Washington D.C.

Over the past decade, Washington D.C. has been one of the fastest improving school systems in the country. The city has greatly improved its traditional public schools while also increasing the number of schools governed by non-profit organizations. Our nation’s capital is a striking example of how all boats can rise when educators are empowered and supported.

For decades, Washington DC was home to one of the lowest-performing school systems in the United States.

2005 Fourth Grade Score Averages in Large Cities

In 2007, Mayor Fenty gained authority over the public schools and made significant changes to how schools were governed.


Enrollment in nonprofit charter schools has increased substantially in recent years.


The District raised standards, installed new high quality curricula, and invested heavily in compensating and training teachers; teachers in Washington D.C. can now earn up to $129,000 a year.


D.C. introduced a unified enrollment system that helps families find a school that is a great fit for their child.

Achievement has gone up dramatically. Just over 10 years after being one of the lowest-performing school systems in the U.S., both traditional schools and charter schools in Washington D.C. now score at the NAEP big city average.

D.C. public schools have caught up to the national big-city average

Fourth grade scores

Demographic shifts explain a small portion of DC gains. But the projected increases, both in charter schools and in the district, have been outstripped by the actual gains.

Projected and actual change in main NAEP scores for DC and DC Public Schools (DCPS), 2005-2013

There is still much work to be done in Washington D.C., but the growth of high performing non-profit charter schools, coupled with major improvements in the district, has made Washington D.C. one of the most improved school systems in the country.

Read how DC’s common enrollment system is expanding access to great public schools for low-income families