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Achievement

We want all kids to do well and achieve. Articles in this section take a closer look at the achievement of particular groups, such as boys vs. girls, or students in a specific grade or socioeconomic group.


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Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Vanneman, A., Hamilton, L., Baldwin Anderson, J., and Rahman, T. (2009). Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NCES 2009-455). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

In 2007, reading scores for both Black and White public school students in grades 4 and 8 nationwide, as measured by the main assessments of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), were higher than in any previous assessment, going back to 1990. White students, however, had higher scores than Black students, on average. This report uses results from both the main NAEP and the long-term trend NAEP assessments to examine the Black-White achievement gaps, and changes in those gaps, at the national and state levels. This report provides detailed information on the size of the achievement gaps between Black and White students at both the national and state levels and how those achievement gaps have changed over time.

America's High School Graduates: Results of the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study

Nord, C., Roey, S., Perkins, R., Lyons, M., Lemanski, N., Brown, J., and Schuknecht, J. (2011). The Nation's Report Card: America's High School Graduates (NCES 2011-462). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

The High School Transcript Study presents information about the types of courses that high school graduates in the class of 2009 took during high school, how many credits they earned, what grades they received, and how their coursetaking patterns related to their performance on the 2009 NAEP mathematics and science assessments.

Highlights of the results include:

• In 2009, graduates earned over three credits more, or about 420 additional hours of instruction during their high school career, than high school graduates in 1990.

• A greater percentage of 2009 graduates completed more challenging curriculum levels, mid-level and rigorous, than 1990 or 2005 graduates.

• A greater percentage of female graduates compared to male graduates completed a midlevel or rigorous curriculum.

• Male graduates generally had higher NAEP mathematics and science scores than female graduates completing the same curriculum.

• In 2009, graduates from all four racial/ethnic groups reported in NAEP (Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, and White students) earned more credits and higher grade point averages.

• More graduates from all racial groups completed a rigorous curriculum than they did in 1990. However, racial gaps in the percentage of graduates completing a rigorous curriculum persist.

• The percentage of White and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates who completed a rigorous curriculum increased more than the percentage of Black or Hispanic graduates completing a rigorous curriculum increased.

America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future

Kirsch, I., Braun, H., Yamamoto, K., and Sum, A. Copyright ©2007 by Educational Testing Service.

According to America's Perfect Storm, current labor market trends, demographics, and student achievement data are combining to create a "perfect storm" that could inflict lasting damage upon the nation's economy and upon its social fabric, as well. Simply put, if the middle and high schools continue to churn out large numbers of students who lack the ability to read critically, write persuasively, and communicate effectively, then the labor market will soon be flooded with young people who have nothing to offer, and who cannot handle the jobs that are available. "[T]here will be tens of millions more adults," the ETS report concludes, "who lack the education and skills they will need to thrive in the new economy," raising the specter of joblessness and despair on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. If that future is to be avoided, the authors argue, the nation's secondary schools will have to begin immediately to help many more students to reach much higher levels of literacy than ever before.

Are Achievement Gaps Closing and Is Achievement Rising for All?

Chudowsky, N., Chodowsky, V., and Kober, N. (2009). State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08: Are Achievement Gaps Closing and Is Achievement Rising For All? Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy.

This report examines testing data from all 50 states to determine if achievement gaps between subgroups of students are narrowing. The report also looks at the achievement trends of subgroups of students at the elementary school level.

Beating the Odds: How Thirteen NYC Schools Bring Low-Performing Ninth Graders to Timely Graduation and College Enrollment

Ascher, Carol and Maguire, Cindy. (2007). Beating the Odds: How Thirteen NYC Schools Bring Low-Performing Ninth Graders to Timely Graduation and College Enrollment. Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

This report describes a qualitative study, conducted in 2006 by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, of a small group of New York City high schools that were "beating the odds" by producing higher than predicted graduation and college-going rates for ninth-graders who entered with far below-average eighth-grade reading and math scores. Institute staff identified four key strategies that helped these students beat the odds: academic rigor, networks of timely supports, college expectations and access, and effective use of data. The report concludes with recommendations for maintaining and scaling up the success of these schools through better distribution of resources, greater school control over enrollment, a stronger system of support and accountability, and a district office of postsecondary education.

Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap

Swanson, Christopher B. Copyright © 2009 by Editorial Projects in Education Inc. All rights reserved.

According to Cities in Crisis, the graduation rate for U.S. urban school districts is 61% and the rate for students in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. is only 53%. The gap between suburban and urban districts is more than 14 percentage points. While the 50 largest schools districts educate roughly 13% of public high students in the country, these districts account for about 25% of students failing to graduate with a diploma each year.

Closing the Expectations Gap

Achieve. (2011). Closing the expectations gap. Washington, DC: Author.

