D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and education leaders released the city's latest standardized test scores amid allegations of cheating in the past.
Gray touted steady gains since the mayor’s office took responsibility for schools in 2007, but the year-to-year progress was slight, NBC Washington’s Aaron Gilchrist reported.
Preliminary data from the 2011 D.C. standardized tests show a 2.7 percent improvement in the number of secondary students scoring proficient in math. There was a slight gain in the number of secondary students scoring proficient in reading.
"The percentage of seventh- and eighth-grade scoring below basic in math has been cut in half, and the percentage of secondary students scoring advanced in math has tripled,” D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said. “That's huge."
For elementary students, there were slight declines in reading and math.
“This is an area where we all agree that more work is needed and more attention,” said state schools superintendent Hosanna Mahaley.
Henderson said she was expecting to see dips because of leadership changes in the city and the school system. She was excited to see no significant ground lost but admitted there’s a need for aggressive changes, Gilchrist reported.
“We've done a lot of work around teacher quality and ensuring that teachers understand what they're being asked to teach and what the test was assessing,” she said.
To improve test scores, the District is writing a new curriculum based on a new set of teaching standards and will introduce new professional development tools for teachers next school year, Gilchrist reported.
“Those things that are not so sexy -- like curriculum development, like staff development -- those are the things that ultimately will result in precipitous rises,” Gray said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Education Department has joined an investigation into allegations that big gains in the city schools' standardized test scores in the past may have been the result of cheating.
“If something is revealed by the inspector general's report that should be addressed, we will forthrightly and aggressively address that,” Gray said.
Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson requested the investigation in March after USA Today reported that from 2008 to 2010 more than 100 D.C. schools had unusually high rates of erasures on exams.