The National Assessment Governing Board released the 2013 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) report today, a disaggregation of results for large, urban school districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.
The 2013 TUDA results show that Baltimore students have held ground on the NAEP since 2009, when City Schools became a TUDA district-and in some cases, made meaningful progress. The district's 8th-graders posted a "statistically significant" four-year gain in reading from 2009 to 2013, the largest among TUDA districts.
More broadly, the 2013 TUDA results reflect a new way of gauging student achievement with a new set of
proficiency levels, lower than those historically achieved by students on state standardized tests. As Baltimore
City Public Schools and districts across the state and country implement curricula and assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, these latest results offer insight into the higher expectations being set for students under the new standards, and what is deemed proficient in terms of student achievement. As a result, they serve as a preview of how students are likely to fare on the new Common Core assessments, which will be
administered in City Schools starting in 2014-15. Widely considered the gold standard for measuring student
achievement and published in The Nation's Report Card, the NAEP was used to help inform development of the
Common Core standards and assessments.
"This latest round of TUDA results is invaluable as we transition to the Common Core. We know that the knowledge and skills that the NAEP measures closely reflect the rigorous content of Common Core curricula, and in the face of this rigor, our students have made progress on the NAEP over time," said City Schools interim CEO Tisha Edwards. "From our 8th-grade reading results in particular this year, we know that the shifts we are making in how we teach reading are paying off, as are our overall reform efforts and a targeted investment in early literacy. These students were our 4th graders in 2009; when they hit 8th grade, their performance significantly exceeded that of 8th graders four years ago. The 2013 TUDA results offer a reset for how we as a district view proficiency amid higher expectations for our kids. I am energized by the clear challenge ahead, and confident our students' progress will continue."
"The track the school system is on in implementing the new and higher standards promises to improve students' academic achievement in the years to come," said Mike Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools. Casserly specifically noted that the 2013 TUDA results show that Baltimore's larger reforms in reading seem to be generating results. "This is a good story for Baltimore."
City Schools' 2013 TUDA Results
The NAEP is administered in reading and math every other year to students in grades 4 and 8. As a TUDA member, City Schools receives district-level NAEP results, and is able to compare its performance with that of other big city districts, including true demographic peers.
Results are issued both as scale scores and proficiency rates, the latter being the percentage of students reaching one of three achievement levels: basic, proficient or advanced. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES ), which administers the NAEP , "The average scale score shows what students know and can do, while [proficiency rates] indicate the degree to which student performance meets expectations of what they should know and be able to do."
Results on the NAEP are measured as average scale scores, with 0 being the lowest possible score and 500 being the highest. Overall, the 2013 TUDA results show modest growth for City Schools over four years, with a larger gain in 8th-grade reading:
· 4th-grade reading, a 2-point gain from 202 in 2009 to 204 in 2013
· 8th-grade reading, a 7-point gain from 245 in 2009 to 252 in 2013
· 4th-grade math, a 1-point gain from 222 in 2009 to 223 in 2013
· 8th-grade math, a 3-point gain from 257 in 2009 to 260 in 2013
The 8th-grade gain is considered "statistically significant" by NCES, and represents the largest four-year
gain in 8th-grade reading among TUDA districts; Charlotte and Detroit also posted four-year gains of 7
points. At the state level, Maryland registered a 7-point gain in 8th-grade reading on the NAEP as well.
City Schools leaders credit a number of recent reforms with the increase, including the district's focus on
early literacy through a range of partnerships and initiatives-from summer learning that focuses on
reading in the elementary grades to programs that are strengthening school libraries and giving books to
families to reinforce the importance of reading at home. Additionally, district officials say that last year's
8th-grade students have benefited from larger district reforms, such as middle school choice, the closing
of low-performing middle schools and implementation
of the Common Core standards, which emphasize
deep engagement in reading and writing across subjects.
City Schools in the National Context
Based on its average scale scores on the 2013 NAEP, City Schools ranks 16th among the 21 TUDA
districts in 4th-grade reading, 13th in 8th-grade reading, and 17th in 4th- and 8th-grade math.
