by Andy Smarick
"I’m proud of DCPS for the progress they’ve made, and it brings me no pleasure to rain on the city’s parade or dampen the enthusiasm of those working for the district—many of whom I admire and consider friends.
"But I find it hard to celebrate today. Overall, DCPS’s scores are discouragingly low, even when compared to other underperforming cities. The district’s least disadvantaged students are excelling and making big gains, while the most disadvantaged are making modest progress and perform at heartbreakingly low levels.
"As I wrote yesterday, progress is only as good as where it takes you. For all of the talk of TUDA gains over the last decade, an honest assessment of our current status can lead to only one conclusion: The pace of improvement hasn’t been nearly fast enough, because a miniscule fraction of disadvantaged kids in urban districts are succeeding.
"Consider that after a decade of purportedly exciting widespread progress, an ostensibly high-performing urban district like Boston has only one in five of its low-income eighth graders reading proficiently. And the nearly seven years of dynamic, inspirational leadership and reform of DCPS hasn’t been able to change the fact that the district has the lowest reading scale scores for low-income eighth graders.
"I hope this causes some of you to ponder whether our energy is now best spent trying to fix these urban districts or if it’s finally time to replace them."
Jim Lerman's insight:
TUDA is a separate program that uses NAEP tests to assess students in 21 selected large, urban school systems in the US. TUDA stands for Trial Urban District Assessment.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a leading conservative think tank. Smarick writes often for Fordham and is also a partner in Bellweather Education Partners, a right-leaning non-profit that is very active in the contemporary education reform movement.
Could Smarick's concluding observation regarding the DC Public Schools signal a new offensive to disestablish urban school districts as we know them today? Approximately half of DCs public school students currently attend charter schools.