Detroit Schools Climb slightly in NAEP test scores

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, December 9, 2011

The Detroit Public Schools performance on a national academic test inched up this year, but the district continues to rank worst among large cities in reading and math, results released Wednesday show.

The district's fourth- and eighth-grade students were among children in 21 cities who took the rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress tests this year as part of the Trial Urban District Assessment, called TUDA.

The program tracks how well big-city school districts fare on the reading and math tests, compared to each other and the national average.

While Detroit showed slightly higher scores than in 2009, the gains were classified as "not significantly different," by the National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees the tests.

In reaction to the results, school officials said Wednesday the district needs more stability and academic rigor. Teachers, for their part, are calling for an attendance policy to address the truancy problem.

The NAEP is administered every two years.

In 2009, DPS earned some of the worst math and reading scores ever recorded. As a result, it started the Volunteer Reading Corps community service project. More than 3,000 area residents began tutoring in classrooms and the project continues to seek more volunteers who can tutor after undergoing background checks and some training.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts said he was pleased that scores trended upward compared to 2009. He said several changes in leadership over the past decade and the upheaval it caused were an obstacle to progress.

New Superintendent Karen Ridgeway said that in order to address low scores, the district plans to offer high-school level algebra in eighth grade and introduce national common core standards into the curriculum.

The problem with the test scores is the same as ever, according to the teachers union.

The district must find a way to address issues related to poverty and culture, most notably the attendance crisis, said Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. On an average day, attendance is between 72% and 78%, he said.

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