Michael Casserly
Council of the Great City Schools
March 2006

This is the Sixth Edition of "Beating the Odds," an ongoing analysis of how Great City Schools (i.e., schools in the nation's 66 largest urban districts) are doing in their efforts to improve student performance and shrink achievement gaps. And there's good news to share-these traditionally troubled, urban schools are making progress. "Over 80 percent of the Great City School districts have improved math scores in grades 3-10 since 1999-2000. Over 70 percent of the large cities, moreover, have improved faster than their respective states in grades 3-8." The story is similar but less dramatic for reading results. But don't jump up and down just yet. The data have a number of flaws-eleven, at least, by the report's account. Among them: 1) assessment data cannot be compared across states, because each state test is different; 2) the report didn't test the statistical significance of state test score growth rates; and 3) the report doesn't attempt to adjust for varying degrees of difficulty that state tests display. We'll add another: the state tests might be getting easier over time. What the report does do, however, is compare rising state test scores in Great City Schools with each city's state scores to determine if GCS schools are improving faster than non-GCS schools in their respective states. It also compares the gains on test scores to NAEP, specifically the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which tested several large cities similar to those that are part of Great City Schools. The TUDA data also show improvements, though less impressive. Despite all the report's flaws, there's substantial use of raw data. The report isn't definitive, but still worth a look. Read it here.

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