Despite an ongoing effort by Gov. Dannel Malloy to improve student achievement and narrow the nation's worst achievement gap, the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test results released Tuesday show statewide declines in the third through eighth grade tests results in reading, math, writing and science -- all the subjects tested.
State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor attributed the decline in CMT scores to the transition to Common Core State Standards.
"It is increasingly apparent that our legacy tests are out of sync with the new common core standards," Pryor said.
Student scores for the CMTs, as well as the Connecticut Academic Performance Tests given to high school sophomores, fall into five categories, including proficient, which counts when determining if the schools are meeting the demands of No Child Left Behind Act, and goal, which is considered challenging but is the state target.
Statewide, fewer than two in three third graders can reach the goal set for them in reading and math. By eighth grade, 65.7 percent of students statewide met the goal in math and 78.9 percent met the reading goal. In both cases, the percentages were lower than they had been in 2012.
In Norwalk, 61.7 percent of third graders met the goal in math, down from 70.1 in 2012, and 51.4 percent met goal in reading, down from 57.9 in 2012. By eighth grade, 63.8 percent of students in Norwalk met the goal in math and 73.8 had met the reading goal. In both cases, the percentages were higher than they had been in 2012 and the same occurred in writing and science. In most cases however, Norwalk's CMT data demonstrates a marked improvement over the baseline year of 2006. The one exception was sixth grade writing where 55.2 percent met goal in 2013, down from 55.6 in 2006.
There was a big leap in improvement in seventh grade reading--56.5 percent met goal in 2006 while 81.5 met goal in 2013.
Statewide high school sophomores who took the CAPT, showed modest improvement over the class that came before them in reading, math and science, although only 48.5 percent -- fewer than half -- could reach the goal in reading, compared to 47.5 percent in 2012. In math, 52.6 percent met the goal in 2013, compared to 49.3 percent in 2012.
In Norwalk, 42.4 percent met goal in math, up from 32.5 in 2012; 35.5 percent met goal in science, up from 32.4 in 2012; 36.7 percent met goal in reading, down from 36.8 in 2012; and 52.7 met goal in writing, up from 52.5 in 2012. Compared to the baseline year of 2007, student performance increased in all content areas.
"I was pleased to see gains on the state CAPT tests, especially in science and math," said Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manuel Rivera in a statement.
"I am not surprised by the performance of Norwalk's students on the CMT tests, given Norwalk's transition to Common Core State Standards that began more than a year ago. I believe that it is important for parents to note that the CMT tests will cease to exist at the end of this school year (spring 2014), and the entire state will transition to new assessments that will be aligned with Common Core Standards. The results of these new assessments in 2015 will become a new baseline for us with which to track our progress as a school district."
Rivera said that Norwalk's results are generally "on par" with results across the state as reported by the commissioner, however, there are some distinctions that should be noted regarding Norwalk's performance when compared to the state.
In mathematics, compared to the state, a higher percentage of Norwalk students reached proficiency and goal at grades 3 and 4.
The percent of grade 7 students reaching proficiency exceeded grade 7 statewide results.
Compared to 2012, there were increases in the percent of students reaching goal at grades 4 and 8.
In reading compared to the state, a higher percent of Norwalk students reached proficiency and goal at grade 7.
Grade 8 students were on par with statewide proficiency results for the first time.
Compared to 2012, there were increases in the percent of students reaching goal at grades 4, 7, and 8.
In writing, compared to the state, a higher percent of Norwalk students reached proficiency and goal at grade 4.
The percent of grade 5 students reaching proficiency exceeded statewide results.
Compared to 2012 there were increases in the percent of students reaching goal at grades 4, 5, 7, and 8.
Rivera noted that Norwalk's 2013 CAPT results show progress in mathematics and science, state results exceed Norwalk results in all content areas and the smallest gap between Norwalk and the state is in writing, both at proficiency and goal.
Progress on narrowing the so-called achievement gap between students statewide was a mixed bag. On the 10th grade test, for instance, the scoring gap widened between white and students who are Hispanic, African American or English language learners. The gap seems to have narrowed somewhat in science.
The decline in scores notwithstanding, Pryor said there are signs that the significant steps being taken by the state are working, noting improvements in schools the state has targeted for intensive improvement, including Curiale School in Bridgeport.
Rivera noted that the Norwalk school district is working to complete the subgroup analysis for both CMT and CAPT results.