News & Politics

DC By the Numbers

Test scores go up and down, and the wage gap gets smaller

There was good news and bad news for DC in sets of data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the DC Public Schools.

First, the bad news. In the city’s elementary schools, the number of students who are reading at grade level, according to the DC Comprehensive Assessment System, fell to 44.4 percent this year from 48.8 percent last year. Math scores fell, too, down 4.6 percent from 2009 to 43.4 percent.

Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee said in a statement that “we will use these results not only to measure progress but also to identify areas that need more attention.” And City Council Chairman (and mayoral rival to Rhee’s boss) Vincent Gray is using the numbers to blast not just the decline in performance but the tests themselves.

“Given that this mayor has made test scores the sole measure of success in our schools, we need to take a very close look to figure out why test scores are declining,” he said.

The truth is, though, it’s been just three years since Rhee took over the DC public schools. Fluctuations in test scores are going to be inevitable, especially just a few years into a new regime and new reforms. It’ll be the long-term numbers that matter, not just year-to-year data as new classes come through the system.

In better, longer-term news, however, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that men and women working fulltime in the District are closer to having equal wages than every state in the country. DC women working fulltime make 96.5 percent of what men make every week. Whether that means DC is just a uniquely fair town, or the District has a lot of top women who pull up wages overall, women in the city’s workforce have reason to celebrate.

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