A computer lab at an elementary school in Cromwell CtMirror.org
A computer lab at an elementary school in Cromwell CtMirror.org

Connecticut’s performance this year on the so-called ‘Nation’s Report Card,’ the country’s most comprehensive assessment of what students know, was remarkably the same as it was the last time the test was given two years ago.

The average student’s performance and the gaping gaps in achievement between different groups of students were largely unchanged.

This test – administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to a representative sample of students in each state every two years – is the only test that gives the public a sense of how their students compare with those in other states and provides a long-term performance trend.

“There really is no change,” Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the leader of the State Department of Education’s performance office, told reporters on Monday. “This test provides us with a consistent measure to compare us with the rest of the country.”

Connecticut was not alone, however. More than 40 states did not see a significant shift in reading or math scores over the last two cycles.

Here are five things to know about this year’s results.

1. Compared to other states, some groups of students thrive – others stumble

Students from low-income families in Connecticut are in the middle-of-the-pack compared to poor students from other states in reading. In math they were below most states.

Connecticut’s white students are among the highest performers in reading, but are average in math.

See how various groups of Connecticut students compare to their  peers from other states here:

2. Some achievement gaps remain the largest in U.S.

Connecticut has long had a reputation for having some of the largest gaps in achievement between minority students and their peers.

This year’s batch of scores did nothing to narrow those huge gaps and lower Connecticut’s infamous gap rankings. Gaps between Connecticut’s black and white students, as well as Hispanic and white students, are among the largest in the country.

See how various gaps in achievement among Connecticut’s students compare to those in other states:

3. No improvement

Connecticut students overall showed no significant changes in performance between the 2015 and 2017 tests. This means the average student’s test score was not considered proficient in reading or math in grades 4 and 8, though many surpassed the proficiency goal. The National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees the tests, defines proficiency as demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter that all students should know.

This year’s scores follow years of stagnant results and various state education reform efforts, such as intervening in some struggling schools and implementing Common Core State Standards in an effort to raise expectations.

The state launched Common Core in 2010 and 2011, but reading scores have not budged since then and math scores have slightly declined.

4. No significant changes among various groups

There were no significant increases or decreases among the various groups of students, which has left pervasive gaps in achievement between historically struggling students and their classmates.

Over the last 10 years or so, however, some groups of students have seen incremental increases. For example, students from low-income families have seen their scores rise somewhat in reading.

To see results for grade 8 reading and math click here and math here.

5. Other measures are important

State and federal officials were quick to remind reporters when releasing the national test results Friday that these scores – while considered the gold standard in comparing students from state-to-state and over-time – there is much more that determines whether a state’s public education system is heading in the right direction.

Want other ways to measure how Connecticut is doing? Here are some links to find out teacher ratios, chronic absentee rates, Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced test scores or a myriad of other facts about your school.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

Jake was Data Editor at CT Mirror. He is a former managing editor of The Ridgefield Press, a Hersam Acorn newspaper. He worked for the community newspaper chain as a reporter and editor for five years before joining the Mirror staff. He studied professional writing at Western Connecticut State University and is a graduate student in software engineering at Harvard Extension School.

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