Achievement at Albuquerque Public Schools is average.
That’s the result of a test that compares large, urban districts across the country based on their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
And APS Superintendent Winston Brooks says that’s great news, given that statewide tests often show New Mexico toward the bottom of the national heap.
“I’m pretty ecstatic about it, actually,” Brooks said, adding that this is the first time APS has been able to compare itself to districts with similar demographics and challenges. “I think it’s very instructive to know.”
He said the Trial Urban District Assessment shows APS students are keeping pace with students across the country who live in large cities. Average national achievement in large, urban districts – as reflected in the assessment – is significantly lower than average achievement in the nation as a whole.
“This tells me we’re not 49th in the nation,” Brooks said. “We are right in the middle.”
The NAEP, often called The Nation’s Report Card, has for years been comparing student scores across states. A sample of students in each state takes the same test, unlike state tests that can be very different from state to state.
This is the first year APS has participated in the urban district assessment, which compares math and reading scores among students in fourth- and eighth grades. Cities with 250,000 people or more are considered “large cities” and are eligible to participate.
APS performed better than average in fourth-grade math, with 34 percent of students scoring “proficient” or better on the NAEP test. For all large cities combined, the percentage was 30 percent. That difference is statistically significant, the report said.
The NAEP test is significantly harder than nearly all state tests nationwide, according to a NAEP report that shows only Massachusetts’ test matching the NAEP in difficulty.
For eighth-grade math and reading and for fourth-grade reading, APS’ scores were statistically the same as the nation’s large cities combined.
The results also show that APS’ achievement gap between Hispanic students and their Anglo counterparts is statistically the same as the average gap in large cities nationwide.
The urban district test also provides details about the concepts APS students have mastered and the ones they still need to work on.
For example, APS fourth-graders had mastered two-digit subtraction, but many could not effectively interpret a number line.
Brooks said that information will go back to teachers around the district to help improve their teaching.
Not every APS student takes the NAEP. It is taken by a representative sample of students that reflects the demographics of the district. This includes a proportion of special needs students, those learning English and those with families in poverty.
Districts that scored at the top of the urban district ranking are Charlotte, N.C., and Hillsborough County, Fla. Some that scored toward the bottom were Detroit and Cleveland.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal