appropriate to their grade level. More than 70percent of 10th and 11th graders performedmath at the “Below Basic” level. On theNational Assessment of Educational Pro-gress, D.C. students scored well below thenational average, with more than 85 percentof students scoring at the “Basic” or “BelowBasic” level.
Also, according to the StateEducation Agency, 37 percent of District res-idents read at or below the 3rd-grade level.
In a more targeted comparison, data fromsix urban school districts (the District of Columbia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LosAngeles, and New York) were compiled forthe NAEP 2002 Trial Urban District Assess-ment in reading and writing at grades 4 and8
(Tables 3 and 4). All of the urban districtsperformed below the national average, withD.C. scoring at the bottom in most cate-gories.
Dissatisfaction with the District of Columbia’s public schools has led many par-ents to take their children out of thoseschools. About 30 percent of children attend-ing schools in the District of Columbia go toschools outside the traditional public schoolsystem. An estimated 11,000 residents attendcharter schools.
About 18,000 students(about half of whom are D.C. residents) attendreligiously affiliated and independent schoolsin the District.In response to the public schools’ troubles,some observers have proposed that D.C. intro-duce a school choice program. The mayor andthe president of the D.C. Board of Educationcited the failure of the D.C. public school sys-tem as a reason for ending their opposition tovouchers.
The president and members of Congress have proposed school choice plansthat would allow families to use federal educa-tion dollars to buy education services fromprivate providers, further increasing educa-tional options. Because private schools chargeless on average than public schools spend andoften subsidize tuition for low-income stu-dents, taxpayers in the District would realizesavings, and students would have more educa-tional opportunities.
In response tothe publicschools’ troubles,some observershave proposedthat D.C. intro-duce a schoolchoice program.
Table 3NAEP2002 Trial Urban District Assessment, Reading
Percentage at or above BasicPercentage at or above Proficient
National (public)6230Central city (public)5121Atlanta 3512Chicago 3411Houston4818Los Angeles 3311New York City4719District of Columbia3110
National (public)7431Central city (public)6423Atlanta 428Chicago 6215District of Columbia4810Houston 5917Los Angeles 4410
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of EducationalProgress (NAEP), 2002 Trial Urban District Reading Assessment.Note: According to NCES, data are not reported for New York at the eighth grade due to a low response rate.