Student achievement rising in urban Texas schools

Linda Stewart Ball:

Achievement test scores at big-city school districts in Texas still lag far behind their suburban and rural counterparts but they’re making great strides and narrowing the gap, according to a report by an education think tank released Wednesday.
A study [PDF report] of 37 of the nation’s largest urban school systems by The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., found that city schools are improving more than other school districts in their respective states.
In Texas, six urban school districts were included in the study: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
Three of those — Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — are among the top 10 gainers nationally.
The study examined state test scores and demographic information, including race/ethnicity and the percentage of disadvantaged students (those receiving free or reduced lunch), from 2000 to 2007.
It was designed to determine how big-city school districts fared when compared to their suburban and rural peers. The study was able to standardize scores between states, even those using different tests.
Dallas showed the biggest improvement among the large Texas cities, and was 2nd overall nationally. New Orleans topped the list, while Detroit, one of eight districts whose performance declined during the years studied, was last.
In 2000, Dallas was outscored by 100 percent of the state’s school districts. By 2007, just 90 percent of suburban and rural districts did better than Dallas — a significant improvement given its demographics, the study’s author said.
Dallas school superintendent Michael Hinojosa embraced the latest findings.