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Improving Urban Student Achievement through Early Childhood Reform: What State Policymakers Can Do MS Word - Despite research evidence for the effectiveness of early childhood education, urban children in general begin school lagging significantly behind their suburban peers in cognitive, language and social development. These differences are likely to be exacerbated as children move through their school years. This report provides suggestions for ways state policymakers can support reform in early learning in urban districts. Suggestions include understanding all early care and education services within an urban area, planning and coordinating funding and services for early learning, supporting stronger regulations and teacher certification requirements and funding professional development for teachers. (Sharon Lynn Kagan, Education Commission of the States, February 2004)...

Urban School District Accountability Systems - Based on a telephone survey of the nation’s largest 120 districts, this report examines to what extent large urban districts have accountability systems in place, puts forth a set of core principles for comprehensive district accountability systems and interprets the survey results in terms of the principles to create a clearer picture of how accountability systems are currently being implemented. (Donald McAdams, Michelle Wisdom, Sarah Glover and Anne McClellan, Education Commission of the States, December 2003)...

State Takeovers of Failing Urban Schools: ECS Conference Highlights MS Word - Tells the compelling stories of state leaders directly involved in urban district interventions. (Anne Lewis, Education Commission of the States, March 2, 1997)...

Urban Schools: Emerging Governance Models MS Word - This document provides a brief history of urban school governance and summarizes some of the unique governance structures that have emerged in six American cities and one Canadian province over recent years. A profile of each city's (or province's) governance structure is provided. Each profile is organized around a common framework: legal basis for reform, district demographics, district leadership, parent/community involvement, changes to collective bargaining, evaluation, costs and results to date. (Education Commission of the States, September 1997)...

Beating the Odds: An Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gaps on State Assessments, Results from the 2006-2007 School Year - Urban students continued to improve in math and reading in 2007. Most impressive were gains in math: 63% of 4th graders scored at or above proficiency, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2003. Eighth-graders reached 55%, up from 42% in 2003. In reading, 60% of 4th graders were at or above proficiency compared to 51% in 2003; 51% of 8th graders were proficient or better, up from 43% in 2003. (Jason Snipes, Amanda Horwitz, Kyoko Soga, Michael Casserly, Council of the Great City Schools, April 2008)...

The State of Middle School and High School Science Labs in the Kansas City Region - This study outlines the findings of an audit assessing the state of science labs across 30 districts in the Kansas City region. The audit results indicate that the majority of science labs in the region do not meet national standards and that much work needs to be done to bring school science labs up to standards. The audit identified five areas of concern and this report summarizes each area and makes recommendations for improvement. (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, August 2007)...

Beating the Odds: An Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gaps on State Assessments - Results from the 2005-2006 School Year - The seventh edition of this report shows that major urban districts continue to make important gains in math and reading scores on state assessments and may be narrowing achievement gaps. The report also looks at the lowest academic performance levels and at demographic data. (Council of Great City Schools, April 2007) ...

Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) Results in Mathematics and Reading - The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress TUDA makes it possible to compare the performance of students in participating urban school districts to that of public school students in the nation, in large central cities and to each other. Reports are available in mathematics and reading. Depending on when each district began participating in TUDA, results are available for comparison to 2002, 2003 and 2005. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007)...

Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) - In 2005, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted the first Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in science to examine the performance of 4th and 8th graders in 10 large urban districts. These urban districts serve student populations that are more diverse than the nation's public schools overall. (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2006) ...

Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 2003-04 - This annual report provides basic information about the nation’s largest public school districts in the 2003-04 school year. The data include such characteristics as the numbers of students and teachers, number of high school completers and the averaged freshman graduation rate and revenues and expenditures. Findings include: (1) These districts enrolled 23% of all public school students, and employed 22% of all public school teachers; (2) These districts produced 20% of all high school completers; and (3) Three states – California, Florida and Texas – accounted for 41 of the 100 largest public school districts. (Jennifer Sable and Lee M. Hoffman, National Center for Education Statistics, September 2006) ...

Mayoral Leadership and Involvement in Education: An Action Guide for Success - This guide is intended to provide useful information to mayors no matter what role they currently have or are considering in education, with the goal of assisting them in making choices in how they may get involved in the school systems of their cities. The purpose of the guide is to: (1) help mayors understand the range of education issues and problems they may find themselves facing; (2) provide ideas and strategies for potential involvement in education; (3) convey specific information about school finance, management and education reform issues; and (4) give mayors advice on what to do and what not to do when becoming engaged. (Fritz Edelstein, The United States Conference of Mayors, January 2006)...

