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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools topped most other big cities on this year's national reading and math tests, according to results released this morning.

CMS is among 21 urban districts reporting fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP or the nation's report card. CMS rated first or second in all areas.

The strong comparitive showing affirms the recognition CMS earned this fall, when it claimed the Broad Prize for Urban Education.

But the results also reinforce a theme sounded at that ceremony: Academic progress has been painfully slow for poor and minority students, even in the most successful districts.

Fewer than 20 percent of low-income and black CMS eighth-graders were rated proficient in either subject, falling far below white and middle-class counterparts. For instance, 16 percent of African American eighth-graders in CMS scored proficient in math, compared with 66 percent of white classmates. Yet Charlotte's black eighth-graders topped the national average and outperformed counterparts in most of the urban districts.

CMS officials are holding a news conference this morning to discuss the NAEP results. The national report repeatedly highlights Charlotte's success.

The NAEP was launched in 1969 to gauge national progress and compare state results. In 2002 it started breaking out results for a handful of urban districts, and CMS joined that group in 2003.

CMS; Austin, Texas; and Hillsborough County (Tampa), Fla., juggled the top three spots in each category. With 52 percent of students qualifying for federal lunch aid, CMS has the lowest poverty level of all the urban districts tallied, matching the national average for all public schools. Austin and Tampa are next-lowest.

Districts at the bottom of the rankings, such as Detroit, have very few white and non-poor students. But the edge at CMS and the other high-ranking districts doesn't come solely from having more of the students who traditionally do well on tests. They also fare better than average on same-group comparisons.

NAEP doesn't report results for individual schools, and not all students take the exams. A representative sampling is tested in participating districts.

The reading and math tests do not include high schools.

Read details at www.nationsreportcard.gov (see Trial Urban District Assessments ).

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