Study: D.C. Public Schools Have the Largest Achievement Gap

In some subjects, such as math, the gap is as large as 60 points.

Posted: 12/08/2011 04:31 PM EST

Not only have Washington D.C. public schools taken a step back in reading, but they also have the largest achievement gap between Black and white students in the U.S.


According to a 2011 federal education study, the gap between Black and white students in D.C. is twice the average gap seen in other cities. The study, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, analyzed key data about each state’s performance in mathematics, reading, writing and science for grades 4 and 8.


At the 4th-grade level in math, the gap in D.C. is 60 points (on a scale of 500); in reading, it is 64 points. By comparison, in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, the gap is closer to 20 points.


Although some may view the difference as simply a matter of race, others say that it is also about income.


"You're comparing white students in wealthier sections of town who are among the [highest achievers]," Michael Casserly, a member of the Council of Great City Schools, told a local D.C. radio station. "As a matter of fact, they perform over national averages with much poorer African-American students in D.C. public schools." 


Casserly noted that in cities like Cleveland, where low-income white students are compared with low-income Black students, the gap is much narrower.


Overall, from 2009 to 2011, 4th and 8th graders in the District improved slightly in math, but declined in reading proficiency.


Approximately 40 percent of the children in the District of Columbia attend charter schools and were not included in the study.


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(Photo: Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times/Landov)