Just 1 in 4 middle school students in D.C.'s public and charter schools is on track to be ready for college or a career, and the numbers are far worse for minorities.
New scores released Monday from the annual PARCC test paint a bleak picture of the state of the District's public schools -- but District leaders do see reason to be optimistic.
The tests were administered for the first time this spring. The scores for 3rd- and 8th-graders were revealed Monday, showing that only about 25 percent of charter and traditional public school students tested at or above expectations in English and math.
When broken down by race, only 17 percent of black students and about 22 percent of Latino students are on track.
"Still far too few of our students are successful, and we have a lot of work to do to ensure that more of our students are performing at the highest levels," said Kaya Henderson, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. "That's why we developed a Common Core-aligned curriculum, created a cornerstone initiative to ensure that every student across the city gets the same caliber of learning experiences, we've expanded our libraries and invested in our middle schools."
Numbers released several weeks ago for high school students showed the older students struggled on the tests, with just 10 percent of students meeting proficiency standards in geometry. In English, 25 percent of students were found to be proficient. The results also revealed a large achievement gap between white students and blacks and Hispanics.
However, the fact that younger students are performing better on annual assessments than high-schoolers gives District leaders reason to believe the school system is on the right track.
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"We have a lot more work to do," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. "For so long, I think it was almost the expectation that parents would find a way to opt out of our system, that we didn't make the necessary investments in facilities and teaching and teacher training so that families could be confident. I think that we see that turning albeit slowly, but we do see it turning."
Bowser points to a steady increase in graduation rates, as well as an increase in the number of news families enrolling students in public schools as an indicator that confidence in the districts public schools is on the rise.
"We should be sobered by the PARCC results," Henderson said. "We should by no means be ashamed or embarrassed."