Several big-city school districts that receive federal Title I money to raise the achievement of needy students are doing just that, according to a recent report conducted for the U.S. Department of Education.
The report, written by the McKenzie Group Inc., a Washington-based consulting firm, covered three years of student achievement in 13 large districts in which at least 35 percent of students were minority and at least half qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.
Ten districts showed increases over three-year periods in the proportion of elementary students in the neediest schools who met state or district proficiency standards in reading or mathematics, according to the report released last month at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in New Orleans.
Seven of those 10 districts showed a narrowing of the achievement gap in math or reading between the high-poverty and low-poverty schools. They were: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami-Dade County, Fla., New York City, San Antonio, and San Francisco. The other districts studied were Baltimore, Detroit, Jefferson County, Ky., Kansas City, Kan., Memphis, Tenn., and Philadelphia.
Middle schools showed less improvement. Five of the 13 districts showed increases in the percentage of middle school students in the neediest schools meeting district or state proficiency standards in math and reading.Only Boston and Houston showed a narrowing of the gap between high- and low-poverty middle schools in math and reading.
The administrators in all 13 districts believed they were putting in place key accountability policies, the study found, but they worried that “a lack of resources, difficulties in aligning district and state goals and policies, and difficult-to-serve student populations may inhibit success.”
“Student Achievement and Reform Trends in 13 Urban Districts” is available for $10 by writing the McKenzie Group at 1100 17th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036.
—Robert C. Johnston
A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2000 edition of Education Week as In Short