Authors: Anthony D. Lutkus, Arlene W. Weiner, Mary C. Daane, and Ying Jin
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the nation's ongoing representative sample survey of student achievement in core subject areas. NAEP, known as the Nation's Report Card, is authorized by Congress and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. NAEP regularly reports to the public on the educational progress of students in grades 4, 8, and 12.
In 2002, NAEP assessed the reading and writing performance of the nation's fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students. NAEP also conducted assessments of fourth- and eighth-graders' reading and writing in most of the states.
In 2001, after discussion among NCES, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), and the leadership of the Council of the Great City Schools, Congress appropriated funds for a trial district-level assessment and NAGB passed a resolution approving the selection of five large urban districts for participation in the Trial Urban District Assessment, a special project within NAEP. Thus, this report presents, for the first time, district-level results of NAEP reading assessments in five urban public-school districts: Atlanta City, City of Chicago, Houston ISD, Los Angeles Unified, and New York City Public Schools. Throughout this report, the districts are referred to simply as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City. The five districts participated voluntarily in the NAEP 2002 Trial Urban District Assessment in reading at grades 4 and 8. Results are also included in this report for the District of Columbia, which, in 2002 and past years, has been included in the main assessments with states and other jurisdictions. Data for public schools across the nation and for central city public schools are provided for comparison purposes.1 The public schools also included charter schools, which in some cases were not managed by the urban school district.
NAEP does not provide scores for individual students or schools. It reports results for groups of students (e.g., fourth-graders). For each group in each table in the report, assessment results are described in one of two ways: the group's average reading score on a scale from 0 to 500 or the percentage of students in the group who reached each of three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The Proficient level for each grade is defined by the Governing Board as representing "solid academic performance," which demonstrates "competency over challenging subject matter" for the grade assessed. Basic indicates partial mastery of skills that are fundamental for proficient work. Advanced denotes superior performance.
The achievement levels are performance standards adopted by NAGB as part of its statutory responsibilities. The achievement levels are a collective judgment of what students should know and be able to do for each grade tested. As provided by law, NCES, upon review of a congressionally mandated evaluation of NAEP, determined that the achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution. However, both NCES and NAGB believe that the performance standards are useful for understanding trends in student achievement. They have been widely used by national and state officials and others as a common yardstick of academic performance.
The results are based on representative samples of students for the nation and for participating districts. In order to obtain reliable and representative data, a large proportion of the selected schools and students must participate. All six districts met the NCES statistical participation criteria for NAEP samples at grade 4, but New York City data will not be reported for grade 8 because eighth-grade participation did not meet the criteria.
Some students are identified by the school districts as students with disabilities and/or limited English proficient students. Some of these students are excluded from the assessment, and others are tested with accommodations related to their status. Because the percentages of students identified, excluded, and assessed with accommodations vary across the urban districts, that variability should be taken into consideration in interpreting the results and making comparisons (see appendix A, table A.1). For example, in the case of fourth-grade students, the percentages of students identified as having disabilities or limited English proficiency ranged from 8 to 51 percent, the percentages of fourth-grade students excluded for these reasons ranged from 2 to 17 percent, and the percentages assessed with accommodations ranged from 1 to 8 percent. At the eighth grade, the percentages of students identified with disabilities or limited English proficiency ranged from 6 to 35 percent, the percentage of eighth-grade students excluded for these reasons ranged from 2 to 7 percent, and the percentages assessed with accommodations ranged from 0 to 8 percent.
Throughout this report, differences between scores and between percentages are discussed in the text only when they are significant from a statistical perspective. All differences reported are significant at the 0.05 level with appropriate adjustments for multiple comparisons.
Results for New York City schools at grade 8 are not reported because they did not meet participation rates.
In addition to providing average scores and achievement levels for the nation, for states, and, in this report, for urban districts, NAEP reports provide results for subgroups of students defined by various background and contextual characteristics (e.g., gender, eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, and level of parents' education).
Whereas White students constitute 60 percent of the national public sample at grade 4 and 64 percent at grade 8, in the urban districts, White students make up a maximum of 15 percent of the samples at grade 4 (New York City) and 11 percent of the samples at grade 8 (Chicago). Black or Hispanic students or both constitute majorities in the urban districts in the trial assessment. Hispanic students made up half or more of the sample in Houston and Los Angeles at both grades 4 and 8. Black fourth- and eighth-grade students made up more than 80 percent of the sample in both Atlanta and the District of Columbia.
The federal program providing free/reduced-price school lunch is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for children near or below the poverty line. Eligibility is determined by the USDA's Income Eligibility Guidelines (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/IEGs&NAPs/IEGs.htm). At grade 4, the percentages of students in the urban districts eligible for free/reduced-price lunch ranged from 72 percent in Houston to 88 percent in Chicago. By comparison, 43 percent of fourth-graders in public schools nationally were eligible. At grade 8, the percentages of students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch in four of the urban districts ranged from 68 percent to 84 percent. By comparison, 34 percent of eighth-graders in public schools nationally were eligible. (Information on the free/reduced-price lunch data for eighth-graders in Los Angeles is not reported because these data did not meet reporting standards.)
Eighth-grade students who participated in the Trial Urban District Assessment were asked to indicate the highest level of education they thought that their parents had completed. Five response options were offered: did not finish high school, graduated from high school, some education after high school, graduated from college, and "I don?t know."
1 "Central city" includes a nationally representative sample of public schools located in central cities within metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget. "Central City" is not synonymous with "inner city."