Boston students outpace urban peers on national Writing exam
BOSTON - Results released this week showed Boston Public Schools students scoring among the highest of their urban school peers across the country on the Grade 8 Writing exams on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the "Nation's Report Card."
Boston's 2007 performance on the Grade 8 Writing exam exceeds the average performance of Large Central Cities (LCC) nationwide. Ten U.S. cities voluntarily participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which provides district-level results to monitor the progress of students in urban areas. Among these cities, Boston outperformed or performed comparably to eight other districts, with only Charlotte (NC) scoring higher.
This is the first time Boston's performance on the Grade 8 Writing exam has been reported separately from statewide performance. The other TUDA districts are Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City and San Diego.
Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said the results TUDA provides are important as the district considers its performance and that of other similarly sized districts serving comparable student populations.
"The information we receive from the TUDA exams provides another checkpoint on the performance of our students," she said. "We will now use the results to further guide our reform work and ensure equity across all of our schools so that students achieve academic excellence."
TUDA also provides score breakdowns by reporting categories. Boston's average scale scores are comparable to or better than all other TUDA districts among the following student subgroups:
- Students with disabilities
- Students eligible for free/reduced lunch
Dr. Johnson said two specific areas highlighted in the TUDA results require additional focus: An emerging gender gap and the performance of students learning English for the first time.
Results showed 35% of girls (1 in 3) scoring proficient or higher, compared to only 15% of boys (about 1 in 7). While these lower performance results among males are consistent across all 10 cities participating in TUDA, the Superintendent and her staff will review previous performance differences between the genders in other grades and subjects to identify a strategy for improvement.
English Language Learners (ELL) also scored significantly lower than all other Boston subgroups. The Superintendent's "Acceleration Agenda" for the BPS includes several new investments to provide additional supports and services to ELL students and their families.
Dr. Johnson outlined the work already underway to improve student performance in literacy and writing. Her budget for next year includes a $500,000 investment to develop an aligned district-wide pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 Literacy curriculum, particularly focused on professional development for teachers.
Finally, Dr. Johnson said that the results shed light on a particular challenge at the middle school level and that the district is re-examining the course offerings and rigor in the middle grades to ensure students are reading and writing on grade level when they enter high school.
The Strategic Education Research Project (SERP) is working with BPS on a pilot program in six schools focused on middle school literacy - particularly vocabulary development and reading comprehension. The project is developing new "formative assessments" to help teachers provide more intentional instruction to accelerate students' literacy development.
To view a complete report, or for more information on NAEP or the TUDA exams, visit: http://nces.ed.gov/naep3/.