Claims by Wash. Post on DC achievement gap
Using recent proficiency tests as a benchmark, Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, has claimed to have narrowed the achievement gap between White and African-American students.
Under Ms. Rhee's leadership, the school district adopted several tactics to drill students to pass the 2009 Comprehensive Assessment System proficiency tests.
Her students made substantial progress compared to previous years at the elementary level in passing math tests, modest progress on elementary reading tests, and minor improvements for middle and high school students on reading and math exams.
In a July 13 press release, the district claimed “The achievement gap between African-American and White students continues to close across all grade levels and subject areas.”
The Washington Post echoed the district, “The achievement gap between African-American and White students shrank.”
The Post's publisher had been a consistent supporter of Ms. Rhee's reform efforts.
The silliness here is you cannot determine whether actual achievement levels between African-American and White students are becoming similar based on minimum skills tests.
If teachers drill African-American high school students all year long to prepare for the tests, and the their White counterparts are reading Brothers Karamazov and Jane Eyre, writing extensive research papers, and doing Calculus, proficiency test scores are radically misleading as to whether educational outcomes are truly becoming more equal.
Ms. Rhee has told a thousand media interviewers a thousand times how much she cares about kids, but test preparation techniques designed to improve proficiency scores have little to do with real school reform or genuine education or closing the real achievement gap, or placing kids on a different life trajectory. They are about gaining short-term political capital.