Six headlines from 2015 NAEP TUDA

I spent a few hours digging into the recently released 2015 NAEP TUDA data. The results didn’t get much media coverage. That’s a shame because these are the best assessments for understanding student performance in (and comparing the results of) America’s biggest urban districts.

It’s a treasure trove of information, and it tells hundreds of stories. I encourage you to get into the numbers and see what pops for you.

I tried to condense my big takeaways into six headlines and images.

1. We’ve been trying to improve urban districts for half a century. These are the results. No district is able to get even one in five black kids up to proficiency in eighth-grade math or reading.

2. Across the participating districts, there has been meager progress in both subjects and both grades for more than a decade.

3. A few districts, however, have made gains over time, most notably Atlanta, Chicago, D.C., and Los Angeles. They deserve credit.

4. Instances of progress deserve attention because progress is not guaranteed. For example, several districts have made virtually no headway in eighth-grade reading among low-income kids.

5. The districts that have made the most progress are the ones that started the farthest behind a decade ago. So despite consistent progress, Atlanta, Chicago, D.C., and Los Angeles are either at or still below the performance of the average large urban district. 

6. It is essential when looking at NAEP TUDA data to always disaggregate the results (hence my focus above on black and low-income kids). The achievement gap in urban districts is larger than the achievement gap in the rest of the nation. White and non-poor students in urban districts are generally high-performing. Their results can skew citywide results.