatory High School, 52.2% of at-risk students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, along with 51.9% of BASIS DC PCS’s middle school students. KIPP DC Heights Academy, Lead Academy, Promise Academy, and Spring Academy reported the highest proficiency rates for at-risk students in math, well above 50%.
Students with disabilities also saw gains as well. As a sector, students with disabilities saw increases in student performance on the ELA and Math PARCC of 1.5% and 0.4%, respectively, between SY 2017-18 to SY 2018-19.
As a District, however, more can be done to improve proficiency rates for students with disabilities. Across the city, students with disabilities continue to struggle to meet or exceed expectations on both the ELA and Math PARCC. The state average for students with disabilities testing at a level 4 or 5 is 7.9% in ELA and 7.2% in math. Within the public charter sector, 6.8% of students within the subgroup tested at a level 4 or above on the ELA assessment, and 6.3% in Math. However, there are several public charter schools that are successfully supporting these students to reach level 4 or 5 on their PARCC exams.
Additionally, English learners continue to perform below expectations. As a sector, students within the subgroup saw decreases in student performance of 1.5% in ELA, despite posting an increase of 0.7% on Math, between SY 2017-18 to SY 2018-19. Public charter schools do not outperform city averages for English learners, trailing in performance on the ELA and Math PARCC assessments by 5.7% and 7.4%, respectively.
We continue to support public charter schools in improving their programming for students with English learners. This includes more frequent and intensive meetings with our English Learner Professional Learning Community (or PLC). The PLCs were created to provide an avenue for DC public charter schools to share best practices and collaborate. Discussions have focused on EL instruction, program management, academic interventions, family engagement, staffing, and accountability. It is our hope that by fostering these conversations, we will be able to make progress with EL achievement. Further, we applaud the academic growth DCPS has made with their English learners and have initiated conversations with their leadership team in an effort to collaborate and learn.
Before I conclude my testimony, I’d like to turn my attention to additional indicators of student success, to address student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and share highlights from OSEE’s graduation data for SY 2018-19.
Commonly referred to as the nation’s report card, NAEP measures student learning in core academic subjects and is the only barometer to compare student achievement across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The 2019 NAEP scores reveal that the District was one of only two jurisdictions to show significant gains between 2017 and 2019 in three of the four grade/subject assessments. As a state, the District demonstrated the highest growth of all states for all grades and subjects in the Average Scale Score, posting gains for almost every student group, including African American and Latinx children. An analysis of NAEP scores from 2011 to 2019 indicates that DC charters grew faster, overall, than every other state and large school district except one – and that one is DCPS. It is extraordinary that the two fastest-growing reported groups in the entire country are DCPS and DC’s public charter schools and a testament to how successful the District’s school reform efforts have been.
With respect to 2019 graduation data, we are pleased to report that 76.4% of public charter students graduated in four years in SY 2018-19, up four percentage points from last year, while the number of students graduating in five years declined by 1.1% to 80.4%. This year, 70.0% of students designated as at-risk graduated in four years, an increase of 5.8% from last year. Additionally, the number of students with disabilities improved by 8.2% to 62.6% while the number of African American students graduating increased by 5.8%. Although Latinx students noted a decline in graduation change in comparison to the last school year, the 5-year data shows a steady increase, with 88.3% of Latinx students graduating from the charter sector.
In February 2019, we revised our Transcript Audit Policy as a means of verifying the status of 9th-grade students, to ensure they are on track to graduate in four years, as well as the graduate status of 12th-grade students to ensure they are on track to be included on the certified graduate's list. We attribute our increase in graduation rates in part to the implementation of Transcript Audit Policy and will continue to monitor outcomes. As an additional accountability measure, DC PCSB evaluates a school’s performance on multiple measures, including 4- and 5-year graduation rates; both of which are indicators of whether or not a student is ready for college or the workforce on its School Quality Report.
To conclude, the charter sector has much to be proud of but also much work ahead of us. While our gains have been impressive, we recognize that not enough of our students are yet achieving at the levels we desire for them and that the gaps by race and income – while narrowing – are still far too large. We remain committed to continuing to make progress on all of these fronts. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am happy to answer any questions.