Eighth graders in large cities posted small gains in reading over the past two years, though urban 4th graders failed to show any improvement deemed statistically significant, according to new national test data.
And while the 8th grade gains slightly outpaced the growth seen for the nation since 2007, urban 4th and 8th graders both still trail the country’s average student performance by considerable margins. The findings are based on the 2009 reading results for urban districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The report on the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment, released last month, also includes specific results for a batch of districts that volunteered to participate. Only two of the 11 urban school systems that have taken part since 2007—Atlanta and Los Angeles—showed reading gains for 8th graders over the past two years that were statistically meaningful. If charter schools are removed from the mix, however, the District of Columbia school system also would have statistically meaningful gains in 8th grade reading.
Meanwhile, four of the 11 districts saw 4th grade increases that were statistically significant: Boston, the District of Columbia, Houston, and New York City.
At a press conference to roll out the data, Michael D. Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, said the results for urban 8th graders were “encouraging,” but he drew special attention to the reading gains over time for urban 4th graders, which have climbed faster than the national average.
Since 2002, the average scores of urban 4th graders have risen by 8 points, compared with a 3-point gain for students nationwide.
“We now are just 10 scale-score points away from the national average,” Mr. Casserly said. “We are not only improving, we are catching up.”
Daria L. Hall, the director of K-12 policy at the Education Trust, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, said the gains are “good news,” but she lamented that too many urban districts are still lagging in 4th grade literacy.
A version of this article appeared in the June 09, 2010 edition of Education Week as Urban NAEP Reveals Small Reading Gains in 8th Grade