The Release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2003 Trial Urban District Assessments of Reading and Mathematics

December 17, 2003

This morning NCES is releasing findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2003 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) for both reading and mathematics.

Fourth- and eighth-grade public-school students in nine large urban school districts-Atlanta City, Boston School District, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, City of Chicago School District 299, Cleveland Municipal School District, Houston Independent School District, Los Angeles Unified, New York City Public Schools, and San Diego City Unified-participated in this year's trial urban district assessments for reading and mathematics. These trial urban district assessments were conducted as part of the 2003 national and state assessments, results of which were released in November. The District of Columbia, which has frequently participated in NAEP state assessments, is also included in the comparisons.

These 2003 results are the second set of NAEP urban district assessments. Earlier this year, we released the results for the 2002 reading and writing assessments. Five districts that participated in the 2003 NAEP assessments: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York, participated in the 2002 assessments as well.

The size and make-up of the 10 districts is quite varied. Eight of the 10 are at least 80 percent minority. The two exceptions are San Diego, which is 74 percent minority, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which is 55 percent minority. The sizes of the districts' student populations range from about 55,000 in Atlanta to about one million in New York City.

FEATURES OF THE READING ASSESSMENT

The students who took the NAEP Reading Assessment read complete texts appropriate to their grade. The texts reflected the purposes of reading, which are reading for literary experience, reading to gain information, and reading to perform a task. Both fourth- and eighth-graders were assessed on the first two purposes. Only eighth-graders were assessed on reading to perform a task. All students responded to a combination of multiple-choice and written-answer questions.

Results Reported from the Assessment

NAEP reading scores for both the fourth and eighth grades are presented on a single 0 to 500 point scale. These scores measure what students know and can do. Results are also reported according to three reading achievement levels established by the National Assessment Governing Board. These levels are intended to describe standards for what students should know and be able to do. The three achievement levels are defined as Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

NAEP assessments are based on samples, and with samples there is a margin of error associated with each score. Comparisons made between scores or between the percentages of students at the various achievement levels are tested to see if the differences are larger than the margin of error involved-such differences are statistically significant. They are indicated in the tables by asterisks or arrows.

The scores for the 10 districts are compared with the average scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in public schools nationally and for those attending public schools in "large central cities." NCES defines "large central city" as a central city with a population at or above 250,000. Examples of large central cities are Richmond, Virginia, and Philadelphia. In 2002 the average scores of participating districts were compared to the average for "central cities," which are major urban areas with at least 50,000 in population. This year the comparison was refined by narrowing the comparison group to "large central cities."

NAEP endeavors to assess all students selected in the randomized sampling process, including students with disabilities (SD) and limited-English-proficient students (LEP). The percentage of such students excluded from NAEP may vary considerably across states or districts. Comparisons of achievement results across districts should be interpreted with caution if the exclusion rates vary widely.

Reading Scale Scores, Grade 4

The report presents the grade four average reading scores for the participating urban districts, along with the national and large central city averages in 2003. The report also shows 2002 data for the six districts that participated in the earlier assessment. The large central city average and the average score for Chicago show increases in 2003 as compared to the previous assessment.

Percentage of Students by Reading Achievement Levels, Grade 4

The report also shows the percentage of students scoring at or above Basic and at or above Proficient for the 10 districts. For example, the percentage at or above Basic for Charlotte does not show a difference from the national percentage, and it is higher than the large central city percentage. All other districts have an at or above Basic percentage that is below the national percentage.

The at or above Basic percentage for New York is above the large central city percentage, while the percentages for Boston, Houston, and San Diego do not show a difference. The remaining districts had percentages that were below the large central city average. The percentages for at or above Proficient generally follow the same pattern.

Reading Scale Scores by Race/Ethnicity, Grade 4

The report shows average reading scores according to race/ethnicity. White fourth-graders in Atlanta, Charlotte, the District of Columbia, and Houston scored higher than White fourth-graders in the nation and in large central cities. White fourth-graders in Cleveland and Los Angeles had lower scores than both comparison groups. White students account for 24 percent or less of the fourth-grade public-school student population in all of these cities except Charlotte.

Black fourth-graders in Charlotte and Houston also had higher average scores than either the national or large central city average for Blacks, while Black fourth-graders in the District of Columbia had lower average scores than either comparison group.

Hispanic fourth-graders in New York City had a higher average score than either the national or large central city average, and the average for Houston was higher than the large central city average. The average for Hispanic fourth-graders in San Diego was lower than the national average, and the District of Columbia and Los Angeles had lower average scores than either comparison group.

Reading Scale Scores, Grade 8

The report also shows average reading scores for eighth-graders, with comparisons to 2002 for the districts that participated in that assessment. Atlanta is the only district to show a change, an increase from 236 to 240.

Percentage of Students by Reading Achievement Levels, Grade 8

With respect to achievement level percentages for eighth-grade reading, Charlotte was the only district to have a greater percentage of eighth-graders at or above Basic than the large central city public schools. Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, and San Diego all had percentages that did not show a difference with the large central city percentage, while the remaining districts all had percentages that were below it.

