Urban School Districts Make Progress on National Exam

Students enrolled in school districts in some of the nation’s largest cities are making significant academic gains that sometimes even outpaced their peers elsewhere in the nation, according to new data.

Since 2002, the Trial Urban District Assessment has tracked student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as America’s report card. The program has grown to encompass 21 urban school districts and tracks the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading. The large districts surveyed volunteer to take part in testing.

According to the most recent data, between 2011 and 2013, fourth-graders from Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta recorded larger increases in scores in math than the national average. In L.A., Hispanic, black and white fourth-graders all saw improvements. However, L.A. lags other urban districts in overall performance.

Not all the news was positive. Fourth-graders in Houston schools experienced lower scores in reading. This was notable in a year that Houston was awarded the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The data may offer some telling information about your local school district. The districts profiled include many with large Hispanic populations, such as Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Fresno, Miami-Dade, Houston, New York City and others.

“The 2013 TUDA results show student performance in large cities continues to both improve overall and that large-city schools nationwide are improving at a faster pace than the nation as a whole,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “While we still have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps in our largest cities, this progress is encouraging. It means that in 2013, tens of thousands of additional students in large cities are proficient or above in math and reading than was the case four years earlier.”

Related Links:

Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
“Urban Schools Improving Faster Than Rest of US,” Associated Press.
“NAEP Gains in D.C., Los Angeles Outpace Other Big Cities,” Education Week.

NAEP Scores Detail Hispanic Student Performance

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made small gains in math and reading on the National Achievement of Educational Progress — known as the “Nation’s Report Card” — but achievement gaps remain a persistent problem.

The latest data released measured growth between 2011 and 2013.

Hispanic and black children still have not caught up to white children. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the achievement gaps are troubling, The Dallas Morning News reported. He used the opportunity to promote the expansion of preschool programs.

“The only way to significantly close the achievement gap is to stop playing catch-up (after students start regular classes) and increase access to early childhood education,” he said. “Why don’t we try fixing the problem before it begins?”

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made progress in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2011 and 2013, according to new data. Additionally, Hispanic eighth-graders scored higher in reading in 2013 than two years earlier.

You can access online data for more detailed performance data by state.

Related Links:

“U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains,” The New York Times.

“U.S. Students Show Incremental Progress on National Test,” The Washington Post.

“Texas Hispanic Students Lag in ‘Nation’s Report Card,'” The Dallas Morning News.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

States Vary in Preparedness for Common Core Standards’ Impact on Latinos

Sates have widely varying degrees of preparedness for the implementation of common core standards — and in particular their impact on low-income, Latino and black students.

A new report by the Education Trust, “Uneven at the Start,” identifies the best- and least-prepared states at  phasing in the more rigorous reading and math standards to serve different student populations. The group used performance data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam to predict how states will fare. It examines both improvement and performance of each state on NAEP exams, including in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math performance, compared against the national average.

With Latino students, Texas and Massachusetts performed best. Florida also performed well.

Meanwhile, Oregon  and California had the weakest record with Hispanic students. The two states are improving slowly when compared against other states, and have performed worse than the national average across several subject areas and age levels. According to the analysis, neither state in any category is above the national average for Hispanics.

The analysis found that no state had above average performance and improvement for Hispanic students across all the subject and grade levels.

“…Instead of just pretending that the same amount of effort will be required everywhere to get children to the new standards, we need to make sure that the lessons from states that have improved the most for all groups of children inform implementation work more broadly and ensure that struggling states have the extra help they will need to build the forward momentum that is already present elsewhere,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, in a news release.

The report has charts that break out where each state falls within the spectrum of performance.

Related Links:

– “Uneven at the Start: Differences in State Track Records Foreshadow Challenges and Opportunities for Common Core,” The Education Trust. 

– “New Analyses Examine State Track Records in Performance and Improvement,” The Education Trust.

NAEP Shows Narrowing Hispanic-White Achievement Gap

The achievement gap between Hispanic and white students in math and reading has narrowed since the 1970s, according to data from a national exam.

The National Center for Education Statistics has released new long-term achievement data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. The results examine the reading and math achievement in 2011-12 of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds.

