The Conversation

DC Schools Continue to Improve, Teachers Unions Hardest Hit

Results of standardized tests released Tuesday show that controversial school reforms in Washington DC are working.

New results show that DC has continued to make improvements in education performance since controversial reforms of the school system began in 2007. The tests show that the number of students who are proficient or advanced in math, for instance, has gone from 28 percent to 49.5 percent. Comparable reading scores went from 34 percent to 47.4 percent. And the students in DC's charter schools are doing even better (58.6 percent on math and 53 percent on reading).

The improvement is nothing short of "remarkable" according to the Washington Post editorial board. Michelle Rhee initiated the reforms in 2007 and noted the results on Twitter.

Tuesday Rhee told the Washington Post "We’re still at a point where half of the kids still are not at grade-level proficiency. Is that acceptable? Absolutely not." But Rhee also said the day when the majority of DC's kids are proficient or above is "in the not-too-distant future."

Rhee's reforms included firing hundreds of bad teachers, shutting down schools, tying bonus pay to performance and expanding school choice. All of these reforms were bitterly opposed by teachers unions in the city, something the Post editorial fails to mention.

Former DC Mayor Fenty, who had hired Rhee in 2007 as school chancellor, lost the 2010 election in what was widely seen as a referendum on Rhee's aggressive reforms. National teachers unions spent heavily to unseat Fenty. High profile teacher's union leader Karen Lewis compared Rhee's business model reforms to "terrorism" in 2010. But the DC test scores demonstrate that market-style reforms of public education can improve results.


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