New Study Finds Low Achievement in City Schools

By Lynn Olson — December 10, 1997 2 min read


The forthcoming second edition of Education Week‘s 50-state report card on public education finds huge gaps between the performance of students in urban and nonurban school districts.

The majority of urban students in about half the states fail to meet even minimum national standards in mathematics, reading, and science, finds the report, Quality Counts ‘98, scheduled for release Jan. 8. Students in urban schools where most of the children are poor fare worst of all.

The 272-page report, which will appear as a special issue of the newspaper, provides the most detailed analysis ever of previously unpublished data on the condition of public education in the nation’s cities.

It also looks at whether states have adopted policies specifically geared to helping their urban schools, and examines some cutting-edge efforts to help save schools. And it includes results from a survey of 74 big-city districts, conducted in collaboration with the Council of the Great City Schools, a membership organization of large urban districts, on what they are doing to raise expectations for students and increase accountability.

A Look at Rigor

The 1998 edition of the annual report, which is being underwritten by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, also chronicles the progress--or lack of it--that the states are making in their overall efforts to improve education.

It ranks each state on more than 75 indicators, which were based on what research suggests makes schools effective.

Last January, in the first Quality Counts, the states on average received a solid C in standards and assessments, quality of teaching, school environment, and the equity, adequacy, and allocation of resources. The 1997 report found that education was “riddled with excellence but rife with mediocrity.”

One year later, the states still merit a solid C. But there are signs of movement. States have been particularly active in setting standards for what students should know and be able to do, crafting new accountability systems, moving to improve the quality of the teaching force, and permitting the creation of charter schools--publicly financed schools that are free from most rules and regulations.

Quality Counts ‘98 also includes the first national effort to examine how state standards in English and math stack up against national standards in those subjects. The evaluation of the rigor of state standards was conducted especially for the report by the Washington-based Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes a curriculum strong in the basic subjects for all children.

In addition, Public Agenda, a New York City-based group that researches what citizens think about important policy issues, conducted a special survey for the report on how the academic-standards movement is influencing schools and communities.

Education Week subscribers will receive Quality Counts separately by mail in early January, followed by the regularly scheduled Jan. 14 issue.

Additional copies of the report will be available for $10 from Education Week, 4301 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008.