This report tracks efforts by all 50 states on key college- and career-ready policies including aligning standards, graduation requirements, assessments, and data and accountability systems. Data shows progress in a majority of states towards making the high school diploma more meaningful — particularly in the area of standards — but there is still considerable work to be done.

Creating a Culture of Literacy: A Guide for Middle and High School Principals

National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

This report from the National Association of Secondary School Principals identifies five elements necessary to implement an effective building-level adolescent literacy improvement program—commited leadership; balanced formal and informal assessments; ongoing, research-based professional development; highly effective teachers; and strategic interventions—and offers literacy leaders guidance to develop these elements in their schools.

Diplomas Count (2010)

Education Week (2010). Diplomas Count 2008. Washington, DC: Editorial Projects in Education.

This report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center finds that the nation’s graduation rate has dropped for the second consecutive year, following a decade of mostly solid improvements. Although the latest decrease is considerably smaller than that found the previous year, the report shows that, on a national scale, 11,000 fewer students will earn diplomas.

Three out of every 10 students in America’s public schools fail to finish high school with a diploma, the report finds. That amounts to 1.3 million students falling through the cracks of the high school pipeline every year, or more than 7,200 students lost every day. Most nongraduates are members of historically disadvantaged minority groups. Dropouts are also more likely to have attended school in large, urban districts and to come from communities plagued by severe poverty and economic hardship.

High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007

Cataldi, E.F., Laird, J., and KewalRamani, A. (2009). High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007 (NCES 2009-064). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

Some 73% of high school freshman nationwide graduated on time with their peers, but this four-year graduation rate in 2006 varied widely across states--from a low of 55.9% to a high of 87.5%, according to the report. Other key findings include:

  • Students living in low-income families were approximately ten times more likely to drop out of high school between 2006 and 2007 than were students living in high-income families.
  • One-year dropout rates have declined since 1972 among all racial/ethnic groups, although the decreases happened at different times over this 35-year period for these groups.
  • About 3.3 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and had not earned a high school diploma or alternative credential, as of October 2007.

How High Schools Become Exemplary: Ways that Leadership Raises and Narrows Gaps by Improving Instruction in 15 Public High Schools

Ronald F. Ferguson, Sandra Hackman, Robert Hanna, and Ann Ballantine, June 2010. How High Schools Become Exemplary: Ways that Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps by Improving Instruction in 15 Public High Schools. Report on the 2009 Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Available for download at http://www.agi.harvard.edu.

This report from the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University looks at 15 outstanding public high schools from Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Texas, and Washington, D.C. These high schools were featured at the fifth annual conference of the AGI in June 2009, where teams from each school made presentations and then faced questioning from experts about the methods by which they had achieved progress, such as high value-added test score gains on statewide assessment tests and narrowing test-score achievement gaps. The main lesson from the presentations was that student achievement rose when leadership teams focused on improving instruction. Leaders took public responsibility for raising achievement, and stakeholders drafted mission statements to help schools stay on track. Schools carefully organized learning experiences for teachers, and clearly defined criteria for high-quality teaching and student work in ways that engaged entire faculties. As leaders implemented plans, schools monitored student and teacher work to continuously refine approaches. Leadership teams demonstrated commitment through hard work and long hours, studying research-based literature to expand knowledge and competence, and found ways to remain respectful of peers, even when asking them to improve their performance. In these ways, leadership teams earned the respect of their colleagues and gained authority to push people outside their comfort zones.

Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2008-09

Stillwell, R., Sable, J., and Plotts, C. (2011). Public School Graduates and Dropouts From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2008–09 (NCES 2011-312). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

This report includes counts of high school graduates for school year 2008–09 for 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Across the United States, the 50 states and the District of Columbia reported that a total of 3,039,015 public school students received a high school diploma in 2008–09, resulting in a calculated Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate of 75.5%. This rate ranged from 56.3% in Nevada and 62.0% in Mississippi to 89.6% in Vermont and 90.7% in Wisconsin. The median state AFGR was 77.0%. Some 607,789 H.S. dropouts were reported, resulting in an overall event dropout rate of 4.1%. The calculated dropout rate was the lowest for Asian/Pacific Islander students at 2.4% and White students at 2.7% The dropout rates for Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Black students were 6.0%, 6.3%, and 6.6%, respectively. The dropout rate was higher among males in every state.

Quality Counts 2011: Uncertain Forecast--Education Adjusts to a New Economic Reality

Editorial Projects in Education. (2011). Quality counts 2011: Uncertain forecast--Education adjusts to a new economic reality. Washington, DC: Author.

