Recalling that the greatest barriers to academic success, as measured by standardized tests, are poverty, language barriers and special education needs, what do the Connecticut Mastery Tests Mean?
For that we turn to the experts;
“We’re pleased to see that there are signs of progress in our schools. 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.”
—Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education
“This year’s results reveal noteworthy achievement gains in many districts…”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.”
–-Patrick Riccards, education reform lobbyist and CEO of ConnCAN, a charter school advocacy organizations created by Achievement First Inc., which is Connecticut’s largest charter school management company.
Late yesterday, the Malloy Administration released the full results of Connecticut’s 2012 Mastery Tests.
Initially the Administration told Connecticut’s school districts that the Connecticut Mastery Test results were “embargoed” until Friday, meaning towns weren’t supposed to talk about them, especially not with the media.
Whether it was due to a change in strategy, or something else, the Administration decided it was time to release the scores.
Higher-income students perform at or above the “goal” level more than lower-income students
Suburban students score much higher on the standardized tests than urban students
White students score significantly higher than black and Hispanic students
The “achievement gap”, that is the difference between the wealthiest students and poorest students, remain the largest-in-the-nation. In Avon, for example, 91.5 percent of students scored at or above goal. In Hartford, only about 33 percent of the students scored at or above goal.
However,the results indicate that over the last six years, the test scores for poorer students increased much more than did the scores for wealthier students.
While the overall scores improved in urban areas, CT Newsjunkie also reports that, “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.”
Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s 2012 education law includes a new teacher evaluation system that will be used to determine whether teachers should be retained or fired. A core component of that system relies on whether teachers can improve their student’s standardized test scores.
The teacher evaluation portion of the law has been hailed as the most significant education reform module. For example, the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green observed that “finally, we may be able to clearly and fairly assess good teachers….teachers must demonstrate they are effective. Regular evaluations will be based, in part, on whether students are learning.”
And that returns us to the single most important, but unanswered, question of them all.
When it comes to a teacher’s capabilities, how do we interpret change in test scores?
If the percentage improvement was better in urban areas, does that mean teachers in those poor communities are doing a better job educating and improving their student’s skill levels than teachers in the wealthy suburban districts?
Take Example #1:
Let us say that in City “M”, where test scores are low due to poverty and language barriers, there is a 5 percent improvement in the number of 4th grader who score at goal on the Connecticut Mastery Test in reading. Meanwhile, in nearby City “A,” a wealthy suburban town, where the number of students at goal is three times higher, there was actually a .5 percent drop in the number of students at goal. Which teachers did better?
Or take Example #2
In City “H,” there are two 4th grade classes. “Mrs. K has a class of 25 students, all of whom come from poor households. 6 aren’t fluent in English, 10 others speak English but come from homes where English is not used as their primary language and 5 students have special education needs. Nearby Mrs. R has a class of 22 students. Her students also come from poor households, but all speak English and 9 have special education needs. In this case, the test results come in and, both classes see a 2 percent increase in the number of students at goal. Which teacher has done a better job?
For more on the 2012 Connecticut Mastery Test results check out the following articles.