Time to Engage? Civic Participation in Philadelphia's School Reform - This brief describes the current arrangements for public participation in Philadelphia schools following changes brought about by the state takeover of the city's school system, the passage of No Child Left Behind, and a new reliance on outsourcing and its corresponding structuring of relationships around contracts. (Eva Gold, Maia Cucchiara, Elaine Simon and Morgan Riffer, Research for Action, September 2005)...

Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 2002-03 - This report provides descriptive information about the 100 largest school districts in the United States, including size, pupil-teacher ratios, number of high school graduates and minority enrollment. In the 2002-03 school year, there were 17,402 public school districts in the United States. The 100 largest, representing less than 0.6% of all school districts in the nation, were responsible for the education of 23% of all public school students, and were located in 33 states, although 40% were located in three states, California, Texas and Florida. (Jennifer Sable and Lee Hoffman, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2005)...

Fact or Fiction: Data Tell the True Story Behind America’s Urban School Districts - This report examines multiple indicators in 25 of the largest urban school districts in the United States to provide a deeper understanding of school and district performance. The report discusses the challenges facing urban districts and its findings refute several common myths regarding urban education: (1) urban districts spend more than other districts; (2) academic performance in urban districts is not improving; (3) low test scores, graduation rates and college attendance rates are primarily an urban, minority problem; and (4) urban schools do little to help students learn. (Standard & Poor’s, May 2005)...

Beating the Odds V: A City-by-City Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gap on State Assessments - The fifth in a series, this report provides the results on reading and math assessments in the 2003-04 academic year for students in the 65-member urban districts of the Council of the Great City Schools. It provides student demographic and staffing data for every district; compares district data and results with those of their respective state overall; and disaggregates scores by race, income, English proficiency and disability. The results indicate that, while the districts reported on are still scoring as a group below state and national averages in math and reading, they are both raising student-performance levels in these subject areas and narrowing achievement gaps. (Michael Casserly, Council of the Great City Schools, March 2005)...

Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 2001-02 - This report provides descriptive information about the 100 largest school districts in the United States, including size, pupil-teacher ratios, number of high school graduates and minority enrollment. In the 2001-02 school year, there were 17,140 public school districts in the United States. The 100 largest, representing less than 1% of all school districts in the nation, were responsible for the education of 23% of all public school students, and were located in 33 states, with Texas having the most with 15, followed by California and Florida each with 13. (Jennifer Sable and Beth Aronstamm Young, National Center for Education Statistics, September 2003)...

Urban School Reform: Achievement and School Climate Outcomes for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) - This study examines first-year outcomes from the implementation of the KIPP at the KIPP-DIAMOND Academy (KIPP:DA) in inner-city Memphis, Tennessee. Forty-nine KIPP:DA students were matched to a demographically similar counterpart who attended the same grade in one of the five schools serving the same geographic area as KIPP:DA. The study finds statistically significant and educationally meaningful advantages for KIPP:DA students on four out of six standardized tests. Also discussed are program design and student, teacher and parent perceptions. (Steven M. Ross, Aaron J. McDonald, Marty Alberg, Brenda McSparrin-Gallagher and Florence Calloway, Center for Research in Educational Policy, The University of Memphis, February 2005)...

Stronger Schools, Stronger Cities - Through the 30-month Municipal Leadership in Education (MLE) program, six cities (selected through a competitive process) launched local initiatives to improve public education. For each of these cities — Charleston, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Lansing, Michigan; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Oregon — a project profile is provided, offering school governance and demographics information, as well as the details of each city’s program. The report also relates lessons learned, including that “vigorous and sustained mayoral leadership yields big dividends” and “strong city-school district partnerships depend on both personal relationships and institutional capacity.” (Audrey M. Hutchinson and Denise Van Wyngaardt, Institute for Youth, Education and Families, National League of Cities, April 2004)...

When Mayors Lead Urban Schools: Toward Developing a Framework To Assess the Effects of Mayoral Takeover of Urban Districts PDF - According to this report, in general, the five large urban districts experiencing mayoral takeover are significantly different from non-takeover districts in sources of revenue and greater expenditures per pupil for instruction, teachers’ wages and student support. Three of the takeover districts demonstrate increases in student achievement at the elementary and secondary levels. In the five districts, the lowest-performing schools demonstrate increases in academic achievement equal to or greater than district averages, demonstrating that the lowest-performing schools are not being left behind. The findings are interpreted with caution. (Kenneth K. Wong and Francis X. Shen, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2003)...

