A 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress study has found that Washington, D.C. public schools have the largest achievement gap between its minority and white students when compared among major urban school systems nationwide.

The study African American and Hispanic students — especially lower performing African American students— are currently not as successful in the area of reading as their white classmates.

The achievement gap scores between black and white students were actually larger in D.C. schools than those of twenty other urban systems, including New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The D.C. gap was also larger than the national average and the average for cities with populations of 250,000 or more, according to the study.

“While the results released today are not ideal, they don’t come as a surprise,” Washington D.C. Public Schools District Chancellor Kaya Henderson said. “We are very aware of what is happening in our schools and what needs to change.”

The study is based on federal reading and math assessments taken nationally this year by fourth- and eighth-graders, through the National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP]— the largest national representative organization that continually assesses what American students know and are capable of doing in varied subject areas.

“African American achievement in urban schools has gone up since we first started doing the studies,” Council of the Great City Schools Executive Director and the National Assessment Governing Board Michael Caserly said. “The performance of African American males in reading particular needs to increase.”

He also said it is important that the public understands that the achievement gaps in D.C. are an artifact of not just race, but also income levels of the two groups. The racial gaps are actually due to the disparity in both race and income.

As the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, Casserly guides the organization in representing the largest urban school systems in America. He has worked with the Washington, D.C. public school district for a number of years and was part of initiating the studies in the early 2000s.

Casserly said Chancellor Henderson is being very aggressive in overhauling and upgrading the instructional program of the school system: “She is really making important strides in boosting instructional quality in the classroom and in pivoting the district’s reforms towards higher instructional quality to a much greater degree than before.”

Although the study shows African-American students from lower income households are not performing well, the D.C. public school district is trying to gain progress.

Chancellor Henderson said the percentage of the school district’s students— especially African-American students and students from lower income households are scoring proficient or advanced in all grade levels and subjects in Washington, D.C. Thus, the District has continued an upward trajectory since 2003.

She also added that DCPS has virtually doubled the percentage of students scoring at the advanced level in Grades 4 and 8 in reading and math since 2007.

Yet many people say that until classroom instruction changes, the school district has a long way to go.

“To close the achievement gap we most realize that the gap is between the haves and the have nots in Washington, D.C.,” President of the Washington, D.C. Teachers’ Union Nathan Saunders said. “The results cannot be looked at in isolation in the larger community as over a third of children are living in a state of poverty and those children are of color: black and brown.”

Saunders added the most frustrating thing for teachers is that they can no longer be creative souls as they were in the past to teach and encourage their students.

“They are under a magnifying glass and being manipulated by textbook companies, educational entrepreneurs, and everybody,” he said. “There needs to be a real partnership among students, teachers, and communities.”

Those that are a part of the National Council of Teachers of English also made a statement on the recent results of the study. They said although motivation and student engagement are primary for students’ learning, learning how to read is just as important.

“While the emphasis in the early grades is on learning to read, once students reach 4th grade or so they’re reading to learn and require a whole new sort of reading instruction.” NCTE stated.

For the future of Washington, D.C. public school district, Chancellor Henderson said she believes a number of key components of its newly installed academic plan will move student achievement in the right direction.

She said DCPS is also offering more and higher quality professional development to ensure that teachers have the support they need, as well as a robust set of literacy intervention programs.

“We must strategically focus on moving students from the basics to a higher level of critical thinking so that we can move more students into the proficient and advanced ranges,” she said.


He also said its important that the public understands that the achievement gaps in D.C. are an artifact of not just race, but also income levels of the two groups. The racial gaps are actually racial and income gaps combined.

As the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, Casserly guides the organization in representing the largest urban school systems in America. He has worked with the Washington, D.C. public school district for a number of years and was apart of initiating the studies in the early 2000s.

Casserly said Chancellor Henderson is being very aggressive in overhauling and upgrading the instructional program of the school system: “She is really making important strides in boosting instructional quality in the classroom and in pivoting the district’s reforms towards higher instructional quality to a much greater degree than before.”

Indeed, although the study shows minority students, especially African-American students and students from lower income households, the D.C. public school district is trying to gain progress.

Chancellor Henderson said the percentage of the school district’s students— especially African-American students and students from lower income households, are scoring proficient or advanced in all grade levels and subjects in Washington, D.C. has continued an upward trajectory since 2003.

She also added DCPS has virtually doubled the percentage of students scoring advanced in Grade 4 and 8 reading and math from 2007.

Yet many still people that until classroom instruction changes, the school district has a long way to go.

“To close the achievement gap we most realize that the gap is between the haves and the have nots in Washington, D.C.,” President of the Washington, D.C. Teachers’ Union Nathan Saunders said. “The results cannot be looked at in isolation in the larger community Over a third of children are living in a state of poverty and those children are of color: black and brown.”

Saunders added the most frustrating thing for teachers is that they can no longer be much creative souls as they were in the past to teach and encourage their students.

“They are under a magnifying glass and being manipulated by textbook companies, educational entrepreneurs, and everybody,” he said. “There needs to be a real partnership between among students, teachers, and communities.”

Those apart of the National Council of Teachers of English also made a statement on the recent results of the study. They said although motivation and student engagement are primary for students’ learning to read and how to read to learn.

“While the emphasis in the early grades is on learning to read, once students reach 4th grade or so they’re reading to learn and require a whole new sort of reading instruction.” NCTE stated.

For the future of Washington, D.C. public school district, Chancellor Henderson said she believes a number of key components of its newly installed academic plan will move student achievement in the right direction.

She said DCPS is also offering more and higher quality professional development to ensure teachers have the support they need, as well as a robust set of literacy intervention programs

“We must strategically focus on moving students from the basics to a higher level of critical thinking so that we can move more students into the proficient and advanced ranges,” she said.