December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

‘Nation’s Report Card’ Shows Los Angeles, District of Columbia Reading Scores Up as Progress Stalls in Houston, Cleveland

Fourth- and eighth-grade students in Los Angeles, the District of Columbia and Baltimore show strong reading achievement during the past two years, while students in Houston, Cleveland, and Austin are still struggling, according to the latest findings from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The Nation’s Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading—Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which was released today, also shows gains in eighth graders’ reading achievement scores in Fresno and Dallas, and steady reading scores for both grades in Atlanta, Milwaukee, and San Diego.

iPadTuda2In mathematics, District of Columbia students progressed in both grades from the previous report in 2011, as did fourth graders in Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles and eighth graders in Fresno and Charlotte. Mathematics scores for both grades were steady in Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, and New York.

The Nation’s Report Card, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is a nationally representative and continuing assessment of US students; it is overseen by Jack Buckley, NCES Commissioner, and its policies are set by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB).

The 2013 TUDA—the tenth year for this assessment—expands on this year’s full NAEP released last month. The results are based on representative samples of 1,100–2,300 public school fourth graders and 900–2,100 public school eighth graders in each of the 21 participating urban districts, which are cities with populations of 250,000 or more. The TUDA also includes student achievement results by race and ethnicity, gender, and income level, and for students with disabilities and English language learners.

According to the report, students in eight districts scored higher in 2013 than in 2011 in at least one subject and grade combination, with some districts making gains across multiple subjects and/or grades. Overall, scores in both subjects and both grades were higher in 2013 for three urban districts when compared with the scores of large cities: Austin, Charlotte, and Hillsborough County, FL.

However, scores in nine other urban districts were lower in both subjects and both grades during the same period. These include Detroit, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, but also the cities of Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Fresno, despite their improvements. What this means is that, although many of the nation’s urban districts are improving their student performance, students in large cities still score lower than the national average.

Still, the experts are optimistic. “Anyone interested in the state of our nation’s education should start by looking at progress in these urban districts, which face a concentration of the challenges all schools grapple with to some degree,” says David P. Driscoll, chair of the NAGB.

Despite these challenges, city schools have been advancing steadily since the first TUDA was administered, notes Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, the nation’s primary coalition of large public school districts. “The 2013 NAEP results show gains in large city schools over this last decade that are statistically significant and educationally significant,” he says. “We estimate that nearly 100,000 more of our fourth graders score at or above the proficient level in math than 10 years ago, and some 50,000 more are at the proficient level in reading.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan concurs. “The 2013 TUDA results show student performance in large cities continues to both improve overall and that large-city schools nationwide are improving at a faster pace than the nation as a whole. While we still have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps in our largest cities, this progress is encouraging.”

According to Duncan, the report shows that “tens of thousands of additional students in large cities are Proficient or above in math and reading than was the case four years earlier. In particular, three districts that pressed ahead with ambitious reforms—the DC Public Schools System, Los Angeles, and Fresno—made notable progress since 2011.”

The full report, now viewable online, offers infographics to share as well as a look at how each state is performing and interactive tools, like a custom chart builder, for comparing state data.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.

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