Austin students score better than urban peers

December 7, 2011 10:04:30 AM PST
Austin students are outscoring their Dallas and Houston counterparts in national reading and math tests, according to a report released Wednesday.

All three Texas school districts were part of a national review of eighth- and fourth-grade students in 21 of the nation's most urban school districts. The report, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, shows the large Texas schools mostly track a national urban-school trend: they're behind the rest of the nation.

Austin was the Texas exception, with average scores generally higher than other urban districts and schools nationally.

Overall, the large-city school scores remained flat when compared to the 2009 scores. Again, Austin was the exception, joining only three urban schools nationally that had higher scores in fourth-grade math this year than in 2009. Austin schools did, however, show a larger gap between white and Hispanic eighth-grade students on the reading portion than other large schools.

The lowest average scores in Texas were in Dallas in both reading and math, though math scores there were on par with large schools nationally. Lower-income students in both Houston and Dallas performed better on eighth-grade math than lower-income students in large cities overall.

Houston eighth-graders also have shown improvement in reading scores since 2002.

The majority of students in the urban districts are black, Hispanic or from lower-income households. Some of the urban districts are made up entirely of low-income students. The districts also have higher percentages of English-language learners.

"Despite their distinct challenges, many of these districts are making steady progress in math. But, like school districts nationwide, they need to find ways to raise student achievement in reading," said David P. Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP.

Results showing the performance of all schools were released last month, based on a test administered earlier this year. Those results were used to compare to the performance of students in the urban schools. Average scores in both fourth- and eighth-grade students were lower in the urban schools than for all schools nationally in both math and reading.

The National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education administered the 2011 NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment in mathematics and reading to representative samples of fourth- and eighth-grade students in each district. Dallas was one of three school districts participating for the first time.

The samples ranged in size from about 900 to 2,700 students per district per grade.

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