Students are Exceeding Expectations at EmpowerK12 “Bold Performance” Schools

Meet the 24 traditional and public charter campuses where at-risk students performed best on 2018 PARCC test 


When DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in August the results from the 2018 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) student assessments, another year of improvement was tempered by another year of low proficiency overall. Only three in ten DC students meet or exceed expectations in math and English language arts. The outcomes for students who meet the DC definition of “at-risk” were even lower, with just 17 percent of those students meeting the proficiency standard citywide.

While this trend holds true for some DC schools, there are DCPS and public charter schools at all grade levels demonstrating that socio-economic hardships do not predetermine how proficient their students can be. EmpowerK12 is proud to honor them with 2018 Bold Performance School awards.

Bold Performance award-winning schools are open enrollment schools that serve a high at-risk student population and have combined math and English language arts proficiency rates dramatically higher than similar schools. Notable among this year’s 17 winners and 7 honorable mentions are six schools that have been Bold Performers each of the last three years, since the awards began: DC Prep Benning Elementary, DC Prep Edgewood Middle, Ketcham Elementary, KIPP Lead, KIPP Heights, and KIPP Promise.

EmpowerK12, a nonprofit supporting District public and public charter schools to implement data-driven instructional practices, analyzed the 2018 PARCC data and found that at-risk concentration was the most predictive indicator of school-wide PARCC proficiency. An at-risk student is a child whose family qualifies for SNAP or TANF benefits, is placed in foster care, or lives in a homeless shelter. Almost 50 percent of tested students in DC were considered at-risk this past year, and the more at-risk students a school serves, the fewer the number who met expectations on PARCC, according to an EmpowerK12 analysis. Other factors with a statistically significant impact on a school’s proficiency rate after controlling for percent at-risk served include percent special education, English language learners, race, and grade level configuration. Our 2018 model includes all factors with a statistically significant impact, at-risk contributing the most weight.

EmpowerK12 used a multivariate regression ensemble model to project what percent of students were expected to be proficient at every school given their demographics, and then identified schools with actual proficiency rates significantly higher than expected. The 2018 Bold Performance award-winning and honorable mention schools have actual proficiency rates at least 10 percentage points higher than schools with similar demographics.

 *If viewing on desktop, the scatter plot above is interactive. Click on the chart and hover over points to find out the school name and data.


This year’s list of  17 Bold Performance award winners are, in alphabetical order: 

  • DC Prep Benning ES (Ward 7)
  • DC Prep Benning MS (Ward 7)
  • DC Prep Edgewood MS (Ward 5)
  • Friendship Blow-Pierce MS (Ward 5)
  • Friendship Chamberlain MS (Ward 6)
  • H.D. Cooke ES (Ward 1)
  • Ketcham ES (Ward 8)
  • KIPP Heights ES (Ward 8)
  • KIPP KEY MS (Ward 7)
  • KIPP LEAD ES (Ward 6)
  • KIPP Promise ES (Ward 7)
  • KIPP Quest ES (Ward 7)
  • Marie Reed ES (Ward 1)
  • Rocketship Rise ES (Ward 8)
  • Thurgood Marshall Academy (Ward 8)
  • Truesdell EC (Ward 4) 
  • Washington Leadership Academy (Ward 5)

Honorable mention goes to seven additional schools that nearly made the Bold Performance cut: 

  • Barnard ES (Ward 4)
  • Friendship Tech Prep HS (Ward 8)
  • Ingenuity Prep (Ward 8)
  • KIPP Spring ES (Ward 5)
  • Noyes EC (Ward 5)
  • Stanton ES (Ward 8)
  • Walker-Jones EC (Ward 6)

Twelve of the Bold Performance award-winning and honorable-mention schools are located east of the Anacostia River in Ward 7 and Ward 8, three in Ward 6, five in Ward 5, two in Ward 4, and two in Ward 1. 

Together, the 24 schools educate 6,700 students, of which 13 percent receive special education services and 58 percent are considered at-risk.

At four of the Bold Performance schools (DC Prep Edgewood MS, KIPP Lead, KIPP Heights, and KIPP Promise), at-risk students have a higher math and ELA combined proficiency rate than non at-risk students District-wide.

EmpowerK12 Executive Director Josh Boots said, “We commend all Bold Performance schools for their efforts to eliminate the generational achievement gap between high- and low-income students, and we encourage policymakers to learn from these schools. We will continue to honor Bold Performance schools on an annual basis until the day when socio-economic hardship no longer correlates with lower achievement in the District of Columbia.”

