Students are Exceeding Expectations at 2019 “Bold Performance” Schools

Meet the record 28 traditional and public charter campuses where at-risk students performed best on 2019 PARCC test 

Coming on the heels of nation-leading growth on NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card, a record 28 DC schools met our stringent criteria for Bold Performance awards in 2019. 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 

Together, the 28 schools educate 10,759 students, of which 18% receive special education services and 57% are considered at-risk, ranging from 32% to 86%. An at-risk student is a child whose family qualifies for SNAP or TANF benefits, is placed in foster care, or is experiencing homelessness.

Seventeen 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, four in Ward 5, two in Ward 4, and one each in Wards 2 and 1. Six 2019 winners have been Bold Performers each of the last four years, since the awards began: DC Prep Benning ES, DC Prep Edgewood MS, Ketcham ES, KIPP Lead ES, KIPP Heights ES, and KIPP Promise ES.

We analyzed the 2019 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) data and found that at-risk concentration was the most predictive indicator of school-wide PARCC proficiency. Almost 45% of DC students tested in Spring 2019 were considered at-risk. The more at-risk students a school serves, the fewer the number who met expectations on PARCC, our analysis found. 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. The 2019 model for Bold Performance includes all factors with a statistically significant impact, with at-risk contributing the most weight. 

We used an ensemble of machine learning models to project what percentage 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 2019 Bold Performance award-winning schools have actual proficiency rates at least 10 percentage points higher than schools with similar demographics.

KIPP Promise leads the pack with a proficiency rate 33 points higher than similar schools—and combined proficiency higher than a few Ward 3 schools with considerably more affluent populations. At four of the Bold Performance schools, at-risk students have a higher math and ELA combined proficiency rate than non at-risk students District-wide: DC Prep Edgewood MS, KIPP Heights, KIPP Lead and KIPP Promise.

When DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in August the results from the 2019 PARCC assessments, a fourth consecutive year of improvement was tempered by another year of low proficiency overall. Only 31 % of DC students citywide meet or exceed expectations in math, and 37% in English language arts (ELA). The outcomes for students who meet the DC definition of “at-risk” were even lower, with just 16% of those students meeting the proficiency standard in math, and 21% meeting it in ELA. On PARCC, students in two of the city’s lowest-performing student groups, at-risk and black males, are more than 35% more likely to be proficient at Bold Performance schools than other DC schools.

We believe that by 2029, the District of Columbia can become the first urban jurisdiction in America to close the national achievement gap for low-income students, if all schools follow these effective practices of Bold schools:

  • They use data and information in frequent and intentional ways;
  • They collaborate across classrooms as well as across schools;
  • They ensure students are ready to learn by creating a warm social-emotional environment; and
  • They hold the highest of expectations for all students.

Executive Director Josh Boots: “As DC celebrates being the fastest-improving state in the nation, we should also acknowledge exemplary schools whose sustained performance exceeds expectations. Bold Performance schools are chipping away, and in some cases shattering, the achievement gap that divides our nation’s students by household income. 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.”

State Superintendent Hanseul Kang: “I am excited and encouraged by the progress our students, including students who are at-risk and students with disabilities, have made each year and over time on both our annual statewide assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). DC has maintained its reputation as the fastest-improving state in the nation on The Nation’s Report Card, with unprecedented progress in scale and sustainability over time, and continues to the close gap with other states, which shows me that while we still have much more work to do, we are clearly headed in the right direction. Transparent data, such as EmpowerK12’s Bold Performance analysis, and the DC School Report Card show school leaders, policy makers and the DC education community what is working so we can replicate success and identify areas that need additional supports to make meaningful change in improving student outcomes and sustaining progress.”


For information on the 2018 Bold Performance Cohort:


Media Coverage of Bold Winners!

WUSA9 11pm News


DC high schools awarded for bold new approach to education. 'They're more than teachers...they're like family.'

The 74 Million


A Principal’s View: My D.C. School Is Being Bold About What Works in Helping Students Achieve — and Just Won a Big Award for It

DC Line


Angel Hunter: At King Elementary School, student success begins with our ‘starting lineup.’  

2019 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 colinearity 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 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+. 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 cut for Bold Performance award winners at 10  PPAE 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).