May 20th, 2010
08:58 PM ET

Urban reading report shows some cities' grades are up

Reading scores for 2009 showed significant improvement from 2007 among fourth-graders in four urban school districts and among eighth-graders in two, according to a report released Thursday.

The report describes the results of the latest Trial Urban District Assessment from the National Center for Education Statistics. It looks only at the nation's largest urban school districts - six of them in 2002, then jumping to 11 in 2007 and 18 in 2009.

The districts the report flagged as showing significant increases from 2007 to 2009 were Boston, the District of Columbia, Houston and New York City for fourth-graders, and Atlanta and Los Angeles for eighth-graders.

The national average reading scores remained virtually flat over that period for fourth-graders and improved slightly for eighth-graders, the report says.

Scores in urban areas have traditionally trailed the national average scores. In only one of the 18 urban districts whose 2009 scores were examined - Charlotte, North Carolina - were the scores for fourth-graders higher than the national average. Statistically, Charlotte's reading scores showed no significant change compared with 2007.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted Atlanta and Los Angeles in a written statement on the report, saying that "since the urban district assessments started in 2002, Atlanta and Los Angeles have produced significant increases in reading achievement in both fourth grade and eighth grade."

He also pointed out that Boston has shown significant increases since it began participating in 2003.

The report also compares urban students' scores based on race/ethnicity and on eligibility for free/reduced-price school lunch. Urban districts tend to have a higher number of students from minority and low-income families.

The report says that for eighth-graders, reading scores for white students in Atlanta, Austin and Boston were higher than the national average for white students, while only in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district did black students score above the national average for black students.

The Miami-Dade school district in Florida was the only one among the 18 urban district where eighth-grade Hispanic students scored above the national average for such students, and where students eligible for free/reduced-price lunches scored higher than the national average for that subgroup.

The report can be found online at nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/dst2009/2010459.pdf

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