In Atlanta this morning, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released reading scores for 18 large urban districts including Atlanta, which did not see any improvement in its fourth grade reading scores but was one of only two districts to register a significant climb in its eighth grade scores in what is considered a rigorous test.
The Trial Urban District Assessment is considered an important measure as most of the systems have large numbers of poor, minority children and there is great interest in what reforms are working to move these kids forward.
Atlanta has had the fastest reading gains in any city participating in the trial — 14 points in both fourth and eighth grade scores since 2002. (On the other end, Detroit’s scores are so appalling that at the press conference Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, called the scores “an outrage.”)
Literacy has been a focus of Dr. Beverly Hall, the APS superintendent. “Atlanta students have posted the highest reading gains from 2002 to 2009, compared numerically to schools participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment,” said Hall at this morning’s press conference. “While our work is far from finished, our comprehensive reform model continues to deliver consistent and meaningful results.”
While APS students are still not performing at the state or national averages, Hall said, “Our students are digging out of a deep hole and doing it at a significantly fast rate. Our focus is to continue this trajectory of improvement.”
Joining the press conference by phone, New York City chancellor Joel Klein said the results show that poverty is not destiny. “What we are seeing here in cities like Atlanta and elsewhere, we can change the outcomes for our children. For that we should all take great comfort because the future of the country depends on it.”
Klein praised Hall for her efforts, holding out her leadership and Atlanta’s progress as a national model. “When done right, when done with courage and conviction…I think we are doing to see those kinds of results in the rest of the nation.”
Dubbed the nation’s report card, NAEP is used to gauge overall national education performance.
The tests are given randomly to students across demographics, and there are no individual scores, only group scores. In 2002, urban districts stepped forward to volunteer to be tested every two years. Atlanta was among them.
The NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment tested representative samples of between 800 and 2,400 fourth and eighth grade students in each of the districts. Overall scores in 2009 were lower for most districts when compared to the national average. The nation showed a one-point gain at grade 8 but no change in grade 4 from 2007.
At grade 4, scores for 2009 increased in Boston, the District of Columbia, Houston, and New York City, compared to 2007. Atlanta scores did not change significantly since 2007. (But scores were higher in 2009 than in 2002 for five districts, including Atlanta.)
At grade 8, Atlanta and Los Angeles were the only two districts that showed reading gains in 2009 compared to 2007 and 2002. Atlanta 8th graders were five points high over 2007 and 14 points over 2002.
In his statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said:
“Today’s report shows that the reading achievement of students in our largest cities has increased over time. At the same time, the results also show that cities have significant work to do. The increases since 2007 weren’t statistically significant in 4th grade. The overall scores of cities are lower than the nation, and the achievement gap in the urban districts is larger than in a nation.
“But the report shows that several cities are leading the way. Of the cities that have participated since the urban district assessments started in 2002, Atlanta and Los Angeles have produced significant increases in reading achievement in both 4th grade and 8th grade. Boston has significant increases since it first participated in the assessment in 2003.
“President Obama has committed unprecedented resources to reform our schools. Through Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, the administration is supporting states and districts that are creating the next generation of school reforms. Through the Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the President is supporting schools efforts to prepare success in college and careers with a fair and flexible accountability system that is focused on our lowest-performing schools.
“In cities, towns, and rural areas across the country, we have to work together so that all children are receiving the world-class education they deserve.”