The Fishing School


The Fishing School serves Washington, DC communities with low levels of educational attainment and high levels of poverty, unemployment, and crime. In 2014-15, only 24% of DC Public School students scored “proficient” on DC’s standardized math test, and 25% scored proficient in reading. Further analysis revealed that only 17% of all African-American students and 15% of all economically disadvantaged students were proficient in math, while 17% of African-American and 14% of economically disadvantaged youth were proficient in reading. This has to change.

For over 28 years, The Fishing School has been involved in the community, helping to reroute the futures of the students we serve. As an outcomes-focused organization that relies heavily on data tracking to inform its efforts and program activities, we truly embrace a culture of evaluation. Our programs are focused on three main goals:

  • Improving math and reading scores
  • Supporting life skills development
  • Engaging parents in their child’s academic career

Our results from year to year are consistently good:

School Year Reading Math
2013-14 60% increased grades 52% increased grades
2014-15 56% showed improvement 61% showed improvement

In addition to these numbers, perhaps the best illustration of our impact lies in our more than 28 years of experience and the 6,500 youth we have served during this time. The Fishing School’s programs were ranked first in math and second in reading outcomes for youth out of 24 programs funded by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in their 2013 evaluation, and we were identified by the same evaluator as a “best practice” out-of-school time model.


TFS continually and purposefully measures every aspect of our performance, and we actively invite appraisals of our work by a number of outside observers. We do this for two key reasons:

  • First, we believe we have an obligation to the 400+ students we serve every day to constantly improve our programs and services. Never content to reach a plateau or simply repeat what has done in the past, TFS is committed to exceeding all expectations and giving these children every possible advantage.
  • Second, TFS knows that our supporters deserve a full accounting of the use and effect of their contributions. This is true for the parents, volunteers, and tutors who contribute their time and energies as well as the individuals and organizations who contribute their funding and in-kind assistance.

Just as important as measuring (and thereafter improving) our overall organizational performance, TFS also measures the performance of every one of our students.

So, how does TFS measure? In short…

  1. Surveys: TFS surveys classroom teachers, their students, and their students’ parents.
  2. Examines Grades: We examine students’ school grades.
  3. Reviews PARCC: Our partnerships allow us access to the results of standardized test scores.
  4. Observes: We observe the performance of its own teachers to evaluate effectiveness and determine if instruction is in line with lesson plans.
  5. Employs i-Ready: Using the i-Ready online diagnostic/learning tool, each student is individually assessed for mastery of skills currently taught in the classroom and then provided with adaptive-learning lessons to incrementally improve their performance.
  6. Participates in OSSE Evaluations: For the most recently published OSSE evaluation, The Fishing School was given a city-wide ranking of first in gains in mathematics, second in reading / language arts, and second overall.
  7. Engages Independent Evaluators: Stillmeadow Benchmark Associates conducts regular, independent assessments of TFS performance, including in-class observations.
  8. Listens: Students and parents provide regular, anecdotal feedback that is often insightful and always helpful.
  9. Stays in Touch: Perhaps no evaluation can be as powerful as alums who go on to thrive in high school and college and happily report back their successes, noting particular aspects of the TFS program that helped propel them.

This combination of qualitative and quantitative measurement, from all of these sources, is constantly reviewed and evaluated;  it points to areas where TFS can make its carefully-designed program even more robust and impactful.