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San Diego’s performance on a nationwide writing test for eighth graders reveals that while the district’s scores have bested the average for big urban school districts, there is wide variability in how the city’s black, white, Hispanic and low-income children have performed compared to their counterparts in other urban districts.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress created a nationwide writing test, administered in 2007. Ten major school districts took part, including schools in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. The test was previously given in 2002 and 1998 to a smaller number of districts.

NAEP provides an easy way to compare those districts’ performance, using these graphs. (Try this one, too.) That yields some interesting results. While San Diego Unified exceeded the average test score for big urban districts, subgroups of kids scored significantly higher or lower, compared to their peers elsewhere. The results are interesting:

Black eighth graders in San Diego tied with black students in Charlotte for the highest writing scores among black students in all 10 districts. Hispanic students in San Diego, however, had the lowest scores among Hispanic students in all 10 districts. White students and low-income students were also on the lower end, compared to the other cities.

EMILY ALPERT

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