Black Student’s Proficiency In Math And English Plunges In D.C. Schools

Black students in Washing D.C. schools are only reaching 20% English proficiency rates, and 9% in math.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

Grade Inflation: What It Is And Why It’s Happening

Before the pandemic, D.C. students’ math and English proficiency skills were already low. Then they dropped during the pandemic and have continued to decline throughout 2022. Black students are especially affected, leading parents to question school policies and excessive pandemic measures. 

In 2019 students were already suffering from poor performance rates. This came after the 2018 scandal which found that District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) allowed failing students to graduate high school. A massive 34% of 2017 high school graduates had not properly earned their diploma requirements but were still allowed to pass anyway. Once that news broke, area schools were forced to offer more transparency — which led to the abysmal 2019 revelations regarding student test scores, and how black students have been in need of better educational services from D.C. schools. . 

In the failing Washington D.C. public school system, only 37% of all students were proficient in English in 2019 , and just 31% were reaching benchmarks in math. Black students were more significantly impacted, only displaying 28% English proficiency and 21% in math. Then the pandemic hit. Schools closed, and the D.C. teacher union fought to keep public schools closed for nearly a year. In their months-long battle to keep children out of classrooms during the 2020-2021 school year, even the district’s attorney general had to obtain a restraining order to prevent teachers from striking when in-person learning finally resumed.

This was well after it was determined that the virus was not as harmful or deadly to most children, and that it wasn’t as harmful or deadly to the general public as previously predicted. Despite this, powerful teachers unions continued pushing the narrative that schools could not open safely. Now only 31% of students are reaching English benchmarks and only 19% of students are achieving appropriate math comprehension. What’s more, black students are only reaching 20% English proficiency rates in Washington D.C. schools and have dropped to an abysmal 9% in mathematics.

These numbers reflect the harmful effects of lockdowns and other isolation methods which were imposed once in-person learning resumed. The effects of social distancing protocols have increased health issues among children, delayed developmental skills, and contributed to the youth mental health crisis. As if that weren’t concerning enough, D.C. recently attempted to force public school students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to class this year. 

The necessity of such a mandate has been questioned and even ridiculed by opponents. By mandating a “no shots, no school” policy over a quarter of enrolled children were being excluded from returning — most of which were black students. D.C. public schools are already facing enrollment declines, teacher shortages, and pushback over racially charged lessons. They were forced to delay their public school COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Yet this delay does nothing to fill in learning gaps. 

black students

Washington DC schools have been failing students —especially black students — for years. This is clearly displayed by the current proficiency report. While school officials and community leaders continue to blame the pandemic for their shortcomings, learning loss was plaguing the area well before excessive lockdowns were imposed. This is believed to be due to bad school policy. How district leaders and lawmakers address this ongoing issue is uncertain. For now, families wishing to provide their children with a proper education must either work with teachers to improve the situation or seek education alternatives like: charter schools, micro-schools, private tutors, and homeschooling.