Will Turnaround for Children Inc. defend D.C. test scores?

Today’s brain teaser: If children’s test scores in a D.C. school double in five years, but Turnaround for Children Inc. has only been in the district for two years, should it claim credit for the improvement? Or the disaster? Or pretend it wasn’t on the scene?

If you believe the Washington Post, Turnaround wants credit for the successes but not blame for the failures. Go figure.

Worse, test-score proficiency at one particular school, Wheatley Educational Campus, is now rated at 28 percent, suggesting that 72 percent of the kids are still failing.

So, is that how you spell improvement?

Take Malcolm X Elementary School. Proficiency scores in that school dropped to 16.7 percent in 2012, from 21.5 percent, in 2008.

Of six schools in which Turnaround was involved, four have shown decreases. Two have shown increases. Only one is nearing 50% proficiency, according to D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s report, “Uphill Climb for D.C.’s Schools.”

The scoring chart, showing 2008 compared to 2012:

Cesar Chavez Parkside Campus         27.2     49.2

Davis ES                                                  34.4     29.9

Malcolm X ES                                        21.5      16.7

Miner ES                                                 44.2       35.7

Orr ES                                                      39.9       24.5

Wheatley                                                14.9        28.0

“Despite several years of improved test scores, students in the D.C. continue to score well below the national average in both reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” reports dcactionforchildren.org. “Reading and math scores for elementary students decreased for the second year in a row in 2011, raising questions about whether the high-profile, education-reform campaign in D.C. has hit a wall.”

That doesn’t seem to phase Turnaround for Children Inc., which is so proud of its D.C. failure that it posted a WaPo article on its web site with this headline:

Washington Post piece on reconstituting schools singles out Turnaround’s contribution

How do you square that circle?

“Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams once famously said.

If Turnaround for Children Inc. wants to claim credit for those results, who is going to stand in their way? Maybe the folks in Newark, N.J., where Turnaround is gearing up this fall.

Wheatley Education Campus

We emailed the principal of Wheatley Education Campus in D.C. to ask him about Turnaround for Children Inc.’s dubious achievement claims:

Hello, Principal Cartland,

WaPo’s piece:


On Wheatley’s experience with Turnaround for Children, WaPo says the following:

Wheatley’s student proficiency on math and reading tests has nearly doubled since 2008, to 28 percent. “We have lots of work to do, but we’re a school,” Cartland said. “We’re able to teach.”

But there is no context.

Actually, you should take credit for Turning around test scores – since Turnaround has only been on the scene with you for what, a year? That means most of the gains in test scores presumably were due to your work and not Turnaround’s, no?

If proficiency in the previous five-year period, for instance, had tripled, then the results in the wake of Turnaround’s work would be less than encouraging because they would show a 30 percent drop in proficiency.You see the point. There is no way of the public’s judging Turnaround, with no comparison to go on. Also, I must ask, were you expecting a “near doubling,” or were you expecting worse? Or better?

In other words, the real question is, in your professional opinion, is Turnaround’s investment worth the result?
So many questions.

What was Turnaround’s financial contribution?

As a newspaper reporter, I have been trying with little success to glean from Turnaround’s so-called results in its urban academic outreaches. Exactly what the outcomes show is quite elusive.

Do you, sir, believe that that program allows you to do better by your students than you could do either without it or, in an alternative, with a differently designed program? Or, maybe, with no ‘outside’ program at all?

Thank you for your dedication to the children, the parents, the stakeholders at large, and your profession.


Ted Cohen


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