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Stuart Kerachsky
Deputy Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009
Trial Urban District Assessment

May 20, 2010

Deputy Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Powerpoint Presentation MS PowerPoint (3.65 MB)

Today I am releasing the results of the NAEP 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment for reading—what we call TUDA.

TUDA assesses the performance of public school students at the district level. It is a collaboration involving the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, along with the National Assessment Governing Board, and the Council of the Great City Schools.

Participation in TUDA is voluntary. In 2009, 18 districts from around the country were invited to participate, and all 18 agreed to do so. TUDA is not yet a permanent part of NAEP.

Because the NAEP assessments are the same for the nation, the states, and the urban districts, NAEP serves as a common yardstick for comparison.

Our list of participating districts has been growing steadily since the first TUDA reading assessment in 2002. In each assessment year, we had the following urban school districts:

Our samples for the 2009 reading assessment ranged from about 800 to 2,400 students per district per grade. The variation in sample size among districts is large because the districts themselves differ dramatically in size. Nevertheless, for all of our participating districts, regardless of size, we have samples that provide reliable results for comparisons both over time and among districts.

There is one slight change affecting our TUDA samples for 2009, regarding the inclusion of charter schools in the samples for our TUDA districts. Beginning in 2009, the TUDA samples only include those charter schools that each district includes for the purpose of reporting Adequate Yearly progress (AYP) to the Department of Education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

We report student performance in two ways: scale scores and percentages at or above achievement levels. NAEP scale scores indicate what students know and can do, and are reported on a scale ranging from 0 to 500 for reading. The achievement levels were developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets standards for what students should know and be able to do. For each subject and for each grade, the Governing Board has established standards for Basic, Proficient, and Advanced performance. Ultimately, the goal is to have all students performing at or above the Proficient level.

When comparing scores and other NAEP results, we only discuss differences that are statistically significant (p > .05).

For the most part, I will compare urban districts' performance to the national average score for public school students and the average score for public school students in large cities—defined as those with a population of at least 250,000. We compare the TUDA results to the large city average because the student populations of our large urban districts are more similar in composition to these populations than to students nationally. 

TUDA districts often vary from one another, as well as from the national population. For example, while about 16 percent of the nation's students at grade 4 were Black, in our 18 districts the percentages ranged from 7 to 88 percent in Los Angeles and Baltimore, respectively. Nationally, about 21 percent of fourth-graders were Hispanic. But the district percentages ranged from 3 percent in Baltimore to 77 percent in Los Angeles.

Also in the 4th grade, about 9 percent of students nationally were English language learners. The range in the districts was from 1 percent in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Jefferson County to 41 percent in Los Angeles. And while the national average for students from lower-income families—those eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program—was about 47 percent, the range in the districts was from 47 percent in Charlotte to 100 percent in Cleveland.

The percentages for these four groups of students in the large cities were higher than the national percentages, reflecting the heavy concentration of these students in the TUDA districts.

Grade 4 Results
In describing performance in reading for grade 4, I'll first discuss trend results for the 11 TUDA districts that have participated in previous assessments.

When comparing scores from 2009 to the scores from 2002 and 2007, four districts—Boston, District of Columbia, Houston, and New York City—had higher scores in 2009 than in 2007. The remaining seven districts showed no significant change. This was also true of the national average and the large city average.

When compared to 2002, scores were higher for five of the six districts for which we have results. Houston was the only district that did not have a significant change.

When examining results at different percentiles (the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th), scores for grade 4 public school students nationally showed no change from 2007 to 2009. Results for public school students in large cities showed a significant increase at only the 10th percentile. Thus, while scores in grade 4 reading did not increase nationally for the lowest-performing students, they did increase for those students in large cities.

Now I'll discuss results for all 18 districts for 2009. One district, Charlotte, had a higher average score than the nation. Six districts (Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Jefferson County,  Miami-Dade, and New York City) had higher average scores than large cities. Three districts, Atlanta, Houston, and San Diego, had average scores that were not significantly different from the large city average, but were below the national average. The remaining 9 districts had lower scores than both the nation and large cities.

Turning to the 4th-grade achievement-level results, 7districts had larger percentages of students at or above Basic than in large cities as a whole. They were Charlotte, Miami-Dade, Austin, Jefferson County, New York City, Boston, and San Diego. One district, Houston, had a percentage that was not significantly different from the large city percentage, but was below the national percentage. The remaining 10 districts were lower than the large city percentage. It should be kept in mind that all districts had some students who performed at or above the Proficient level, ranging from about 36 percent in Charlotte to about 5 percent in Detroit.