This is the third consecutive year EmpowerK12 has recognized Bold Performance schools. One common thread across all 2018 Bold Performance schools is the presence of a strong, inspirational school leader. EmpowerK12 encourages District officials to examine their success and create initiatives to replicate and expand the school leadership pipeline for all DC schools.

Here are other celebratory statements from DC leaders, educators and parents:

 “Mayor Bowser is investing heavily in education in the District, and it’s paying off. She believes every single child in the District deserves a fair shot at achieving their highest potential for career and life, and that that opportunity must be more consistently distributed throughout all eight wards. The recognition of these efforts proves we are moving in the right direction, but we still have more work to do as we continue to work towards real, meaningful advances for all our students.” 

     -Paul Kihn, Acting DC Deputy Mayor for Education

“The schools being honored by EmpowerK12 are fulfilling our vision to ensure every student feels loved, challenged, and prepared to positively influence society and thrive in life. As we move closer toward reducing the opportunity gap and ensuring every DCPS student can reach their full potential, I am proud that our educators and students are proving what is possible with the right leadership and support.”

     -Amanda Alexander, Interim Chancellor, DC Public Schools

“Charter schools have long served percentages of at-risk students that match the city as a whole. We join our colleagues in celebrating the work of this year’s Bold Performance Schools.”

     -Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board

“The Bold Performance schools prove to families that they do not have to travel across the river to receive an amazing education.”

     -LaJoy Johnson-Law, parent of a student attending Rocketship Rise Academy in Ward 8 and member of the PAVE Parent Leaders in Education Board

“Armed with outstanding teachers, strong curriculum, and an environment that supports the whole child, nothing will stop D.C. students from excelling. We are so proud of our young leaders who have proven that their at-risk status has nothing to do with their ability to become college-ready."

     -Stacy Kane, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Washington Leadership Academy

“I am grateful to EmpowerK12 for digging deep into the data to more thoroughly assess the performance of the District’s students, particularly those identified as at-risk who face significant challenges in their lives. Through this thoughtful examination we will all be able to collectively achieve a brighter and more equitable District of Columbia.”

     -Susan Schaeffler, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, KIPP DC

“It is a great honor for three of our schools to be recognized as Bold Performance Schools. Our students continue to shatter socioeconomic predictors, achieving proficiency levels that rival those of their more affluent peers by 8th grade. We applaud their hard work and congratulate all members of the DC Prep community for ensuring that we are delivering on our promise of a high-quality education for our students.”

     -Laura Maestas, Incoming CEO, DC Prep  


For information on the 2017 Bold Performance Cohort:


2018 Bold Performance Schools


Additional technical information about the comprehensive Percent Proficient Above Expectations model

We used advanced multivariate regression analytics to create an ensemble mathematical model to project each school's expected proficiency based on the demographics tested. Those demographics include percent at-risk, special ed, English language learner, and race. An ensemble model, much like how weather forecasters use results from multiple forecast models, ensures we more accurately capture the impacts of each demographic after we control for others.

We also double-checked the collinearity statistics to ensure we were not included any variables that were too correlated with each other and, therefore, might have additional influence on the model. See example model output for Math 3+ that shows how many times each variable was included in one of the models in the ensemble.

The SPSS automated linear ensemble model works by first controlling for the covariate most associated with proficiency rates, which is percent at-risk tested. Then, it assesses whether another variable (e.g. percent special ed) has a statistically significant correlation with outcomes after adjusting for percent at-risk served. For a more technical discussion of how SPSS automated linear ensemble modeling works please refer to this scientific paper.

The comprehensive Percent Proficient Above Expected (PPAE) calculation includes four different PARCC proficiency rate ensemble models, finding school value-add with respect to Math Level 4+, Math Level 3+, ELA Level 4+, and ELA Level 3+. For the super data savvy, you can find XML documentation for each model here. To calculate a school's overall PPAE we combined the results from the 4 models, giving double weight to Level 4+ since it the standard measure used by DC in the upcoming report card.

We set the cuts for Bold Performance Honorable Mention and Award Winners at 10 and 15 PPAE, respectively, because the standard error of measurement for the models was +/- 5 percentage points. Therefore, schools with 10 PPAE have statistically significant positive impact (p<0.05) and those with 15+ PPAE have a very statistically significant impact (p<0.01).