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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 5, Issue 3, Topic: NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment
The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2002, Trial Urban District Assessment
By: Anthony D. Lutkus, Mary C. Daane, Arlene W. Weiner, and Ying Jin
 
This article was originally published as the Executive Summary of the Statistical Analysis Report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 Trial Urban District Writing Assessment and 2002 Writing Assessment.
 
 

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. This report presents, for the first time, results of NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment in writing for public school students in the following participating urban school districts: Atlanta City, Chicago School District 299, Houston Independent School District, Los Angeles Unified, and New York City Public Schools. This represents NAEP’s first assessment of urban districts based on samples specially designed to allow reporting of subgroup data. The five districts participated voluntarily in the NAEP 2002 Trial Urban District Assessment in writing at grades 4 and 8. Results for the District of Columbia, which in this and past NAEP assessments has been sampled and assessed along with states and other jurisdictions, are also included in this report. Data for public schools across the nation and for central city public schools are provided for comparison purposes.* The public schools sampled also included charter schools, which in some cases were not managed by the urban school districts.

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. First, the group’s average writing score is reported on a scale from 0 to 300. Performance for each grade is scaled separately; therefore, average scale scores cannot be compared across grades. The term “average score” is used throughout this report to refer to the average scale score on the NAEP writing scale. Second, student writing performance is reported in terms of 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 NAGB 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, for participating districts, and for schools in central cities. In order to obtain reliable data, sufficient numbers of the selected schools and students must participate in the assessment. All six districts met the NCES participation criteria for NAEP samples at grade 4, but results for New York City schools at grade 8 are not reported because they did not meet the participation criteria.

Some students are identified by the school districts as students with disabilities or limited-English-proficient students. Some of these students are excluded from the assessment, and others are tested with accommodations related to their status. Three of the six districts identified between 30 and 52 percent of their students as either students with disabilities or limited-English-proficient students. Because the percentages of students identified, excluded, and assessed with accommodations vary across the districts, that variability should be taken into consideration in interpreting the results and making comparisons.

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Overall Writing Results for the Urban Districts

The following summary describes results first in terms of average scale scores and then in terms of achievement levels. Average results for public schools in the districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment are compared, at grades 4 and 8, with public schools in the nation, with public schools in central cities, and with each other.

Average scale scores

Results for grade 4
  • The average scores for fourth-graders in public schools ranged from 135 in the District of Columbia to 153 in New York City and the nation.
  • At grade 4, no statistically significant differences were detected between the average scores for students in Houston and New York City and the average score for students in public schools in the nation, while students in Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles had average scores lower than the average score in the nation (figure A).
  • At grade 4, the average score for students in New York City was higher than the national average score for students in central city public schools. The average score for fourth-graders in Houston was not found to differ significantly from that for central cities, while the average score for students in each of the other districts was lower than the national average score for central cities.
  • The average score for students in New York City was higher than those in all the other participating districts except Houston. The average score in Houston was higher than the scores in Atlanta, Chicago, and the District of Columbia, but was not found to differ significantly from the average scores in Los Angeles and New York City.
Results for grade 8

Results for New York City schools at grade 8 are not reported because they did not meet participation criteria.

  • The average district scores for eighth-graders ranged from 128 in the District of Columbia and Los Angeles to 138 in Houston.
  • In each of the reported districts, the average score of eighth-grade students was lower than the average score for eighth-grade students in public schools in the nation (figure B).
  • At grade 8, no significant difference was detected between the average score for students in Houston and the average score for students in the central city public schools. The average score in the central city schools was higher than the average scores in Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles.
  • The average score for students in Houston was higher than the average scores in Atlanta, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles. The average score in Chicago was not found to differ significantly from those in Houston and Atlanta, and was higher than the average scores in the District of Columbia and Los Angeles.

Figure A. Cross-district comparisons of average writing scale scores, grade 4 public schools: By urban district, 2002
Figure A. Cross-district comparisons of average writing scale scores, grade 4 public schools: By urban district, 2002
‡Although deemed sufficient for reporting, the target response rate specified in the NAEP guidelines was not met.

