Big-City Grade Schoolers Make Progress on National Report Card

Grade school students in big U.S. cities made progress toward catching up with nationwide averages on a national report card of math and reading proficiency released today.

Fourth-graders in Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta contributed to the advance with increases in math scores that were greater than the nationwide gains at the same grade level, according to the Department of Education, which sponsors the biennial testing of students in 21 cities with populations of more than 250,000.

About 600,000 fourth-graders attend public schools in large U.S. cities, said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council for Great City Schools, a Washington-based coalition of urban school districts. The results suggest that about 100,000 more fourth-grade students in big-city school districts would test as proficient, the highest of three levels, than in 2003, he said.

“I attribute most of the gains to increasing instructional quality in urban classrooms across America,” he said in a telephone interview. “I attribute it to teachers getting better at teaching kids, which is something that big-city schools have been pursuing relentlessly for years.”

Washington students gained in all grade and subject levels measured on the zero-to-500-point scale from 2011 to 2013, with average increases of 7 points in math and 5 points in reading for fourth-graders, and 5 points in math and 8 points in reading for eighth-graders. The results in all categories were still below national averages.

“While we still have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps in our largest cities, this progress is encouraging,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an e-mailed statement.

The big-city report card expands on results from a state-by-state look at mathematics and reading at fourth and eighth grade that was released last month.

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