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August 19, 2009

D.C. Test Scores Improve, But Reforms Remain Controversial

While Washington D.C. school system is considered one of the worst school systems in nation, aggressive reforms have resulted in high standardized test scores under the leadership of Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Some critics of the new order, however, question whether higher test scores actually prove that the schools are better off.

George Parker of the Washington Teachers Union says that test scores could just be a product of better teacher measurment systems.

“It takes a little bit more than test scores to decide whether or not the schools are better,” Parker says.

In this part of his series on education in Washington D.C. and New Orleans, NewsHour correspondent John Merrow looks at the effort to reform D.C. public schools.


“Well, if you think that the test, you know, measures whether or not children know the standards, and are you teaching the standards, then everyone should be teaching to the test to a certain extent.” – Michelle Rhee, D.C. Schools Chancellor

“We’re telling and identifying right away what it is that students should know and be able to do. And so if we follow that model, then, yes, test scores are going to be it. I mean, that’s going to be our measurement of whether or not they mastered the material.” – Brian Betts, Shaw Middle School principal

“You make sure that they read, you make sure that they write, you make sure that their vocabulary is enriched during that process. When an educational experience is rich and deep, then the test results come as a corollary to that deeper work, not as the focus of the work.” – Margot Berkey

Warm Up Questions

1. What are standardized tests?

2. Why do school districts use standardized tests?

Discussion Questions

1. What kind of standardized tests do you take? How do you prepare for them?

2. Do you think that standardized test scores is an effective way to measure success. Why or why not?

3. According to the report, D.C. schools superintendent Michelle Rhee has closed underperforming schools, cut staff and replaced half of her school principals. What kind of changes would you make to improve education in your own school district?

Additional Resources

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