Inner-City Schools' Progress

For the first time, the math and reading scores of fourth- and eighth-graders in 10 of the nation's largest inner-city school districts have been compared with national averages. The good news: Big- city schools are beginning to see the effects of 20 years of nationwide reforms.

Schools in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, Cleveland, and Houston were below average on the Trial Urban District Assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But when their scores were sorted by income and demographics, the picture was a bit brighter.

Among inner-city black students, achievement was at or above the scores of black public school students nationwide Hispanic students matched or exceeded national averages for Hispanics. Black fourth-graders in Charlotte and Houston even had higher average math and reading scores than the national average for blacks.

Experts say strong goal-setting and rules requiring principals to make sure black and Hispanic students had access to higher-level math classes were part of the success formula in Charlotte. All classrooms also had to focus on phonics.

These glimmers of progress are tempered by the fact that only 21 percent of inner-city school students are considered "proficient" in fourth-grade math; 20 percent for reading.

States should avoid cutting education budgets for these schools just beginning to show such a modest upward trend.

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