D.C.'s charter schools aren't only growing faster than traditional public schools, but they're also showing bigger improvements in citywide standardized tests.
A new report from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute out today found that proficiency in math and reading—as measured by the annual D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System—generally increased at the city's charter schools, while falling at public schools. According to the report, the median proficiency level at the 43 charter schools studied rose from 44.2 to 50.2 percent from 2008 to 2012, while it fell from 40.4 to 36.7 percent at the 109 public schools.
When averaged out, proficiency across the entire public school system—which includes public schools and public charter schools—fell by 0.6 percent, mostly due to a 6.5 percent decline in reading proficiency. Worse yet, though, is the geographic distribution of declining proficiency rates: schools in wards 4, 5, 7, and 8 saw declines of between two and six percent, while schools in wards 1, 2, 3, and 6 generally saw improvements.
So what does this mean for the city's public education sector, which has promised dramatic proficiency increases at the lowest-performing schools by 2017? According to the group, D.C. has to dedicate more resources to struggling schools, and those resources have to focus on more than just improving instruction.