When examining the score results for an urban district as a whole, it is informative to consider the performance of particular demographic groups within the district as well. We most often examine performance by racial/ethnic group and eligibility for the free/reduced-price lunch program, which is used as an indicator of low income. Results for these groups sometimes differ from the overall results. 

For example, in three districts—Boston, Houston, and Miami-Dade—scores for groups constituting a majority of the district's student population were above the national averages for those groups, even though the district's overall score was comparable to the national average or below it. In Boston, scores for both Black and Hispanic students were above the national average for their peers, yet, with Black and Hispanic students making up about 75 percent of the city's fourth-grade population, Boston's overall score was below the national average.

Charlotte was the only district with an overall score above the national average, with scores for White, Black, and Hispanic students all above the national averages for those groups of students. In three districts—Detroit, Fresno, and Philadelphia—students in all groups with reportable results scored below their peers nationally. For the remaining districts, students' racial/ethnic group scores varied compared to the nation.

It should be noted that even in the districts where scores for Black or Hispanic students were high, the performance gaps for these students, as compared to White and Asian/Pacific Islander students, remained large.

Grade 8 Results
Now I'll describe performance on reading at grade 8.

Grade 8 reading scores improved both nationally and in large cities in 2009 compared to 2007, but not when compared to 2002. For the 11 districts that participated in 2007, only 2—Atlanta and Los Angeles—showed an increase since that year. And these are also the only two districts that showed an increase since 2002, the year of the first reading assessment. 

Scores were up 5 points in Atlanta since 2007 and up 14 points compared to 2002. In Los Angeles, scores were up 3 points and 7 points, respectively. In all the other districts, the score changes were not statistically significant.  As I described earlier, however, we began excluding charter schools from our district samples in 2009 that were not part of the district's AYP results.  If you were to go back and remove charter schools from the 2007 sample, one additional district—the District of Columbia—would also show a significant increase of 4 points between 2007 and 2009. 

Examining the 8th-grade score results for all 18 districts in 2009, two districts, Austin and Miami-Dade, had average scores that were not significantly different from the nation. These two districts scored higher than the large city average, as did Boston, Charlotte, and Jefferson County. Seven districts scored lower than both the nation and large cities.

Comparing the districts to large cities in their percentages at or above Basic, four districts had higher percentages than the large cities. They were Miami-Dade, Austin, Charlotte, and Jefferson County. Six districts—Boston, San Diego, Houston, New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago—had an average score that was not significantly different from the large city percentage. The remaining eight districts scored lower than the large city percentage.

As with grade 4, all the districts had some students performing at or above Proficient, ranging from about 30 percent in Austin to about 7 percent in Detroit.

I discussed the 4th-grade results by race/ethnicity; these data are also available for 8th grade in the report. I'd like to highlight the 8th-grade results for lower-income students, defined by their eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches. (The income eligibility level was below $39,220 for a family of four.) I'll compare the 8th-grade scores of lower-income students in each district with the average score of their peers nationally. As with the race/ethnicity comparisons at grade 4, these comparisons illustrate that performance patterns for lower-income students do not always mirror overall results.

The average national score for lower-income students was 249. Students in one district, Miami-Dade, scored higher than their peers nationally. Eight districts had average scores for lower-income students that were not significantly different from their peers nationally. The remaining nine districts had average scores for lower-income students that were lower than the average score for lower-income students in the nation.

In all 18 districts, the percentage of eligible students was higher than the national percentage of 43 percent. In Charlotte, for example, about 46 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, while in Chicago, Fresno, and Cleveland, over 85 percent of students were eligible.

For More Information
That completes my overview of results from the 2009 TUDA reading assessment. There is much more information in the Report Card. In addition, the website ( will give you extensive information on the performance of students in each district, access to released assessment questions through NAEP's enhanced Question Center, and use of the NAEP Data Explorer, our online data-analysis tool.

In closing, I would like to thank the students, schools, and districts that participated in these assessments.

Deputy Commissioner Stuart Kerachsky's Powerpoint Presentation MS PowerPoint (3.65 MB)

Visit the Nation's Report Card website.