District of Columbia

Academic Achievement

Student performance in the district is very weak, ranking among the lowest in the nation. Despite significant improvement since our last report, less than 20% of 8th graders are at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading and math exams. The national average is 35% and 34%, respectively.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

The District of Columbia earns a failing grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. The district has the highest percentage nationwide of both African-American (76%) and low-income (78%) students. Fourth and 8th graders in both groups perform below the national average at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam. 

Return on Investment

Student achievement in the nation’s capital is very low relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

The district posts mediocre marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

The district earns a failing grade preparing its students for college and careers. Students’ chances for college attendance by age 19 are the lowest in the nation.

21st Century Teacher Force

The nation's capital does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. It does not successfully identify effective teachers or remove ineffective ones. 

Parental Options

The district does an excellent job providing parents with strong school choice options. It has one of the strongest charter school laws in the country and more than half of all students attend a school of choice—the highest in the nation.

Data Quality

The district earns an excellent grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. It provides funding to expand its longitudinal data system and links student performance data with teacher data.


The district did not receive a grade for this metric because it was not included in the Digital Learning Now! study.

International Competitiveness

The district earns a very low grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Only 10% of students are proficient in reading and math—the lowest percentage in the nation—compared with an international standard.

Fiscal Responsibility

The nation's capital did not receive a grade for this metric because it was not included in the Pew Center study.