Since the 1970s, 9- and 13-year-olds have made significant gains in reading and math — but not 17-year-olds. Since 2008, only 13-year-olds made gains. Since that era, among Hispanics, the only subject with no gains were 9-year-olds in math.

Achievement gaps narrowed because black and Hispanic students made greater gains on exams than white students. For example, the average 9-year-old Hispanic student’s score increased 25 points since 1975, versus a 12-point increase for white students. Gaps narrowed for Hispanic and black students at the 17-year-old age level as well, even though the group as a whole did not make gains.

“There are considerable bright spots, including remarkable improvement among black and Hispanic students, and great strides for girls in mathematics,” David P. Driscoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said in a press release.

The NCES also found that a higher percentage of white students reported reading for fun daily than Hispanic or black students.

Related Links:

– “Achievement Gap Narrows on Long-Term NAEP,” Education Week.

– “U.S. Education Gap Narrows Between Whites and MInorities: Report,” Reuters.

– “The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012,” National Center for Education Statistics.

Latino Test Performance Varies Significantly by State

It’s often said that the zip code a child is born into is a strong predictor of their future academic performance and the quality of education that they will receive. But perhaps the same can be said about the state where a child is born.

The New York Times recently reported on an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics of the five states with the largest populations, showing the different performance levels of Latino students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

Those “mega-states” studied are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Th five states enroll more than half of the country’s English language learners, a total of 2.9 million–nearly 1.5 million of whom are in California. They also enroll about 40 percent of the nation’s public school students, or 18.7 million students.

NAEP scores are seen as the best tool by which to compare academic performance across state lines.

One notable headline: California Latino students struggled considerably across the board, while Florida and Texas were strong-performers. While the analysis also shows that Latino students continue to lag white students considerably in performance on the tests (full report here), there was considerable variation in Latino performance between states.

The percentage of Latino eighth-graders performing at the proficient level or above in math in 2011 are below, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 13%, Florida: 22%; Illinois: 19%; New York: 13%; Texas: 31%; Nation: 20%.

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in reading in 2011, in which Florida and Illinois led the nation:

California: 14%; Florida: 27%; Illinois: 23%; New York: 20%; Texas: 17%; Nation: 18%.

The performance of fourth-graders proficient or higher in math, in which Florida and Texas leading:

California: 17%; Florida: 31%; Illinois: 20%; New York: 20%; Texas: 29%. Nation: 24%.

The performance of  Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in reading was as follows in 2011, with Florida leading:

California: 12%;  Florida: 30%Illinois: 18%; New York: 20%; Texas: 19%; Nation: 18%.

And here is the performance of Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in science in 2009, with Texas and Florida leading:

California: 8%; Florida: 23%; Illinois: 10%; New York: 13%; Texas: 16%; Nation: 13%

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in science, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 11%; Florida: 24%; Illinois: 11%; New York: 12%; Texas: 23%; Nation: 16%.

Jack Buckley, commissioner of the NCES, said there was no “consistent pattern among these states,” The Times reported. And that, “each state seems to have areas where it shines and others where they lag behind its counterparts.”

The analysis includes the data broken out by other racial/ethnic categories and factors such as income and ELL status.

Learn more about the analysis of performance in the top five largest states here.

Related Links:

– “Test Scores of Hispanics Vary Widely Across 5 Most Populous States, Analysis Shows,” The New York Times. 

– Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation. 









English Language Learners Struggle on NAEP Writing Exam

English language learners in the eighth and 12th grades scored significantly lower than English-proficient speakers on the latest results from the  2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress–known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”

Even proficient speakers struggled on the exam. Only about a quarter of all students taking the exam scored at or above the proficient level. The exams were scored out of a total possible score of 300.

– In the eighth grade, ELLs scored a 108, versus 152 for students who were not ELLs . Hispanic eighth-graders scored an average of 136 on the exam, while white students scored a 158. The average score for all students combined was a 150.

– In the twelfth grade, ELLs scored an average of 96, compared with a score of 152 for non-ELLs. Hispanic twelfth-graders scored an average of 134, compared with an average of 159 for white students. The average score of all students combined was a 150.

