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Urban schools’ math results underscore need for change

NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign key to transformation

WASHINGTON - December 09, 2009 -

The National Center for Education Statistics released their 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) this week, and the results for the “Nation’s Report Card” on math are mixed.  In most districts, test scores from this ongoing, voluntary assessment remain static from 2007. Washington, D.C., and Boston posted some increases over the past two years in both fourth and eighth grades, and Austin and San Diego made gains in eighth-grade scores over the same period. The majority of the districts who participated in TUDA from 2003 have made positive progress over the past six years.

Urban school districts choose to participate in TUDA—part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—to measure their progress against similar districts and the nation. The most recent assessment compared 18 major urban areas with the nation, their states and other large cities. Though progress has been made in some urban districts—Charlotte, in particular, scored higher than the national average—the results underscore the reality of America’s achievement gaps. Gains were made primarily among lower performing students, and in more than half of the participating districts, 35 percent or more of fourth graders and 48 percent or more of eighth graders are performing at a “below basic” level.

“These test results indicate we still have a long road ahead of us if we want to close the achievement gaps,” said National Education Association  (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel. “Too many students in high-poverty communities are in chronically underfunded, understaffed, unsupported schools. Lower-performing schools are priority schools for NEA. By leading permanent changes in these priority schools, we will transform the lives of tens of thousands of students.”

NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign includes a vow to work side-by-side with communities and with policymakers in state capitals, in Congress and the Obama administration; to partner in pursuit of innovative programs to measure student success and teacher quality; and to fight to attract and keep the best educators and necessary resources for the schools of greatest need.

The Obama Administration finalized its rules for reforming the nation's lowest-performing schools last week.  Under the rules, districts would choose from four models of turning around their schools, including replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the staff, closing the school and reopening it under the management of a charter or education management organization, closing the school and transferring its students to higher-performing schools in the district, or implementing a comprehensive “transformation” strategy. Of the four options, NEA supports the transformation model.

“We believe that comprehensive school reform requires us to look at more than just test scores,” said Van Roekel. “Policymakers must be held accountable to provide students in low-performing schools the learning environment they need to learn, and provide educators the tools and resources they need to teach.”

NEA examines the achievement gaps in terms of performance measured by valid and reliable student achievement tests and classroom assessments, access to key courses and educational opportunities, including quality teachers, and attainment that includes graduation, post-secondary education, college completion, and more.

To learn more about NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, watch the video or visit

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Laila Hirschfeld  (202) 822-7823,