Putting Education Reform To The Test

New Test Results Compare Hillsborough, Miami-Dade To Other Large Districts

Brickell Skyline from the Miami River

New testing data shows Hillsborough County schools beat the performance of other large urban school districts in math and reading. Miami-Dade fourth grade readers outscored other large urban districts, but were on par in eighth grade reading and fourth and eighth grade math.

The results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ sample of 21 large, urban school districts known as the Trial Urban District Assessment. The reading and math tests are given every other year to a sample of students in fourth and eighth grades.

The percentage of Hillsborough County students scoring proficient — a level of solid academic performance, as defined by NAEP — beat the national average for large, urban districts on all four exams. A higher percentage of Miami-Dade fourth graders scored proficient or better than the national average for large, urban districts.

Neither Miami-Dade nor Hillsborough County had a statistically significant score increase on any of the four tests.

“The NAEP scores are the best data available for making valid comparisons,” Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia said in a statement, “so it’s very gratifying to see our students performing at the highest levels compared to their peers in many of the nation’s largest school districts. It’s great to see our hard work paying off. The students, their teachers, and their parents should be very proud.”

The program started with six districts in 2002. Miami-Dade schools joined in 2009 and Hillsborough County schools joined in 2011.

Nationally, TUDA results show test scores are improving in large, urban districts faster than the nation as a whole. A decade ago the national average on the eighth grade math test was 14 points higher than the large, urban district average. This year, the difference had closed to 8 points. The 15-point difference in fourth grade reading in 2002 is now a nine point difference in 2013.

However, Andy Smarick at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says the results are not as rosy as some would like:

Yes, over the last decade, participating cities have generally made progress across the board. But it is not nearly enough. The list of most-improved cities includes Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. We should be proud of them, but their gains are partly attributable to how despairingly low their performance had been.

Consider these facts: After a decade of progress, in Atlanta, eighth-grade reading proficiency is still only 22 percent.

This year, Los Angeles is celebrating a statistically significant gain in eighth-grade reading…and now 9 percent of its black students are proficient.

And Washington, D.C., saw a statistically significant gain in eighth-grade math…and now 8 percent of its low-income students are proficient.



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