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Fourth- And Eighth-Graders Show Little Gain On National Test

Students' performance is slipping compared with other states

Kathleen Megan

November 01, 2011

Connecticut's fourth- and eighth-graders showed little progress on a national standardized test known as the "The Nation's Report Card."

The scores released Tuesday for the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress test reflected no improvement or a small decline in performance for Connecticut students in reading and math, except on the eighth-grade reading test where there was a slight improvement.

"Connecticut's students have not shown the level of progress that other states have achieved," the state Department of Education said in a statement.

The test also provided continuing evidence that students from the suburbs far outperform those from the cities. "Connecticut is among the top 10 states with the largest achievement gap based on every subgroup comparison," the education department's statement continued. "In many cases our state is in the first position."

"The combination of stagnation in overall achievement and a severe achievement gap one of the worst in the nation is not acceptable," said State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. "We ought to interpret this data as a mandate for change. We simply cannot keep doing what we're doing and expect better results."

Allan Taylor, chairman of the state Board of Education, said the scores show "we haven't been making any significant progress at all. There is nothing comforting."

"This news is a sobering reminder of the real disparity in our state between some of the highest-performing school systems, and some of the lowest," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a prepared statement. "Regardless of where a child lives, what their parents do or how much money they have, it's our job to ensure they get an education that encourages them to grow and prepares them to succeed. It's clear that we're not there yet."

The test results showed that 45 percent of fourth-graders were proficient at math in 2011, compared with 46 percent in 2009. In reading, 42 percent were proficient both years. For eighth-graders, 40 percent were proficient in math in 2009, compared with 38 percent in 2011.

The percentage of eighth-graders proficient in reading climbed slightly from 43 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2011.

Jennifer Alexander, director of research and policy for ConnCan, the nonprofit education reform group, said that traditionally Connecticut has outperformed the national averages on this test, "but we are starting to see that edge diminish."

She noted that the scores for fourth-graders on the math test were only a couple of points higher than the national average.

"I think these numbers should really be a wake-up call for the state of Connecticut," Alexander said. "We've had the largest achievement gaps on a number of assessments, in a number of areas. In most areas, those gaps have widened."

She said that some have argued that Connecticut has a large achievement gap because the high-achieving students do so well, but, she said, the state's low-income students don't perform as well as low-income students in 34 other states.

The state's analysis said that Connecticut's economically disadvantaged students scored below the "national public average" for their peer group.

Pryor is expected to talk about the test results Wednesday at the state Board of Education meeting at the state Legislative Office Building.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress test is given every two years in reading and math to a representative sampling of students in grades 4, 8 and 12. It is the closest thing to a national test that the country has.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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