Beating the Odds IV: A City-by-City Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gap on State Assessments - The fourth in a series, this report provides the results on reading and math assessments in the 2002-03 academic year for students in the 61-member urban districts of the Council of the Great City Schools. It provides student demographic and staffing data for every district, compares district data and results with those of their respective state overall, and disaggregates scores by race, income, English proficiency and disability. The results indicate that, while the districts reported on are still scoring as a group below state and national averages in math and reading, they are both raising student performance levels in these subject areas and narrowing achievement gaps. An executive summary and summary tables are also available, as well as profiles for all 61-member cities. (Michael Casserly, data collection by Sharon Lewis, Janice Ceperich and Jack Jepson, Council of the Great City Schools, March 2004)...

The Effects of School Facility Quality on Teacher Retention in Urban School Districts - Analyzing the school, teacher and community factors that teachers cite as reasons to leave the profession, researchers put forth school facility quality as a substantial, and undervalued, factor in retaining teachers in urban schools. They point to studies suggesting a link between such factors as poor indoor air quality, noise, classroom lighting, natural daylight and temperature control and teaching quality and student achievement. Drawing from a survey of Washington, D.C. teachers, the authors found a surprising fact. While a 1999 study found that students whose classrooms received the most natural light improved 20% more a year in math and 26% more in reading than those whose classrooms received the least natural light, more than one in five D.C. teachers reported not being able to see through the windows in their classrooms. (Jack Buckley, Yi Shang and Mark Schneider, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, February 2004)...

Changing District Culture and Capacity: The Impact of the Merck Institute for Science - In studying the collaboration between the Merck Institute for Science Education and four districts, the authors conclude that it is possible to intervene in typical school districts and enhance their capacity to improve teaching. Some lessons learned about school districts in this study are (1) districts can intentionally change classroom practices at scale, (2) research has identified the essential attributes of district capacity and (3) it is advantageous to have prestigious external partners. (Tom Corcoran and Nancy Lawrence, Consortium for Policy Research in Education, November 2003)...

Small Schools: From Promise to Practice - Warning that while small schools will not solve all the ills of urban education, the author provides five "lessons learned" that can help small schools make the most of this promising and increasingly popular reform concept. Simmons admonishes his readers not to oversimplify the concept, to involve schools' local districts and to seek out sustained political as well as technical support, among other recommendations. (Warren Simmons, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Voices in Urban Education, No. 2, Fall 2003)...

An Impossible Job? The View from the Urban Superintendent's Chair - Nine of 10 urban school superintendents say they need more authority to fix bad schools and improve student achievement, according to this survey. The survey, which focused on superintendents in the nation's 100 largest districts, found many school leaders believe their reform efforts are hampered by the way power is divided among school boards, teacher unions and other groups. (Howard Fuller with Christine Campbell, Mary Beth Celio, James Harvey, John Immerwahr and Abigail Winger, Center on Reinventing Public Education, July 2003)...

Annenberg-Sponsored Poll Shows Urban Residents Concerned Their Children Will Be Left Behind - A poll conducted for the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University found that urban Americans reject "one-school-at-a-time" approaches to improving urban schools. The poll also found a strong preference for districtwide solutions that target all schools within a community. In addition, 74% of respondents voiced their concern that a provision of the No Child Left Behind law allowing students from under-performing schools to transfer to higher-performing schools will end up harming the struggling urban schools from which students transfer. (Annenberg Institute for School Reform, October 2002)...

Critical Trends in Urban Education: Fifth Biennial Survey of America's Great City Schools - Leaders of big-city school districts face many problems and challenges, but they are generally optimistic about the future of urban schools. The Council of the Great City Schools released trend data comparing this year's data with the results from the four previous polls, where appropriate, illustrating the important trends in urban school leadership, needs and reform strategies. (Council of the Great City Schools, October 2002)...

Creating Seamless Educational Transitions for Urban African American and Hispanic Students - Urban college-bound minority high school students have high educational ambitions, but many lack the college-planning information they need to make informed choices on how to realize these ambitions, according to a new study conducted by ACT, Inc. The study suggests these students need consistent, structured help in planning for their futures – how to prepare for college, what college to select, and how and where to apply for financial aid – pointing to a need for school districts to set up proactive plans as early as middle school to accomplish these goals. The authors recommend that school districts implement an Educational Transitions Strategic Plan, a strategic plan that focuses on college exploration and postsecondary planning, beginning in middle school and continuing on through high school. (Richard J. Noeth and George L. Wimberly, ACT, Inc., June 2002)...

Beating the Odds II - Student achievement appears to be improving in the nation's big-city school districts, and racial achievement gaps may be narrowing according to this report from the Council of the Great City Schools. The council reports that a city-by-city analysis of student performance on state-mandated tests found more urban school districts showed mathematics and reading gains on state assessments in 2001 than a year earlier. Reading scores, however, still lagged behind math gains. (Council of Great City Schools, June 2002) ...

