From September to March, Connecticut students practiced for the big Connecticut Mastery Tests.
Then, over the course of nearly two weeks in March, the moment of truth finally arrived.
Test proctors took their positions, students were given #2 pencils and bubble sheets, and the process began to find out if our children were, in fact, stupid or smart.
At stake was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Thanks to Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill, starting this September, these tests will also play a significant role in determining which teachers get to keep their jobs and which will be fired due to their incompetence.
The State’s new teacher evaluation pilot program, which will be rolled out statewide the following year, begins with the requirement that standardized test score results account for 22.5 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation and that a total of 45 percent of their evaluation be based on the academic performance of their students.
Connecticut’s “education reformers” wanted the CMT test results, themselves, to count for a full 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, but they were beaten down by the teacher unions and a few Democratic legislators who stood in the way of that proposal.
Now, four months after our children took the all-important Connecticut Mastery Tests, we are finally getting the results.
Although parents have yet to get the individual results for their children, the State Department of Education was helpful enough to break out each school district so that the local board of education, superintendent, principals, teachers, parents, community and media could find out whether their children are getting smarter or dumber and where they stand compared to their neighboring school districts.
Now that the results have arrived, it is clear that unfortunately Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and his staff, did not provide a sufficiently cogent and complete explanation about how we are supposed to interpret some of these numbers.
Take Mansfield, Connecticut’s K-8 school system for example;
As the chart below reveals, the percent of students scoring at “goal” and at “proficiency” were up in grades 3, 4, 6 and 7.
However, in grade 5, the scores really tumbled, raising major red flags. (Look for the numbers highlighted in red below).
While we have yet to see the breakdown by teacher, the breadth of the drop in the 5th grade scores raises the specter that one of two things is happening.
Either Mansfield’s 5th graders are unusually stupid compared to their counter-parts in other grades or some of Mansfield’s teachers are relatively incompetent compared to their colleagues, despite the fact that the Mansfield Middle School is regularly recognized as one of the outstanding middle schools in the state and nation.
As people know, Mansfield parents are particularly committed to student achievement and success, so it was with great disappointment that we learned that Commissioner Pryor did not provide an explanation about how to handle the drop in the 5th grade scores.
If Mansfield’s 2012 5th grade just happen to be stupider than other classes, do we invest additional resources in the 6th grade to try and save these students or do we simply allow this unfortunate wave to flow through our school system.
Alternatively, if the drop was due to incompetence on the part of our teachers, do we fire the 5th grade teachers because they failed to ensure that our 5th grader’s scores were higher or do we fire our 4th grade teachers because they didn’t prepare those students for the rigor of 5th grade?
Now it is true that we don’t know if this year’s 5th grade Connecticut Mastery test was, for some reason, harder. Furthermore, considering the greatest predictors of test scores are poverty, language barriers and special education needs, we don’t know if there happened to be a slightly larger number of poorer students, a slightly greater number of non-English speaking students or a disproportionate number of special education students in this year’s 5th grade.
But since Mansfield invests so much money in its schools, something needs to change as a result of the embarrassing drop in the 5th grade test scores.
Hopefully Commissioner Pryor and the State Department of Education will be providing guidance on these issues, but if not, Mansfield’s Board of Education must move quickly.
Since officially recognizing that this year’s 5th graders were particularly stupid will stigmatize those children, I personally believe that the better course of action would be to require the town to retrain or remove the teacher’s responsible for the drop in scores.
That is why it is so important for Connecticut’s education officials to tell us whether the failing teachers are the ones in the 5th grade or in the 4th grade, since it would certainly be unfair to punish the wrong teachers.
The following chart reveals Mansfield’s CMT scores by grade and selected proficiency level.
Readers should make every effort to acquire the results for their towns so that they too can demand that similar steps be taken to identify who is at fault for the disappointing scores their schools may have received.
|Mansfield CMT Scores
|Grade 3||Math % At/Above Goal||Math % At/Above Proficiency||Reading % At/Above Goal||Reading % At/Above Proficiency||Writing % At/Above Goal||Writing % At/Above Proficiency|