Nation's report card: CMS heads the class, but skills still lack - | WBTV Charlotte

Nation's report card: CMS heads the class, but skills still lacking

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) -

The latest round of national reading and math scores could bring celebration or gloom in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – or perhaps both.

CMS topped the list of 21 big-city school districts on math performance for fourth- and eighth-graders and was near the top on reading scores for the same grades. The district beat North Carolina averages in reading and math, and national averages on all exams except eighth-grade reading, where CMS and the nation tied.

So how can there be such a barrage of news about low-performing schools andunderwhelming turnaround results in CMS?

Because the “nation’s report card” exams indicate that most public schools across the country are struggling with the same challenges, and often faring even worse.

Across the country, low-income, black and Hispanic students score lower on the exams, which are also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, than white, Asian and non-poor students.

Part of the reason CMS tops the district list is that it has more students in the higher-scoring groups than most of the other urban districts (none of the others is in North or South Carolina). CMS has not released enrollment data for the current school year, but last year, when students took the national exam, the district had a poverty level of about 58 percent and white enrollment just under 30 percent.

Superintendent Ann Clark said Wednesday that low proficiency rates emphasize the importance of her push to improve reading skills. But “we must hit pause and honor the work of our staff and the work of our students,” she said.

The national exams, first given in 1969, provide a way of tracking student skills over time and comparing state performance. States create their own exams, which vary widely in difficulty. North Carolina has revised its tests so often that year-to-year comparisons are difficult.

The tests are given to a representative sampling of students in each state. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Education began reporting results from a few large districts, and CMS joined that group in 2003. No results are released for individual students or schools.

Clark said the district reports identify places that may have lessons for others. She said she plans to contact superintendents in Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., to see what pushed their eighth-grade reading scores above those for CMS.

The report released Wednesday, which covers only math and reading in fourth and eighth grades, shows no significant change in CMS scores. North Carolina stayed flat in fourth-grade math, went up in fourth-grade reading and went down on both eighth-grade exams.

Get details at http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/

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