NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Urban Schools and Minorities Performing Poorly

March 4, 2004

Although presented to the public in positive, sometimes glowing terms, the first-ever report on reading and mathematics achievement in the nation's 10 largest urban school districts reveals the enormous failure of the public school system, according to the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The NAEP results show that, overall, children in urban schools (that is, large central city school districts) are severely lagging behind the national average in academic performance -- this is particularly true among children who are minorities or who come from low-income families.

Some of the staggering results include:

  • Among eighth-graders, 19 percent of urban school students can read at a proficient level -- whereas the national average is 30 percent.
  • Similarly, 17 percent of eighth-graders in urban schools perform satisfactorily in mathematics, compared to 27 percent nationally.
  • While nationally 12 percent of black eighth-graders can read proficiently, six of the 10 urban districts could not reach this level -- with San Diego ranking the lowest at 7 percent.

Although only 7 percent of black eighth-graders have adequate mathematical skills, six of the 10 urban districts fared even worse -- including a remarkable 2 percent of blacks in Los Angeles.

Moreover, the results for Hispanics and children from low income families are equally discouraging. For instance, nationally only 11 percent of both of these groups were rated as proficient in mathematics.

Source: George A. Clowes, "Most Children Left Behind in Urban Public Schools," Heartland Institute, February 2004.

For highlights for the Trial Urban District Assessment:




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