Press Release

Results released today from the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Trial Urban District Assessment offer an important first look at student achievement in science in some of the nation’s biggest cities.  The ten participating districts should be applauded for their willingness to be evaluated against the rigorous NAEP standards and compared to their peers.  In doing so, they’ve signaled a commitment to raising achievement through honestly assessing their students’ knowledge and skills against an important external benchmark.

This commitment to improvement is much needed.  Today’s NAEP results show alarmingly low levels of science literacy among students in our big cities.  Far too few of these students demonstrate even basic science skills.  And the gaps separating low-income students and students of color from their peers in these districts are huge.

That said, today’s results also demonstrate that low levels of achievement in our big cities are not inevitable.  Comparing results across these cities shows, once again, that what districts do has a big impact on student learning.  For example, low-income and minority fourth-graders in Houston perform significantly above their low-income and minority peers in Los Angeles.  To be sure, Houston’s students are still far from where they need to be.  But an examination of the policies and practices that are making a difference for these students could point the way for other districts.  This kind of self-reflection and sharing of strategies—something for which the Council of Great City Schools is well known—is necessary if we are to ensure that students in our big city school districts, along with those in smaller districts, get the high-quality education they need and deserve.  Honest reporting is a step in that direction.