Sharing Responsibility for Results: Breakthrough to Literacy - This new report studies how two urban school districts were able to achieve impressive results in reading achievement by implementing the "Breakthrough to Literacy" reading program. The program focuses on developing a research-based reading and language curriculum and on providing intensive professional development for reading teachers. (National Alliance of Black School Educators, McGraw-Hill Education and National Association of Elementary School Principals, June 2002)...

Powerful Ideas, Modest Gains: Five Years of Systemic Reform in Philadelphia Middle Schools - This report examines the instructional practices and outcomes of Philadelphia middle schools as they underwent increased public scrutiny, new assessments, development of new curricula, new demands for professional development, new work arrangements and new procedures for obtaining support services for students. A major problem cited was lack of guidance in curriculum and pedagogy resulting in test preparation that was not aligned with state standards. The report suggests a number of steps for improving Philadelphia’s middle schools, as well as suggestions for district and school staff. (Jolley Bruce Christman, Research for Action, Consortium for Policy Research in Education, December 2001)...

Transforming Public Schools: Year Two Summary Report - The Houston Annenberg Challenge (HAC) was launched in 1997 with a grant of $60 million over five years to sustain, expand and generate reform in metropolitan Houston public schools. The HAC leadership encourages local planning and ownership in reform efforts and argues for local program design, believing that a local approach leads to more successful and enduring change. Furthermore, HAC encourages school-based planners to build upon existing reform efforts to create a more comprehensive and coherent effort. All the HAC schools have four common objectives: high expectations and improved academic achievement; a personalized learning environment; a learning community of professionals focused on children’s academic needs; and a collaborative network among schools, parents and the local business community. This year-two evaluation assesses HAC’s accomplishments and efforts in three broad areas: student outcomes, school development and building support for systemic change. Certain questions direct the evaluation in these areas. (Pedro Reyes and Joy C. Phillips, University of Texas at Austin, August 2001)...

Foundations for Success: Case Studies of How Urban School Systems Improve Student Achievement - This study examines four districts — Houston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Sacramento and the Chancellor’s District in New York City — for answers to the question: How did they manage to raise student achievement, given the challenges all urban districts face? The researchers identify prerequisites for change, as well as common strategies the four districts used to raise student performance. The report also analyzes the preconditions and strategies of comparison districts that did not see improved student achievement over the same period of time. Links to the full report and other resources are also available from this page. (Jason Snipes, Fred Doolittle and Corinne Harley, MDRC, September 2002)...

Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 1999-2000 - The 100 largest school districts, representing less than 1% of all school districts in the nation, are responsible for the education of 23% of all public school students. This report provides descriptive information about the 100 largest districts, including size, pupil-teacher ratios, number of high school graduates and minority enrollment. (Beth Young, National Center for Education Statistics, October 2001)...

The Super - Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer may be "the most talented man ever to run a big-city school district. He also is bound to fail." This in-depth article is about Romer’s first year as superintendent. The broader context of this piece describes the enormous difficulties involved in bringing about change and improvement in urban school districts, and the capacity of school leaders to address the problems. (Matthew Miller, Washington Monthly, June 2001)...

Advancing Excellence in Urban Schools: A Report on Advanced Placement Examinations in the Great City Schools MS Word - This is the first comprehensive study to examine Advanced Placement course-taking patterns and subject-test results in the nation's urban schools. The sponsors of the study felt that these data would provide meaningful information about the performance of high school students and the extent to which they are engaged in the most challenging courses available. (The College Board and the Council of the Great City Schools, March 2001)...

"Breaking the Hermetic Seal" - Part of the key to revitalizing urban schools lies in strengthening their connections with museums, theaters, libraries, and other cultural and educational institutions in the communities that surround them. The key is in breaking down the institutional barriers that separate today's public schools from the communities that surround them and recommitting to a constant search for the best possible education options for students. (Paul Hill, AASA School Administrator, March 2001)...

Beyond Finger-Pointing and Test Scores - The Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform looked at urban interventions in Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle and concluded that test scores carry too much weight in identifying low-performing schools and measuring school improvement. Judging success by test scores works at “cross-purposes” with the goal of teaching all children to high standards and diverts attention away from good instruction by devoting months to test preparation. (Lauren E. Allen and Anne C. Hallett, Cross-City Campaign, 1999)...

Dispelling the Myth: High-Poverty Schools Exceeding Expectations - In 1998-99, the Education Trust surveyed 1,200 schools identified by the states as their top-scoring and/or most-improving schools with poverty levels above 50%. The principals of 366 of these schools responded. This report summarizes the survey results and includes a directory of these schools that seem to be overcoming low expectations about poverty’s effect on student achievement. (The Education Trust, 1999) ...


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