NOTE: The between-district comparisons take into account sampling and measurement error and that each district is being compared with every district shown. Significance is determined by an application of a multiple-comparison procedure.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 Trial Urban District Writing Assessment and 2002 Writing Assessment. (Originally published as figure 2.1 on p. 19 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

Figure B. Cross-district comparisons of average writing scale scores, grade 8 public schools: By urban district, 2002
Figure B. Cross-district comparisons of average writing scale scores, grade 8 public schools: By urban district, 2002
NOTE: The between-district comparisons take into account sampling and measurement error and that each district is being compared with every other district shown. Significance is determined by an application of a multiple-comparison procedure.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 Trial Urban District Writing Assessment and 2002 Writing Assessment. (Originally published as figure 2.2 on p. 20 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

Writing achievement levels

Results for grade 4
  • At grade 4, the percentages of students performing at or above Proficient ranged from 11 percent in the District of Columbia to 27 percent in New York City.
  • The percentages of fourth-grade students performing at or above Proficient in Houston and New York City were not found to be significantly different from the percentages in public schools in the nation or in central cities. Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles had lower percentages of students at or above Proficient than the nation and central cities.
  • At grade 4, the percentage of students performing at or above Proficient in New York City was higher than the percentages in four other districts and not found to differ significantly from the percentage in Houston.
  • The percentages of fourth-grade students performing at or above Basic ranged from 73 percent in the District of Columbia to 85 percent in New York City. In public schools across the nation, 85 percent of students performed at or above the Basic level. In central city schools, 81 percent performed at or above the Basic level.
Results for grade 8
  • At grade 8, the percentages of students performing at or above Proficient ranged from 10 percent in Atlanta and the District of Columbia to 19 percent in Houston. Thirty percent of eighth-graders in public schools in the nation and 22 percent in central city schools performed at or above the Proficient level.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above Proficient was higher for the nation than for any of the five urban districts reported, and higher for central cities than for all urban districts except Houston, where no significant difference was detected. The percentages of eighth-graders performing at or above Proficient in Chicago and Houston were not found to differ significantly from each other, and both were higher than the comparable percentages in the District of Columbia and Atlanta.
  • The percentages of eighth-graders performing at or above Basic ranged from 64 percent in Los Angeles to 74 percent in Houston. Eighty-four percent of eighth-graders in public schools in the nation and 77 per-cent in central city public schools performed at or above the Basic level.
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Results for Student Subgroups

In addition to providing average scores and achievement levels for the nation, for states, and, in this report, for districts, NAEP reports provide results for subgroups of students defined by various background and contextual characteristics (e.g., gender, eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch, and level of parents’ education). In this report, performance results for subgroups are reported primarily as comparisons of district average scores with the comparable average scores in central cities.

Gender

Results for grade 4
  • No statistically significant difference was detected between the average scores of male or female fourth-grade students in Houston and New York City and the average scores of their counterparts in the central city public schools. Average scores for fourth-grade male and female students in Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles were lower than the average scores for their counterparts in central city schools.
  • Female fourth-graders had higher average scores than male fourth-graders in each of the urban districts.
Results for grade 8
  • The average score for eighth-grade female students in Houston was not found to be significantly different from that of their counterparts in the central city public schools. In Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles, the average scores for both male and female eighth-graders were lower than the average scores for their counterparts in central city schools.
  • In all reported districts, female students had higher average writing scores than male students.
Race/ethnicity

In each of the urban districts assessed, Black or Hispanic students constituted the majority or the largest racial/ethnic group. This distribution differs from that for the national writing assessment, in which White students constituted a majority—60 percent of the fourth-grade sample and 64 percent of the eighth-grade sample. Black students made up more than four-fifths of the samples at both grades in Atlanta and the District of Columbia and nearly half at both grades in Chicago. Hispanic students made up about two-thirds of the Los Angeles samples at both grades and about half of the fourth-graders and more than half of the eighth-graders in Houston. In New York City, more than two-fifths of the fourth-graders were Hispanic and just under a third were Black.

Results for grade 4
  • In the five urban districts in which a reliable comparison could be made, White fourth-graders had higher average scores than their Black and Hispanic counterparts.
  • Black students in grade 4 in Houston and New York City had higher average scores than their counterparts in the central city public schools. Black fourth-grade students in Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles had average scores not found to differ significantly from their counterparts in central cities. In the District of Columbia, Black fourth-graders had an average score lower than that of their counterparts in central cities.
  • No significant difference was detected between the average score for Hispanic fourth-graders in four of the five districts in which a reliable comparison could be made and Hispanic fourth-graders’ average score in central cities. The average score for Hispanic fourth-graders in Los Angeles was lower than that in central cities taken as a whole.
  • Average scores for White fourth-grade students in Atlanta, the District of Columbia, and New York City were higher than the average score for White fourth-grade students in central cities.
  • Average scores for Asian/Pacific Islander students in Los Angeles and New York City were not found to be significantly different from the average score for their counterparts in central cities.
Results for grade 8
  • White eighth-graders had higher average scores than Black eighth-graders in every reported district except the District of Columbia, where the sample size was insufficient to permit a reliable comparison. White students at grade 8 also had higher average scores than Hispanic students in Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles.
  • The average score for Black eighth-grade students in the District of Columbia was lower than that for Black eighth-grade students in the central city public schools, and no significant difference was detected between the average score for Black students in any of the other four districts and the national average score for Black students in central cities.
  • Average scores for Hispanic students were not found to differ significantly between the districts and the national average for central cities, except in Los Angeles, where Hispanic students had a lower average score than their counterparts in central cities.
  • The average score for White eighth-grade students in Houston was higher than that of White students in the central city schools, while the average score in Los Angeles was lower.
Eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch

The National School Lunch Program providing free/reduced-price 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/governance/notices/IEGs/IEGs.htm).

Results for grade 4
  • At grade 4, rates of student eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch ranged from 70 percent in New York City to 89 percent in Chicago.
  • Fourth-grade students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch had lower average scores than those not eligible in every district except Los Angeles and New York City, where no significant difference between the two eligibility categories was detected.
  • Fourth-grade students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch in New York City had a higher average score than the national average score for their counterparts in central city public schools, while students in Chicago and the District of Columbia had lower average scores than their eligible counterparts in central city schools.
  • The average scale score for ineligible students at grade 4 in the District of Columbia was lower than the national average score for ineligible students in central city schools.
Results for grade 8

Because the available data for eligibility for eighth-graders in Los Angeles did not meet reporting standards, no information related to eligibility is reported for this segment of the sample.

  • At grade 8, the percentages of eligible students ranged from 67 percent in the District of Columbia to 84 percent in Chicago.
  • Students at grade 8 who were not eligible for free/reduced-price lunch had a higher average score than eligible students in every district where the data were sufficiently reliable for significance testing.
  • At grade 8, both those students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch and those not eligible in Atlanta and the District of Columbia had lower average scores than their counterparts in the central city public schools.
Parents’ highest level of education

Eighth-grade students who participated in the Trial Urban District Assessment were asked to indicate the highest level of education their parents had completed. Five response options-did not finish high school, graduated from high school, some education after high school, graduated from college, or “I don’t know”-were offered.

  • In all five districts, lower percentages of students reported that their parents had graduated from college than in the national public school sample. The percentages of students who reported that their parents did not graduate from high school were higher in Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles than in the nation.
  • Atlanta and the District of Columbia had the highest percentages of students who reported that at least one parent had graduated from college (35 and 37 percent, respectively). These percentages were significantly higher than those in Houston and Los Angeles. Atlanta also had a higher percentage of students reporting parents with some education after high school than all the other districts. Houston and Los Angeles had the highest percentages of students reporting parents who did not finish high school (22 and 18 percent, respectively).
  • Average scores in all districts except Houston were lower for students who reported a college graduate parent than the national average score for their counterparts in the central city public schools.
  • In Chicago and Houston, no statistically significant difference was detected between the average score of students with parents who did not finish high school and the average score of their counterparts in the central city schools, while the average score of these students in Atlanta, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles was lower than the national average score of their counterparts in the central city schools.

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Footnotes

*“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. A central city is a city of 50,000 or more that is the largest in its metropolitan area, or can otherwise be regarded as “central.” The term means “a city that is central,” not “the central part of a city” or the “inner city.” Note that central cities encompass wider areas than what is commonly referred to as “the inner city.”


Data source: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 Trial Urban District Writing Assessment and 2002 Writing Assessment.

For technical information, see the complete report:

Lutkus, A.D., Daane, M.C., Weiner, A.W., and Jin, Y. (2003). The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2002, Trial Urban District Assessment (NCES 2003–530).

Author affiliations: A.D. Lutkus, M.C. Daane, A.W. Weiner, and Y. Jin, Educational Testing Service.

For questions about content, contact Taslima Rahman (taslima.rahman@ed.gov).

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2003–530), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877–433–7827) or visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).


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