When comparing just low-income African American students, who comprise the majority of Baltimore
City students (on average, 90 percent), Baltimore City moves up the ranks and its scale scores come
within closer range of the average scale scores of its TUDA peers. Again, 8th-grade reading stands out.
City Schools' average scale score for all students in 8th-grade reading is 252, compared to the large city
average (258) and highest performer Hillsborough County (267). When only looking at low-income
African American students, City Schools' scale score (248) surpasses the large city average (243), comes
within 1 point of Hillsborough County (249) and is just 2 points behind New York (250), which leads all
TUDA districts. The rankings shift, the gap between Baltimore and its highest performing peers all but
disappears and the district moves from 13th to 3rd place overall.
Inclusion Rates Increase, Student Scores Hold Steady
This year's NAEP math administration allowed a calculator accommodation for students with
disabilities. This accommodation has been allowed in Maryland in the past on statewide assessments and
is still allowed in the state; the change in NAEP's accommodation policy resulted in an increase across
TUDA districts in the number of students with disabilities who were included in the NAEP math
administration from 2011 to 2013. Baltimore City's inclusion rate increased from 89 percent of all
students in the district sample participating in the 4th-grade math test in 2011 to 98 percent in 2013 and
from 88 percent in 8th-grade math in 2011 to 98 percent in 2013. These 10- and 11-point increases
represent the largest increases in inclusion rates of all TUDA districts in 2013. Washington, D.C. came
second, with inclusion rate increases of 5 points in both 4th- and 8th-grade math, the same increase posted
by Maryland; other inclusion rate increases in math were in the 1- to 4-point range. With these inclusion
increases, Baltimore City's average scale scores in math from 2011 to 2013 stayed flat, meaning that the
inclusion of students with disabilities did not significantly alter City Schools' overall results on the NAEP in math.
NAEP: An Indicator of Rigor Moving Forward
NAEP proficiency, the NCES asserts, means that "students have demonstrated competency over
challenging subject matter." At its core, the NAEP is about rigor and represents a high standard.
Within the 0-500 range of scale scores, there are cut scores for proficiency. None of the 21 TUDA
districts met this bar in any grade or subject in 2013, underscoring the high degree of rigor embodied by
the NAEP. For example, the cut score for 4th-grade math proficiency is 249; four districts had average
scale scores in the 241 to 247 range, while the rest fell between 204 and 237. The proficiency bar was
not met by a single participating district.
The high proficiency standard results in proficiency rates that are far lower than most districts are
accustomed to on state standardized tests. On this year's Maryland School Assessment (MSA), for
example, 70.3 percent of Baltimore City's 3rd- to 5th-grade students scored proficient or advanced in
reading; on the 2013 NAEP, 14 percent of the district's 4th-grade students scored proficient or advanced.
Baltimore is not alone. The NAEP reflects a different measure of student achievement than prevailing
state standardized tests-and generates different levels of proficiency as a result.
"We see much lower scores on the NAEP than we do on the MSA because the NAEP represents higher
standards and demands higher levels of proficiency. The NAEP results say that we have far to go to get
our students to where they need to be, but that they are moving, and capable of getting where we need
them to be," said Maria Navarro, City Schools' acting chief academic officer. "But the NAEP results are
important on another level, too. The knowledge and skills that the NAEP measures closely reflect the
content we are teaching students under our Common Core curricula."
City Schools began partial implementation of curricula aligned to the Common Core standards two years
ago, and rolled out districtwide implementation this year. This spring it will pilot the new, Common
Core-aligned PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) assessments,
and formally administer the new standardized tests in 2014-15. The PARCC and NAEP assessments are
comparable in terms of content and rigor, and the NAEP assessments offer an indication of how students
across the country are likely to fare on the PARCC assessment in English language arts and math.
"The bar we are moving toward is different
and it's higher. So we must use our 2013 TUDA results to
inform our ongoing implementation of the Common Core," Ms. Edwards said. "Our students deserve
nothing but our highest expectations. We are now positioned to deliver what they deserve."