Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Big-City Schools Begin to Ascend in Achievement

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Big-City Schools Begin to Ascend in Achievement

Article excerpt

Many of America's great cities can now begin to look skyward as urban public schools have begun to take flight in academic achievement.

Judging by state-mandated assessments, students in big-city school systems have advanced substantially over the past several years in math and reading, particularly in the elementary grades.

When comparing 2003 state test scores with the first year of the federal No Child Left Behind law in 2002, big-city school students have climbed significantly in math and reading.

Improvement of public school students who scored at or above proficiency levels on their respective state tests in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math can be found in 61 urban school districts in 37 states.

The percentage of fourth graders in the Great City Schools reading at or above proficiency on their respective state tests increased from 42.9 percent in 2002 to 47.8 percent in 2003--a gain of almost 5 percentage points. And the percentage of fourth graders scoring at or above proficiency on their state math tests increased from 44.2 percent to 51.0 percent--a nearly 7 percentage point gain over the same period.

Reading scores among eighth graders were largely unchanged, however, and math scores increased by a modest 3 percentage points.

One can be confident of these and other trends, recently reported in the Council of the Great City Schools' "Beating the Odds" report, because they correspond so closely to reading results from the 2003 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA).

These data showed that the nation's largest central city school districts posted statistically significant gains in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2002 and 2003, but showed little headway among eighth graders.

Improved reading performance among urban fourth graders did not occur solely between 2002 and 2003, of course. …

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