Chicago students lag behind other big cities on “nation’s report card”

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Chicago posted flat reading scores in today’s release of the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment, which stacks up 18 big-city districts based on results from last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.” Chicago tied Baltimore and outscored six other districts on 4th-grade reading tests, but fell short of 10 other districts—including Atlanta, New York and Boston.

Chicago performed somewhat better on 8th-grade tests, outscoring eight urban districts but lagging behind nine others.

Chicago’s average 8th-grade score of 249 is three points lower than the average for all large-city districts and 13 points behind the national average. The city’s average 4th-grade score of 202 is eight points lower than the urban district average and 18 points behind the national average.

These scores signal that Chicago’s students are performing behind many of their counterparts in other large cities, and more than a year behind students nationwide. NAEP officials estimate that a 10-point difference on the assessment’s 500-point scale is equal to a year’s worth of learning.

Chicago posted flat reading scores in today’s release of the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment, which stacks up 18 big-city districts based on results from last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.”

Chicago tied Baltimore and outscored six other districts on 4th-grade reading tests, but fell short of 10 other districts—including Atlanta, New York and Boston.

Chicago performed somewhat better on 8th-grade tests, outscoring eight urban districts but lagging behind nine others.

Chicago’s average 8th-grade score of 249 is three points lower than the average for all large-city districts and 13 points behind the national average. The city’s average 4th-grade score of 202 is eight points lower than the urban district average and 18 points behind the national average.

These scores signal that Chicago’s students are performing behind many of their counterparts in other large cities, and more than a year behind students nationwide. NAEP officials estimate that a 10-point difference on the assessment’s 500-point scale is equal to a year’s worth of learning.

Since 2002, when Chicago first participated in the urban district assessment, 4th-grade scores have increased by nine points while 8th-grade scores have stagnated.

Chicago’s student population is poorer and more likely to be black or Latino than the population in other urban districts. But an analysis shows that low-income minority students in other districts still, to a large degree, outperform students in Chicago.

Here’s what the comparison shows:

 

  • Low-income African-American students in Chicago scored higher in 4th-grade reading than seven districts, behind 10 others, and six points below the urban average. On 8th-grade tests, they tied two districts—Baltimore and Houston—outpaced eight districts and lagged behind seven others. Chicago outscored the 8th-grade urban average by one point (an advantage that is not considered statistically significant).
  • Low-income Hispanic students scored higher in 4th-grade reading than eight districts, behind six others, and two points above the urban average. On 8th-grade tests, those figures are eight, four and five points, respectively.

 

Still, there is a bright spot: Chicago’s low-income minority students have made strides on 4th-grade tests since 2002, raising their scores by nine points. Yet scores remained flat on 8th-grade tests between 2002 and 2009.

Michael Casserly, executive director for the Council of the Great City Schools, noted that scores are trending upward for urban districts as a whole.

During the last five assessments, 4th-grade reading scores for large cities jumped seven points while the national average inched up from 217 to 220 only. Among 8th-graders, national scores have slipped a point and city scores have improved two points.

“We’re not only improving, we’re catching up,” Casserly said. When the public looks past individual scores in the report, he added, it would see a forest growing taller. “And two of the fastest growing trees are Atlanta and New York.”

The results were announced in Atlanta today, home to the district with the largest test score gains—14 points—since the Trial Urban District Assessment program started. New York Schools Chancellor Joel Klein also fielded media calls via satellite.