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Gains made in latest assessments, but students still need outsized support post-pandemic

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

DC students made gains on citywide assessments compared to the previous year, according to data released late last month by the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. This increase is positive—particularly for schools that Education Forward DC has recently invested in—and shows the District is on a positive path toward recovery. However, the results are below where students were before the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a switch to virtual learning. This gap between where we are today and our aspiration that every student in DC is prepared to achieve economic success, power, and autonomy in their lives confirms the need for us to remain focused on those students who are furthest from opportunity.

The data

Overall, 33.7 percent of students scored at the college and career-ready level in English Language Arts (ELA) and 21.8 percent of students scored at the college- and career-ready level in Math on the 2023 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. This represents increases of 3.0 percentage points in ELA and 2.5 percentage points in Math compared to 2022 results. However, DC is still 3.4 percentage points behind 2019 levels in ELA and 8.7 percentage points behind 2019 in Math, underscoring the severe learning disruptions students experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PARCC is the annual citywide assessment of student achievement, designed to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards. College and career readiness, as measured by PARCC, is defined as scoring at level 4 (Met Expectations) or level 5 (Exceeded Expectations) out of five levels.

By sector, DCPS improved by 2.5 percentage points in ELA and 3.1 percentage points in Math.  The charter sector also improved, with increases of 3.7 and 2.0 percentage points, respectively.

Of states that have released their 2023 assessment results so far, only Mississippi has exceeded their pre-pandemic proficiency rates in both ELA and Math, and some states even saw declines from 2022 to 2023.

While recent research from NWEA on their Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment finds that growth rates are below pre-pandemic averages across the country, they noted that this is partly because students would need to make greater-than-ordinary progress to get back on track.

Additionally, growth rates differed by grade, with third graders having above-normal achievement gains.

District students’ progress would not be possible without the tireless efforts of teachers, school leaders, students, and families across the city.

Continued need to focus on students furthest from opportunity

Among economically disadvantaged students, only 18.2 percent scored as college and career-ready in ELA, and only 7.8 percent did so in Math. Of English Language Learners, 20.9 percent were college and career-ready in ELA and 16.1% were in Math.  Students with Disabilities, 8.3 percent scored a 4 or higher in ELA, and 5.5 percent did so in Math.

This year, the District shifted from reporting on students at risk of academic failure to reporting on economically disadvantaged students, with the main difference being the removal of overage/under-credited students from the subgroup.

Bright spots among Ed Forward DC’s partner schools

Schools Ed Forward DC has recently invested in saw improvement from last year, with 29.9 percent of students scoring a four or higher in ELA and 19.1 percent doing so in math. This puts the performance of our portfolio of charter LEAs slightly above the broader charter sector in DC. Our portfolio experienced an increase of 4.7 percentage points in ELA and 2.8 percentage points in Math in terms of the proportion of students testing at college and career-ready levels compared to charter increases of 3.7 and 2.0, respectively.

Economically disadvantaged students attending schools in our charter portfolio performed slightly higher than the city overall. In ELA, 19.0 percent of economically disadvantaged students scored at the college and career-ready level, compared to the city average of 18.4%. In Math, 10.2% of economically disadvantaged students in our portfolio scored at the college and career-ready level versus 8.3% of economically disadvantaged students citywide. As a note, this only reflects the 12 of our 19 portfolio charter LEAs for whom data was not suppressed in math.

What’s next

In the coming months, we hope to have some data on early literacy, which will provide insight into how our kindergarten through 2nd grade students are learning. We are also starting to unpack how other indicators might be tied to PARCC achievement.

EmpowerK12 continues to update our DC Education Recovery Dashboard that looks at several system, student, and Ward-level metrics to compare data to pre-pandemic indicators. For example, DC is seeing chronic absenteeism rates climb since the pandemic, meaning that more students are missing more school and thus receiving less instruction. Chronic absenteeism rates in DC have climbed since the pandemic, meaning more students are missing more school and thus receiving less instruction. Research shows a negative impact from students not attending school regularly and missing instructional hours.

Because of the high rates of chronic absenteeism, Ed Forward DC continues to focus on student engagement and well-being through investments in survey instruments and approaches that value whole child development.

Further, these results underscore the need to prioritize academic recovery in the city’s budget, even in a tight fiscal climate. We explored many topics around academic recovery last year through our Better than Before series, including our most recent discussion with city leaders about the future of investing in education.

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

Every DC student deserves to thrive.