– In the eighth grade, about 1 percent of ELLs performed at or above the proficient level, compared with 14 percent of Hispanic students and 34 percent of white students.

– In the twelfth grade, 1 percent of ELLs performed at or above the proficient level, compared with 11 percent of Hispanic students and 35 percent of white students.

For the first time, students were able to take the exam on laptops that provided basic word processing functions. ELLs were less likely to use the thesaurus function than the English proficient students. Moreover, students who used the thesaurus tool scored higher on the writing tests than those who did not.

Related Links:

– NAEP: 2011 Writing Results.

– “The Nation’s Report Card Releases Results from an Innovative, Interactive Computer-Based Writing Assessment.” National Assessment Governing Board. 

– “ELLs Trail Significantly on National Writing Exam.” Learning the Language. Education Week. 

– “NAEP Shows Most Students Lack Writing Proficiency.” Education Week. 

National Science Foundation Funds Research on Teaching Science to English Language Learners

The National Science Foundation has stepped forward to assist with efforts to close the achievement gap for English language learners in science and math by funding 32 active research projects in the area.

Julio López-Ferrao, program director of the education and human resources directorate at the National Science Foundation, spoke about the issue at the recent “Prepárate: Educating Latinos for the Future of America” conference sponsored by the College Board. He noted that the NSF’s ELL focus has only developed in the past five years. “How do we do better with English language learners?” Lopez-Ferrao asked. “The National Science Foundation has a mission to promote research of high quality. There is a national problem and other agencies need to jump in the pool.”

So far, the majority of projects focus on Spanish-speaking students, more than half focus on middle-school grades, and the projects usually collect data from at least two school districts. The issues addressed include student learning, assessment, curriculum and professional development.

Lopez-Ferrao said the largest and most successful project so far has been the five-year Promoting Science among English Language Learners, or P-SELL project in Florida led in part by  Okhee Lee. The P-SELL, which offers a elementary school curriculum and teacher professional development, is being used in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Lopez-Ferrao said that students in the program performed better on assessments than those not in the program and the achievement gap also shrank.

Another NSF project–this time in Texas– the Middle School Science for English Language Learners or Project MSSELL, led by Rafael Lara-Alecio and Fuhui Tong of Texas A&M University, is examining middle school performance.

The latest results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of eighth-graders showed that English language learners performed far below other student groups in science and have not made progress over the past couple years. ELLs averaged a score of 106 out of 300 points, compared with 137 for all Latino students, 163 for white students and 129 for black students. Proficient is considered a 170.

Are you curious whether there is research under way in your area? The NSF has a searchable database of active research projects  online. If you search under the key words “English language learners”  you’ll find some hits.

Related Links:

– “Grim NAEP Science Results for English Learners.” Learning the Language blog, Education Week.

– Promoting Science among English Language Learners (P-SELL) (Florida)

– Project Middle School Science for English Language Learners (MSSELL) (Texas)

– National Science Foundation: Directorate for Education and Human Resources. 

– The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2011 (NAEP).

Hispanic Students Narrow Science Achievement Gap on NAEP Exam

The achievement gap between Latino and white eighth-graders in science is narrowing, according to  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data released on Thursday.

Between 2009 and 2011, average science scores among Hispanic students increased by five points, compared with a three-point increase for black students and one point increase for white students.

A proficient score is a 170 out of a 300-point scale. Hispanic students’ scores grew to 137, compared with an average 163 for white students and 129 for black students. The average score for English language learners was 106. While the improvement is a bright spot, American students still struggle with science. Only about 32 percent of students scored “proficient” or higher on exams.

The interim head of the National Science Teachers Association, Gerry Wheeler, called the gains “miniscule,” the Associated Press reported. “When you consider the importance of being scientifically literate in today’s global economy, these scores are simply unacceptable,” Wheeler said.

The exam, known as “the nation’s report card,” is based on a sample of 122,000 eighth-graders from across the country.

Read the full report here. Some states performed better with Latinos than others. Florida, with an average score for Latino students of 144, and Texas, with 146, performed better than the national average. California, with an average of 128, and Arizona, with 132, were below the national average.

You can delve into state-level data here.