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Chicago's Education Record, NAEP 2022 Results and Implications

Chicago's Education Record, NAEP 2022 Results and Implications

Chicago’s Education Record, NAEP 2022 Results and Implications

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a federal program that measures student achievement at three grades (4, 8, 12) across a range of skills, subjects and variables. Student achievement at grade 8 is a particularly important educational indicator of future educational attainment. Students who have not been taught basic skills in grade 8 may have difficulty acquiring them later; students who have been taught Proficient or Advanced reading skills should be able to put them to use in later educational and life contexts. Students in Grade 8 who are found to read at the NAEP “below Basic” level are not likely to be able to make much use of written materials in school, or later at work, or in everyday and public life.

Middle school basic skills achievement levels have dramatic social and economic consequences. Most students scoring at the Proficient and Advanced levels can expect to graduate from high school, continue their education into college and, for those at the Advanced level, probably continue on to college graduation and higher degrees. Those middle schools students unable to read at the Basic level are unlikely to graduate from high school with meaningful diplomas.

The National Center for Education Statistics (sponsor of the NAEP) calculates that median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25-34 by educational attainment in 2020 were: Less than high school $29,800, high school completion $36,600, some college, no degree $39,900, Associate’s degree $44,100, BA $59,600, Master’s or higher $69,700. If a typical working life may extend to 40 years, those earnings become a cumulative $1,192,000 (no diploma); $1,464,000 (high school diploma); $1,596,000 (some college); $1,764,000 (Associate’s degree); $2,384,000 (BA) and $2,788,000 (MA +). The difference in working-life-long earnings between Proficiency (potential for college degree and beyond) and below Basic (unlikely to receive a meaningful high school diploma) skills at grade 8 can amount to more than a million dollars for each person, not to mention the loss in civic participation, the increased chances of incarceration, worse health, shorter lifespans, a decrease in possibilities for cultural enrichment, all of which become a negative inheritance for the next generation.

NAEP Reading results for grade 8 for Chicago show that 2% of the city’s grade 8 students had Advanced skills, 19% had Proficient skills, 40% were at the Basic level and 39% scored below Basic. This was 10 percentage points less than the National portion of students at Proficient and above and 9 percentage points more than the portion of students found to be in below Basic category nationally—those not being able to read at the level expected in middle school.

There were approximately 26,000 eighth grade students in Chicago in 2022. Approximately 5,500 of the city’s grade 8 students were found to read at the Proficient or Advanced categories and approximately 10,100 students scored below Basic. In other words, eighth grade students in the Chicago schools are just over half as likely to be taught to read at grade level as to find themselves barely able to read at all.

NAEP divides results by eligibility of the National School Lunch Program as a proxy for household income. In Chicago in 2022, 43% of those whose family income made them ineligible for the Program reached the Proficient level, while just 19% failed to reach the Basic level. Those students from less prosperous families, eligible for the program, reached Proficiency or above much less than half as often (17%) and were left below Basic more than twice as often (43%). These results are better than the national averages for students from prosperous families and worse for children from families with lower incomes.

Of the approximately 26,000 eighth grade students in Chicago, 1,000 were classified as Asian, 12,500 Hispanic, 9,300 Black and 2,600 were classified as White. According to NAEP, slightly more than half, 52%, of grade 8 Black students in Chicago had not been taught to read at grade level, while 9% were at the Proficient or Advanced levels: a loss to the city’s Black community of nearly five billion dollars over a typical working-life. Of Hispanic students, 23%, were found to read at Proficient or Advanced, while 35% were below Basic, a loss to the city’s Hispanic community of more than four billion dollars over a typical forty-year working-life. 42% of Asian students reached the Proficient level, while 21% were not reading at grade level, a potential loss to that community of more than $200 million over 40 years. White students not taught to reach the Basic level comprised 21% of the total, while 43% reached Proficiency or above, a loss of more than $500 million in potential earnings.

Those potential losses are for one year’s class. They may be multiplied for preceding and following classes of students in the Chicago schools. Such are the consequences, by a crude economic measure, of Chicago’s schools not adequately supporting the basic skills education of more than half its Black children, more than a third of its Hispanic children, a fifth each of its Asian children and White children. These losses of the potential earnings of its students will affect over-all economic development, tax income, and the quality of life in Chicago, in general, as well as the human development potential of the young people in question. Such are the consequences that follow when a district educates most of its White and Asian children and those from prosperous families and merely provides free and reduced priced meals to many of its Black and Hispanic children and those from families with lower incomes.

Michael Holzman

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