NCUST Analysis of NAEP Urban School Data
Every two years, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card, provides a snapshot of student achievement in fourth and eighth-grade reading and math — nationally, in every state, and by select settings across the country. Here, we share some of the findings and our observations from our analysis of the data from public school students in large cities across the country. We compare results from these urban schools to all national public schools. The data reveal generally slow progress across all grades and subjects and suggests renewed energy and urgency are needed to address significant gaps in performance for urban school children.
Within City Gaps
When looking at both 4th and 8th grade reading results, we see that students in large cities are making progress, more progress, in fact than students across the nation. This has the effect of closing gaps in performance. For example, although urban students, on average were 12 and 11 points below all students in 2007 in 4th and 8th grade reading respectively, by 2017, the gaps were only eight and seven points. However, more work clearly needs to be done; when we look at the data another way, only 28% and 27% of urban students have achieved proficient or advanced status in 4th and 8th grade.
At NCUST, we award urban schools who achieve excellent (better than state average) and equitable (all demographic groups above the state average) results. So, next, we examined how traditionally underserved students- low-income, Black, and Latino students- were doing. Low-income urban students, in both 4th and 8th grade, made significant progress over the last decade, but still, only 19% of students are proficient or advanced, which reflects an increase of 6-7 percentage points. Black students’ scores remained stagnant with no gap closing or increasing gaps, while Latino students made small gains.
We also examined inequities among student groups attending urban schools. We noticed a striking pattern. White students and students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch that attend city schools have better average performance than all students in the nation. As a result, there are large achievement gaps between student groups attending city schools with the White-Black score gap at 30 and 31 points for 4th and 8th grade reading. Slightly smaller gaps are noted for Latino students and low-income students as compared to their more advantaged peers.
Within City Gaps
Trends in mathematics are similar to reading, albeit with slightly less improvement. Three percent more urban students achieved proficiency in 4th grade and five percent more were proficient in 8th grade, slightly narrowing gaps with all students. When looking at individual student groups, low-income students were the only subgroup that made progress with about three percent more students achieving proficiency in both 4th and 8th grade.
Although much work remains to be done, we believe excellence and equity are possible. The America’s Best Urban Schools we identify each year are demonstrations of just what is possible. These schools have found ways to ensure all students have access to rigorous curriculum and are engaged in meaningful instruction that supports their learning and growth. We hope these data are a call to action to urban educators to redouble their efforts and focus on what is helping their students learn.