DC Public Schools (DCPS) officials celebrated as results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, released in August 2017, showed improved English Language Arts (ELA) and math scores. Less than one-third of DCPS students, however, achieved a 4 or 5 on the PARCC assessment, which is the benchmark for “college and career readiness.”
In the District’s traditional government schools, only 32 percent of students tested adequately for readiness in ELA, and only 27 percent in math. “The charter schools also made gains, now boasting 10 straight years of rising scores,” The Washington Post reported in August. Still, only 29 percent of charter school students passed the ELA readiness test, and 29 percent scored high enough to be considered college-ready in math.
‘Still Struggling Academically’
Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, says although the gains are laudable, taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth.
“Although DCPS has made some small gains in pockets of the District over the past few years, students in the most expensive school system in the country, while headed in the right direction, are still struggling academically, as evidenced by low rates of math and reading proficiency,” Burke said. “The fact that fewer than one-third of DC Public School students meet math and reading benchmarks punctuates the inefficiencies in the system, in which revenue per pupil exceeds $30,000 per student, per year.”
‘Missing Ingredient’: Parents
Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says graduating from high school does not guarantee readiness for college. Robinson says parents play a pivotal role in preparing children for adulthood.
“There is a disconnect between what it takes to leave high school and what it takes to be successful in college,” Robinson said. “Look at the millions of students who finish American public high schools, both public and charter, who go to college and take remedial courses that their high school diploma says they shouldn’t need. Schools can only do so much; businesses can do so much. The missing ingredient is involving parents in this process. Using literature and language, the school system can better empower and educate parents on how to be involved.”
Burke says the one-third proficiency rates provide “evidence that families in DC need school choice more than ever.”
“It is not more spending that will lead to improvements in DC public schools, but parental influence over how existing dollars are spent, and the option to choose learning environments that work best for their children,” Burke said.
Faster, Better Decisions
Robinson says school-level decision-making produces faster, more innovative solutions to educational problems.
“Charter schools have a unique ability to introduce new aspects to a curriculum quicker than traditional public schools,” Robinson said. “Decisions are made at the school level instead of waiting for a district-wide bureaucratic approval process to take place.”
Cassidy Syftestad ([email protected]) writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.