Urban Students Improve in Math, Reading

Students made significant test score gains since 2003.

Although large cities are improving as a whole on national tests, some urban districts still fall behind the average.

On the other hand, Cleveland was the lowest-scoring district and had the smallest gains in math at both grade levels since 2003, and actually had significant score decreases in both fourth and eighth grade reading.

"These results show incremental progress despite the challenges urban schools face, but poverty and economic inequality...will stymie long-term gains unless policymakers face these issues head-on," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, in a statement. "Some would use [this data] to double down on our country's testing fixation, which more and more is not simply taking the joy out of schools but is not even measuring the skills and knowledge necessary for students to be prepared for the 21st century."

[MORE: Education Reform May Leave High-Performing Students Behind]

Also of note was the fact that several districts also saw improvements for individual student groups since 2011. In Los Angeles, for example, all students improved in fourth grade mathematics. But a closer look shows that all student groups ­– including white, African-American and Hispanic students, as well as those eligible for free or reduced lunches – had score gains. The same situation was true for students in the District of Columbia for eighth grade reading.

Several other districts, including Atlanta, Chicago, Jefferson County, Fresno, Dallas and Baltimore City, had also had improvements for some grade and subject combinations.

"We have a long way to go," Casserly said. "But inertia in urban public education has ended. And it has been replaced by progress."

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