Achievement Gap Persists
The results of Connecticut’s high-stakes standardized tests showed the state still has a long way to go in closing the achievement gap.
The statewide results released Thursday showed more higher-income students performing at or above “goal” level than lower-income students in many grades and content areas. It also showed black and Hispanic elementary school students scored significantly lower than white students in all content areas.
The state has the dubious distinction of having the largest-in-the-nation achievement gap and has taken steps to resolve it.
In May, the General Assembly approved an education package which focuses $100 million on reform efforts aimed at eliminating the achievement gap.
But the latest round of standardized tests were administered prior to the passage of the legislation. About 250,000 students in third through eighth grade took the Connecticut Mastery Test and 40,000 tenth graders took the Connecticut Academic Performance Test this Spring.
“We’re pleased to see that there are signs of progress in our schools,“ Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Thursday when he released the results. “That said — while schools are moving more students into proficient- and goal-level performance, significant gaps in achievement continue between economically disadvantaged students and their peers.”
The data released Thursday showed that between 2006 and 2012 students eligible for free-or-reduced meals made larger gains on the CMT than students not eligible for free-or-reduced meals.
On the CAPT test, students eligible for free-or-reduced meals made moderate progress. Reading and math skills for that group improved when compared to 2007, but when compared to 2011 the gap between low-and-higher income students widened. But in writing the low-income students made large gains when compared to their higher-income.
When the achievement gap is looked at on the basis of race and ethnicity, black and Hispanic students scored significantly lower than white students on the CMT’s this year when compared to 2011. However, in third and eighth grade the percentage of black students scoring at or above “goal” level was larger than white students.
On the CAPT, the number of black and Hispanic students performing at “goal” in math, reading, and writing, increased, but decreases were seen when it came to the same populations’ performance at the “proficient” level in math and science.
However, it was difficult for state officials to draw any firm conclusions since the definitions for race and ethnicity were expanded to seven categories two years ago.
The data released Thursday showed a widening of the achievement gap between students who speak English and those who are just learning it. Students just learning to speak English made smaller gains at scoring “proficient” and at or above “goal” than their native English speaking counterparts in all grade levels and content areas.
Patrick Riccards, CEO of Connecticut Coalition of Achievement Now, estimated the achievement gap on the CMT’s was narrowed by less than one percent, while the gap widened among English Language Learners. On the CAPT the gap was narrowed by 1.2 to 1.4 percent and widened with English Language Learners.
“This year’s results reveal noteworthy achievement gains in many districts,” Riccards said. “Our neediest students continue to perform significantly worse than their wealthier peers, especially at the high school level. Clearly, there is more work to be done.”
The state’s largest teacher’s union applauded the progress being made by students, but warned parents and policymakers not to rely too heavily on test scores.
“State test scores are not the sole indicator of student academic growth and development or teacher effectiveness,“ Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said. “Teacher-designed assignments that challenge students to expand their skills and knowledge give greater insight into the strengths of students as they develop over time. This approach fosters excitement and engagement in learning.”
Next year, the state will be piloting a teacher evaluation system, which relies on standardized tests scores as a measure of a teacher’s performance.
The tests scores for your school or school district can be found here . Parents will receive notification of individual student performance results for their children in September, according to the Education Department.