Stepping back from all the recent political drama and debate in Denver Public Schools, it would be quite valuable to know where the city’s students compare to urban counterparts around the nation. Unfortunately, the Mile High City was not included in NAEP’s the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), for which 4th and 8th grade math results were released this week. A program of the U.S. Department of Education, NAEP is close to the gold standard for assessment measurements.
Overall, scores among the 18 sample urban school districts ticked up slightly from previous measurements in 2003 and 2007. But by no means was all the news good. The Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog unfavorably compares Cleveland’s math scores — with the local NFL Browns’ season record.
Even worse is the Motor City. While their football Lions snuck a win past the Browns a few weeks ago, the Detroit News acknowledges the students in its city’s schools achieved record lows:
Sixty-nine percent of fourth-graders and 77 percent of eighth-graders scored below basic skill levels in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test that serves as a nationwide yardstick in measuring student learning.
“These numbers are only slightly better than what one would expect by chance as if the kids had never gone to school and simply guessed at the answers,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban school districts. “These numbers … are shocking and appalling and should not be allowed to stand.”
Appalling, indeed. If ever there were a case for shutting down a district and starting from scratch, Detroit would have to be it. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the situation there.
Yet just as the Broncos outshine both the Lions and the Browns, it’s safe to guess that Denver students as a whole know and could demonstrate stronger math skills than their Detroit and Cleveland peers.
But how much better? On the most recent round of CSAPs, 79 percent of DPS 4th graders and 55 percent of DPS 8th graders achieved at least the baseline of partial proficiency. But with the NAEP undoubtedly more rigorous than the CSAP, that leaves Denver’s status among the 18 TUDA districts much in doubt.
Here’s hoping that Denver will get on board one of these trial urban assessments in the near future. Regardless of what the results show, it could be very instructive.
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