Achievement Gap, Largest In Nation, Narrows Slightly
July 16, 2010
The results of the 2010 Connecticut Academic Performance Test for 10th grade students show improvement in many areas, including a slight reduction in the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their more affluent and white peers.
Results of the test, which were released Friday, are an important measure of the overall quality of secondary education in Connecticut and also give parents quantitative results to use in communicating with teachers and their children, state officials said.
"This year's CAPT results are encouraging and indicate that efforts being made by districts and supported by the Department of Education are having an impact on student achievement," state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said in a statement.
About 40,000 students statewide took the test. Overall, this year's results showed gains in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level or at or above the goal level in mathematics and science. The goal level is the state's target for student performance.
The percentage of students scoring at the goal level in the writing portion of the test also showed marked improvement, while the percentage scoring at the proficient level dropped slightly.
In the reading category, the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level improved slightly, while the percentage scoring at or above goal decreased slightly from 2009.
Tom Murphy, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Friday that the state uses the test to ensure that high schools are providing effective, varied instruction.
"The question is, are they reaching each student?" Murphy said, adding that the test scores allow parents to communicate better with their children about their educational future.
"Parents can use this to say, 'Where are we going with your educational career?' " he said.
The test is also an important way for the state to track its efforts to close the achievement gap, the largest in the country.
According to state Department of Education statistics, the achievement gap between white and minority students decreased in a majority of content areas from 2009. The percentage of black and Hispanic students scoring at or above the proficient level on the test increased from 48.1 to 54.9 percent, and from 50.4 to 57.6 percent, respectively.
On the writing portion of the test, the percentage of black and Hispanic students scoring at or above goal increased from 25.7 to 31.9 percent, and from 26.4 to 32.5 percent, respectively.
But the percentage of black and Hispanic students scoring at or above goal on the reading portion of the test declined from 18.1 to 16.3 percent and 20.5 to 18.4 percent, respectively. Overall, white students are still outperforming minority students by a large margin.
"Even though we are making some gains, it's still 30 points, so it's still a concern," Murphy said.
Murphy said the department is also concerned about the overall slow improvement in the math and science portions of the test and was hopeful that recently passed high school reform legislation will help to close the achievement gap and accelerate improvement in those portions of the test.
Gwen Samuel, chairwoman of the State of Black CT Alliance, said Friday that the new laws are just part of the solution.
"The new laws are in place July 1, but what does that mean?" she said. "We still have to monitor to make sure they're being implemented."
For Samuel that means holding educators accountable for making improvements.
"The increase is not sufficient for the money that's being spent on education," Samuel said. She said incremental improvements for poor and minority students are not cause for celebration. More dramatic improvements are required, she said.
"If we send that message out, scores will improve," she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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