All of the districts except Charlotte had percentages at or above Proficient that were lower than the national percentage. Boston and Charlotte had higher percentages of eighth-graders at or above Proficient than did the large central city public schools. New York and San Diego had percentages that did not show a difference when compared to the large central city percentage, while the remaining districts had percentages that were lower.

Reading Scale Scores by Race/Ethnicity, Grade 8

An examination of average reading scores according to race/ethnicity for eighth-graders indicates that White eighth-graders in Charlotte had an average score that was higher than the national and the large central city averages, while White eighth-graders in Cleveland scored lower than either comparison group.

Black eighth-graders in Charlotte also had an average that was higher than the national and the large central city averages, while Black eighth-graders in Boston and New York had average scores that were higher than the large central city average. Black eighth-graders in Atlanta, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, and San Diego scored lower than one or both comparison groups.

Hispanic eighth-graders in Chicago had an average that was higher than the national and the large central city averages, while Hispanic eighth-graders in San Diego and Los Angeles had an average that was lower than one or both comparison groups.

FEATURES OF THE MATHEMATICS ASSESSMENT

Unlike reading, there has been no previous TUDA assessment for mathematics. Therefore, there are only scores and percentages for 2003.

The mathematics assessment has five content strands. Some of the questions require students to use such devices as protractors and calculators. Like the reading assessment, students answered a combination of multiple-choice and constructed-response questions.

Like the NAEP Reading Assessment, the scores for fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics are reported on a single 0 to 500 point scale. Student mathematics performance is also reported for the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced levels.

Mathematics Scale Scores, Grade 4

At the fourth-grade, Charlotte's average of 242 was higher than both the national and the large central city average. All other participating districts had a score that was lower than the national average. Houston, New York City, and San Diego had an average score that did not show a difference with the large central city average, while all the remaining districts had lower average scores.

Percent of Students by Mathematics Achievement Levels, Grade 4

In terms of achievement levels, Charlotte had an at or above Basic percentage that was higher than the national percentage, while all other districts had a lower percentage. Charlotte, Houston, and New York City had a higher percentage at or above Basic than did fourth-graders in large central city public schools, while Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles all had a lower percentage.

Charlotte had a higher percentage at or above Proficient than did public- school fourth-graders nationally and in large central cities. All other districts had percentages that were lower than the national percentage and either lower than or not distinguishable from the large central city percentage.

Mathematics Scale Scores by Eligibility for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch, Grade 4

The report indicates the scores for low-income fourth-graders (those eligible for free and reduced-price lunch) as compared to fourth-graders from higher-income families, who are not eligible. Analyzing the scores on the basis of eligibility for free/reduced-price school lunch is useful because it gives a picture of the performance of students from lower-income families as compared to other students. Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches come from families with an income below 185 percent of the poverty line.

Low-income fourth-graders in Charlotte had a higher average score than either comparison group. In Houston and New York, scores were higher than the large central city average score. In all other participating districts, low-income public-school fourth-graders scored below the national average and those in Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles scored below the large central city average as well.

Mathematics Scale Scores, Grade 8

Examination of the average mathematics scores at grade 8 for the 10 districts indicates that eighth-grade public-school students in Charlotte had an average score that was higher than either the national or the large central city average. All other participating districts had an average score that was lower than the national average. Eighth-graders in New York scored higher than the large central city average. Boston, Houston, and San Diego had scores that were not distinguishable from the large central city average, and the remaining districts had average scores that were below it.

Percent of Students by Mathematics Achievement Levels, Grade 8

In terms of achievement levels, no participating district had an at or above Basic percentage that was higher than the national percentage. Charlotte was the only district to have a percentage at or above Basic that was higher than the large central city percentage. Boston, Houston, New York City, and San Diego had percentages that were not distinguishable from the large central city percentage, while the remaining districts had percentages that were below it. Results for at or above Proficient were similar.

Mathematics Scale Scores by Eligibility for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch, Grade 8

Low-income eighth-graders in Boston, Houston, and New York City had higher average scores than their peers in large central city schools. These districts, along with Charlotte, were the only districts whose low-income scores were not below the national average. Low-income eighth-graders in Atlanta, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles had average scores that were below the averages for both comparison groups.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the nation's urban school districts serve millions of the most disadvantaged students in America. If we are to improve the education of these students, it is particularly important to have performance data that show comparisons to public-school students nationally and to those attending schools in large central cities. It is also important to disaggregate data in ways that policymakers, educators, parents, and the public find useful.

There is much more information included in the two Highlights reports than can be presented in this summary. In addition, much more detailed information is available for these two assessments through the NAEP web site.

The cooperation of the students who participated in this assessment, their teachers, their schools, and the districts that volunteered to participate in these assessments is very much appreciated. With their participation, they are helping to provide the best overview of the nation's academic progress, and in turn, helping educators and policymakers to improve education for all students.

See the complete results for 2003 Trial Urban District Assessments of Reading and Mathematics on the web through the NAEP homepage.

Download, view, and print the slides for the Associate Commissioners' presentation as a zipped PowerPoint file (1.2 MB).


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