Region Forward Blog

Are educational disparities in the region improving?

Jun 22, 2011


Back in January we commented on the unacceptable disparities in public education in the region with Maryland and Virginia having some of the country’s best schools while the District of Columbia lags far behind:

“Maryland has really good public schools. The best in the nation in fact. That’s not a surprise – the top ranking is a spot they’ve held for three years in a row according to the annual Quality Counts education report.

Across the Potomac Virginia’s public schools aren’t looking to shabby either – they’re ranked fourth in the nation…However the situation in the 68.3 square miles between the two couldn’t look more different. Ranking second-to-last the District was given a score of 69.1 compared to 87.6 for Maryland and 81.8 for Virginia. To see the rankings and methodology explanation click here.

One of RF’s main goals is to reduce income inequality throughout the region by increasing educational achievement for all residents. We can’t survive as a prosperous region with such large disparities in education. It’s economically detrimental and socially irresponsible. Fortunately local and federal leaders recognize the need to focus extensively on improving public schools in the nation’s capital…”

The dire situation of the District’s schools as described above may be improving. As Bill Turque and Scott Clement of The Washington Post reported yesterday for the first time in a decade a majority of parents of D.C. public school children gave the system a positive review: “Fully 53 percent of those with children in the public school system say the city’s 123 schools are doing a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job a sharp jump from January 2008 when 31 percent of parents expressed such approval.”

As The Post indicates this major improvement in parents’ perceptions of the school system’s success combined with “the first enrollment growth in more than 40 years and impressive gains in math and reading scores” shows a marked increase of confidence in the system. There’s still a lot of work to be done in bringing the District’s schools in line with its suburban neighbors; however these are refreshing and positive signs that the system is moving in the right direction.

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