The report provides a timely, in-depth investigation into persistent concerns over the halting economic recovery and emerging opportunities for innovation, as state and local officials attempt to move forward despite depleted budgets. Among the reports key findings:

  • Funding administered by the U.S. Department of Education has saved or created 337,000 jobs, or 52% of the national total, according to data reported by recipients of stimulus funds.
  • Since the recession began, 29 states have enacted policies that offer local school systems some form of flexibility to meet the challenges posed by the economic crisis.
  • Twenty-one states have broadened the eligible uses of education funds originally intended for a particular purpose. In 11 states, class-size requirements have been loosened; 10 states have offered the option of modifying the length of the school year, week, or day as a way to cut costs.

The Quaity Counts project also includes updates to the Chance-for-Success Index, the K-12 Achievement Index, and national and state grades in education achievement, policy, and finance.

Rigor at Risk: Reaffirming Quality in the High School Core Curriculum

ACT. (2007). Rigor at Risk: Reaffirming Quality in the High School Core Curriculum. Retrieved Nov. 5. 2007, from http://www.act.org/path/policy/pdf/rigor_report.pdf.

While more students are taking a rigorous core curriculum, too many still find themselves ill-prepared to handle college. ACT scores have consistently shown that students who take a core curriculum of four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies are much more likely than those who don't to be prepared for college. This report examines whether additional courses may be necessary and finds that schools should not simply add more courses, but improve the quality and rigor of the existing core course offerings. The also report contains "action steps" that states and schools can take to improve the core high school courses.

Slow and Uneven Progress in Narrowing Gaps

Center on Education Policy. (2010). Slow and uneven progress in narrowing gaps. Washington, DC: Author.

This report provides a detailed look at student performance on state tests and examines whether state-level results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) confirm the trends found on state tests. The report tracks data for all states and the District of Columbia in math and reading for grades 4, 8, and high school by student race, ethnicity, income, and gender from as early as 2002 through 2009, where three or more years of comparable data are available.

The report's comparison of the direction of trends on NAEP and state tests between 2005 and 2009 at grades 4 and 8 presents a mixed picture. In a majority of the states studied, NAEP results confirm gains in reading and math for most subgroups. But trends in achievement gaps on NAEP differ often enough from gap trends on state tests to raise caution about how consistently gaps are narrowing.

State Test Score Trends Through 2008-09: Student Achievement

Center for Education Policy. (2011). State test score trends through 2008-2008: Students achievement at 8th grade. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Contrary to the perception that 8th-grade achievement is stagnating, this analysis by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) finds upward trends in reading and math test scores in most states. The report examines 8th grade trends at three achievement levels: basic and above, proficient and above, and advanced, and tracks changes in achievement gaps by race, ethnicity, gender and income. The analysis draws on data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia but focuses on the 43 states with three or more years of comparable test data. Individual state profiles are available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

All states with sufficient data on advanced achievement (42 states) showed gains in the percentage of 8th graders reaching the advanced level in math, while 35 of them posted similar gains in reading with five showing declines and two showing no change.

Still At Risk: What Students Don't Know, Even Now

(2008) ©Common Core. All rights reserved.

This report reveals some damning statistics about U.S. teens' lack of knowledge of history and culture. For example, one-third do not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of speech and religion and forty-four percent think The Scarlet Letter was either about a witch trial or a piece of correspondence.

The authors' attribute much of this ignorance to a curriculum focused on basic reading and math skills and preparation for high-stakes testing, but parental educational also has an impact on student knowledge-students with a college-educated parent scored significantly better than those without.

The Nation's Report Card: Trial Urban District Assessment Reading 2007

Lutkus, A., Grigg, W., and Donahue, P. (2007). The Nation's Reprot Card: Trial Urban District Assessment Reading 2007 (NCES 2008-455). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

Based on longitudinal testing data from fourth and eighth grade NAEP exams, this report summarizes results from Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and other urban districts. The researchers compare proficiencies across districts, but also note lower profile results, such as districts showing a steadily rising percentage of students who have improved from below basic to basic proficiencies.

The Nation's Report Card: Writing 2007

U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.

This report presents the results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessment, which was administered to a sampling of 8th and 12th graders in U.S. public and private schools. Average writing scores were higher in 2007 than in previous assessments in 2002 and 1998.

For 8th graders:

  • The average writing score was 3 points higher than in 2002 and 6 points higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased from 85 percent in 2002 to 88 percent and was also higher than in 1998
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level was higher than in 1998 but showed no significant change since 2002.

For 12th graders:

  • The average writing score was 5 points higher than in 2002 and 3 points higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic level increased from 74 percent in 2002 to 82 percent and was also higher than in 1998.
  • The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level was higher than in 1998 but showed no significant change since 2002.

Windows on Achievement and Inequality

Barton, P.E.,and Coley, R.J.,(2008). Windows on Achievement and Inequality.Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

This report explores achievement gap-data—from early language acquisition differences to trends in "the Nation's Report Card" data on math and reading proficiency to international rankings of achievement—and identifies some 14 factors that correlate with performance disparities.


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