Assessment

Urban Districts Post Gains in NAEP Math

December 07, 2011 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

Reading achievement in a set of large urban districts has stayed mostly flat since 2009, based on new national test results, while in mathematics, half the school systems saw some growth over the past two years, including Atlanta, the district at the center of a recent, high-profile cheating scandal.

In math, four out of 18 big-city districts posted statistically significant 4th grade gains from 2009 to 2011, while six out of 18 made progress at 8th grade, according to data released last week from the Trial Urban District Assessment, which tests representative samples of students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card.”

Atlanta was the only district to make math gains at both grade levels since 2009.

In reading, meanwhile, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district was the only participant to see reading gains of statistical significance since 2009, and those were only at the 8th grade level.

The longer historical view tells a more hopeful story, however. Nearly all the districts that have participated in TUDA since the early 2000s have made gains in both subjects.

Across the Years

Since 2003, some urban districts have seen significant improvements in their scores on the math NAEP.

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics

For instance, all six urban systems that took part in the 4th grade reading exam back in 2002, when TUDA began, posted higher scores this round. And in math, nine of 10 districts gained ground since 2003 both at the 4th and 8th grades. (Cleveland saw no statistically significant changes.)

Atlanta’s academic growth since 2009, and over the long haul, seems especially noteworthy, given that the system has been reeling from a state investigation that found widespread cheating on state assessments for a number of years. (“Report Details ‘Culture of Cheating’ in Atlanta Schools,” July 13, 2011.)

In a conference call with reporters last week, a federal official emphasized that, based on a separate federal investigation, there was no reason to believe the cheating extended to NAEP.

“The short story is we couldn’t find any evidence [of cheating],” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP. “What happened is virtually impossible on NAEP” because of its format and other factors, he added.

Atlanta’s strongest gains were in 8th grade math, where the district climbed 6 points on the 500-point scale since 2009, and 22 points since 2003. Measured another way, the proportion of Atlanta students scoring “basic” or above climbed from 30 percent in 2003 to 54 percent in 2011.

In reading, Atlanta saw no statistically significant changes since 2009, but climbed by 16 points since 2002 at 4th grade and by 17 points at 8th grade.

“There was cheating by some teachers on the state tests, but at the same time, what you saw by way of reform in the district was real,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, who took part in the conference call.

Narrowing the Gap

The latest TUDA results came about a month after a new round of NAEP data in reading and math for the nation was released. (“NAEP Results Show Math Gains, But 4th Grade Reading Still Flat,” Nov. 9, 2011.)

That data showed that average reading scores were flat in the 4th grade, but indicated a slight increase in 8th grade reading as well as math at both grade levels since 2009.

The new TUDA report not only provides a close look not only at the set of participating districts, but also highlights average achievement for students across all large U.S. cities and it suggests the achievement trend here largely mirrors the nation as a whole.

However, the pace of improvement for large cities appears to be eclipsing that of the nation.

For example, 8th grade math scores for students from big cities climbed 3 points from 2009, compared with 1 point for the nation. In taking a longer view, large cities gained 12 points since 2003, compared with 7 for the nation.

In 4th grade reading, there was no significant change since 2009 for the nation or for large cities, but urban students posted a 9-point increase since 2002, compared with a 3-point rise in the national average.

“We’ve continued to narrow the differences between urban school districts and the nation at large,” said Mr. Casserly.

He noted that the gap for the first time was less than 10 points in all four categories—that is, in both grade levels and subjects.

Mr. Casserly said his organization earlier this fall issued a report on the factors that help to explain why some urban districts have shown greater gains than others.

The report identifies some common threads among urban districts that have shown strong improvements over time. They include strong and stable leadership and setting clear, systemwide goals and a “culture of accountability” for meeting them, as well as a coherent, well-articulated program of curriculum and instruction and regular use of data to gauge learning, modify practice, and target resources.

Detroit Makes Headway

Although Atlanta was the only TUDA district to make gains in math at both the 4th and 8th grades since 2009, half the participants did see significant improvement in one or the other grade.

Those to do so at the 4th grade were Austin, Texas; Baltimore; and Philadelphia. At the 8th grade, the other districts to improve were Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Chicago, Detroit, the District of Columbia, and Jefferson County, Ky.

The largest gains posted in 8th grade math were for Detroit, which climbed 8 points since 2009. But even with those gains, its score of 246 was the lowest of all 21 districts to participate in TUDA this year. Measured another way, 71 percent of Detroit’s 8th graders scored below basic in the subject. And only 4 percent were “proficient” or “advanced.”

In Baltimore, where the results were released last week, 4th graders posted a statistically significant increase of 3 points in math from 2009. A 4-point increase in 8th grade math was not statistically significant.

“We have made good progress in math, where we have focused enormous efforts because it has been our weakest area,” said Andrés A. Alonso, the district’s chief executive officer and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, in a statement.

This year, three urban school districts participated in TUDA for the first time: Albuquerque, N.M.; Dallas; and Hillsborough County, Fla. They join 18 others that have taken part more than once.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as Urban Districts Post Gains on NAEP Math, but Reading Flatlines

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Whitepaper
Report: Now is the Time to Reimagine Assessments
In New Meridian’s latest whitepaper, Founder and CEO Arthur VanderVeen identifies five principles to boldly re-imagine assessment and cre...
Content provided by New Meridian
Assessment State Test Results Are In. Are They Useless?
While states, districts, and schools pore over data from spring 2021 tests, experts urge caution over how to interpret and use the results.
9 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 file photo, a sign is seen at the entrance to a hall for a college test preparation class in Bethesda, Md. The $380 million test coaching industry is facing competition from free or low-cost alternatives in what their founders hope will make the process of applying to college more equitable. Such innovations are also raising questions about the relevance and the fairness of relying on standardized tests in admissions process.
A sign is posted at the entrance to a hall for a test-preparation class. Assessment experts say educators should use data from spring 2021 tests with caution.
Alex Brandon/AP
Assessment Data Young Adolescents' Scores Trended to Historic Lows on National Tests. And That's Before COVID Hit
The past decade saw unprecedented declines in the National Assessment of Educational Progress's longitudinal study.
3 min read
Assessment Long a Testing Bastion, Florida Plans to End 'Outdated' Year-End Exams
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will shift to "progress monitoring" starting in the 2022-23 school year.
5 min read
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Aug. 18, 2021.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believes a new testing regimen is needed to replace the Florida Standards Assessment, which has been given since 2015.
Marta Lavandier/AP