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New Study Shows Students in Large City Schools Are Overcoming The Effects of Poverty and Making Academic Progress

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FOR RELEASE                                                        CONTACT: Tonya Harris

July 1, 2021                                                                 tharris@cgcs.org                                                         

 

New Study Shows Students in Large City Schools Are Overcoming

 The Effects of Poverty and Making Academic Progress

 

Several Big-City School Districts are Defying the Odds and Exceeding Expectations

 

WASHINGTON, July 1 – Students in the nation’s urban schools are about 50 percent more likely to be poor, twice as likely to be English learners, twice as likely to be Black or Hispanic, and about 50 percent more likely to have a parent who did not finish high school as students in all other schools. Yet despite these factors often correlated with low student achievement, urban school students are making significant progress academically, according to a new report by the Council of the Great City Schools.

 

The study, Mirrors or Windows: How Well Do Large City Public Schools Overcome

the Effects of Poverty and Other Barriers? used ten years of data in reading and mathematics at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to answer the question of whether schools are windows of opportunity and help overcome poverty and other barriers or they are mirrors of society’s inequities. Data was also used from the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) of NAEP, which the Council initiated in 2000 so that the nation’s largest school systems could track their progress against other cities, states, and the nation. Twenty-seven large urban school districts volunteered to participate for the 2019 urban NAEP.

 

In addition to using both general NAEP student-level data and district-specific TUDA student-level data, the study also looked at poverty, language status, parental education, disability, literacy materials in the home, and race ethnicity. The study then predicted what student results they would be expected to see based on all of these variables, and compared those

predictions against actual results over six separate administrations of NAEP between 2009 and 2019.

 

 

 

Findings from the study suggest that poverty was not necessarily a barrier in urban students succeeding academically. The analysis showed that:

 

  • Students in large city schools narrowed the gap with students in all other schools in both reading and math at fourth and eighth grade levels between 2003 and 2019 by a third to a half, depending on grade and subject;
  • After considering differences in poverty, language status, race/ethnicity, disability, educational resources in the home, and parental education, large city schools had reading and mathematics scores on NAEP that were significantly above statistical expectations at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels in 2019 (the latest year NAEP was administered) and in most years since 2009; and
  • After factoring in these variables, students in large city schools had significantly higher “district effects” on NAEP than students in all other schools in the aggregate.

 

Several big-city school districts demonstrated results that were above expectations or results that showed academic growth between 2000 and 2019, with Boston, Miami-Dade County, Hillsborough County, Atlanta and Chicago improving in all four grade and subject combinations tested. Several others saw higher scores in three subject/grade combinations: Dallas, Cleveland, New York City, Duval County, Fort Worth, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the District of Columbia, Austin, and Guilford County. And six other cities showed higher scores in two grade/subject combinations: District of Columbia, Detroit, Miami-Dade County, Chicago, Cleveland, and Atlanta.

 

The study also revealed that the District of Columbia Public Schools posted the largest increases of any other TUDA district in all four grade and subject combinations tested, outperforming expectations in reading and math, and improving faster than any other major city school system in the country.

 

Finding Out How Districts Improved

 

In an effort to find out the reasons some urban public-school districts seem to be mitigating barriers and increasing student achievement faster than others, the Council conducted site visits to six districts that demonstrated substantial improvements: Boston Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, the Dallas Independent School District, the District of Columbia Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and the San Diego Unified School District.

 

The Council conducted these visits to find out if there were approaches or strategies these districts were using that could inform the work of other major urban school systems.

 

The visits revealed several common practices the districts were taking connected to the progress seen in student performance. They included: strong and stable leadership focused on student instruction; high academic standards and well-defined instructional support; strong professional development and school-based support structures; systemwide change; accountability and a culture of collaboration; resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity; support for struggling schools and students; and community investments and engagement efforts.  

 

 

 

“While urban school districts have not overcome or mitigated the barriers before them entirely, it is clear from the data in this study that large city schools may be doing a better job of overcoming the effects of poverty, discrimination, language and other barriers than other schools in the country,” said Council Executive Director Michael Casserly. “We know there is more work to do, but by examining the extent to which urban schools are “beating the odds” we know that with the right strategies and practices the nation’s large city schools can and do not only improve, but significantly raise student achievement and produce results that defy expectations.”

 

Exhibit 10. Trends in District Effects† on NAEP Fourth-grade Mathematics by School Type, 2009 to 2019.#

 

† District effect is the difference between the actual district mean and the expected district mean.

* District effect is significantly different from zero at p < .05.

# Includes district-authorized charters, charters authorized by others, and independent charters. Year 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 District Effect Jurisdic􀆟on Large City Schools All Other Schools 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 1.24*

 

 

Exhibit 11. Trends in District Effects† on NAEP Eighth-grade Mathematics by School Type, 2009 to 2019.#

† District effect is the difference between the actual district mean and the expected district mean.

* District effect is significantly different from zero at p < .05.

# Includes district-authorized charters, charters authorized by others, and independent charters.

Exhibit 12. Trends in District Effects† on NAEP Fourth-grade Reading by School Type, 2009 to 2019.#

† District effect is the difference between the actual district mean and the expected district mean.

* District effect is significantly different from zero at p < .05.

# Includes district-authorized charters, charters authorized by others, and independent charters. Year 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 District Effect Jurisdic􀆟on Large City Schools All Other Schools 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 1.24*

 

Exhibit 13. Trends in District Effects† on NAEP Eighth-grade Reading by School Type, 2009 to 2019.#

† District effect is the difference between the actual district mean and the expected district mean.

* District effect is significantly different from zero at p < .05.

# Includes district-authorized charters, charters authorized by others, and independent charters.

 

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