I listened two webcasts this week on the new NAEP 4th and 8th grade math and reading results for 21 urban districts that have volunteered to be part of pilot that highlights their performance. The NAEP tests serve as a common yardstick to compare district performance.
Atlanta is one of the districts that chose to be part of the pilot from its inception in 2002/2003. (The National Assessment of Educational Progress is often called the nation’s report card and is historically only released at the state level.) Atlanta has been praised for showing the most improvement since the trial began, a fact mentioned by two speakers today.
Atlanta showed its greatest growth in the earliest years of the trial. While it showed progress this time on math, it stagnated on reading, as did most of the districts and the nation as a whole.
Based on the results, we ought to be looking at how Austin and Charlotte are teaching math — they are not only outperforming their big city peers, they are outranking the nation.
The Trial Urban District Assessment is a representative sample and produces average scale scores and percentages of students at the NAEP achievement levels, below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. Advanced is a very rigorous level that few students in the nation meet. (There is a wealth of data on the TUDA districts, including the training and experience of the teachers.)
Here are the overall results:
• Only one of the 21 participating districts (Atlanta) saw higher scores for both fourth- and eighth-grade students in 2011 than in any previous mathematics assessment.
• Three districts have made gains since 2009 at grade 4 only (Austin, Baltimore City, and Philadelphia) and five districts have made gains since 2009 for grade 8 only [Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, the District of Columbia, and Jefferson County (KY)].
• Six districts recorded higher scores at both grades 4 and 8 than the averages for large city schools nationally: Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Hillsborough County (FL), Houston, and San Diego.
• Two districts recorded higher scores than the average for large city schools at grade 4 only: Jefferson County (KY) and Miami-Dade.
In READING in 2011:
• Although the average score for fourth-grade students in large city schools remained unchanged from 2009, it was higher than in 2002.
• The average score for eighth-graders in large city schools was higher in 2011 than both 2009 and 2002.
• None of the participating districts made gains at grade 4 since 2009; only one district (Charlotte) made gains at grade 8 compared to 2009 scores.
• Five districts recorded higher scores at both grades 4 and 8 than the averages for large city schools nationally: Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County (FL), Jefferson County (KY), and Miami-Dade.
On 4th grade math: While Atlanta has steadily raised its performance on 4th grade math, it still lags the average performance of large cities in the nation. However, Atlanta was one of four districts this time that showed significant improvement in math since 2009. It also showed a decrease in the number of students scoring below basic — but still 34 percent of its fourth graders are performing below basic in math.
On 8th grade math: Atlanta overall continues to be in the middle of the pack on its scores, but is among the districts improving steadily over time. Here, students are broken down by race. Confirming what we have noted here before, Atlanta does a very good job with its white students in 8th grade math as they ranked 4th in the TUDA. It was noted in the Q&A that Atlanta has a very affluent white population still in its schools, which is different than some cities.
One interesting note for the APS leadership to ponder: Atlanta has the lowest number of its eighth graders enrolled in algebra. Only 11 percent of 8th graders were enrolled, compared to a high of 77 percent in Hillsborough County, Fla., schools.
In reading, there was no statistical improvement in reading among any of the districts in the last two years. Atlanta’s average scores aligned with those of other big cities, meaning they lag the nation. While Atlanta’s 4th grade reading scores improved since 2002, there was no improvement in the last two years.
Insights were offered by panelists:
Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools: He noted that there has been a net shift upward for math and reading and singled out Atlanta for showing the largest gains in any jurisdiction between 2002/2003 and the present.
He said, “Data are clear that we are closing the gap with the nation between 2003 and 2011. The reading gap between large cities and the naiton has narrowed 25 to 3o percent over the last eight years. In math, the difference between us and the nation at fourth grade has level has shrunk from 10 poins to 7 points. At 8th grade, the gao has narrowed from 14 points to 9. The Math gao has shrunk beweten 33 percent and 36 pernce tin just eight yers. It is clear that urban districts are are not only improving,but catching up, I can see a day when your scores will be the same as the nation, if not even better.
Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore schools:
Baltimore joined the trials because Alonso said he wanted his system compared to its true peers, other urban districts. He wanted to change “the nature of the conversation from making adequate yearly progress on standards that we knew were not adequate to the challenges of our kids to a different conversation; how we need to change teaching and learning, what did our kids need to know and do.”
Alonso singled out Atlanta in his comments: “Atlanta is one of those districts over time that has made huge movement.” He joked about Atlanta beating them in raising the performance of black males, for which Atlanta leads the pack. “We definitely aim to pass them in the next passage,” he said.
He also questioned age and experience of teachers, noting that Baltimore had the youngest teachers in its fourth grades and the highest rate of improvement. (You ought to look at the TUDA charts on teacher experience and degrees as they do not align with student performance on NAEP, which deserves some discussion.)
Baltimore only recently joined the trial, so it only has a two-year trend to examine. “So wish I was part of that original group in 2003 because almost every single district has made significant progress,” he said. “The mere fact of participating in this study seemed to be a spur for systems to raise their game. I think our game has been raised.”
In an earlier webcast. David Driscoll discussed the general results for the urban schools. Much like the national results released earlier this year, he noted that urban districts saw some improvement in math, but not in reading. Driscoll is the former Commissioner of Education Massachusetts Department of Education and is now on the NAEP Governing Board.
The most troubling result to Driscoll was the gap between poor and middle-class kids. He said we have to provide low-income kids with the kinds of resources that suburban children enjoy.
“They don’t have stimulation that suburban kids have in terms of books, libraries and activities. We see summer loss issues — gains during the year, and losses during the summer,” said Driscoll. “We better start taking serious our education results. If you look across the world, country after country is going by us.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog