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Conn. tests show gains for minority students

Stephanie Reitz

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s black and Hispanic students continue to narrow the academic achievement gap with double-digit percentage improvements in math and reading skills over the last few years, according to test results released last week.

The Connecticut Mastery Test, given to about 250,000 students yearly, measures proficiency in reading, writing, science and math for public school children in third through eighth grades.

The results are also used to determine which elementary schools meet and fall short of academic benchmarks under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Connecticut Department of Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan said last Thursday the 2010 tests show students of all races and ethnicity have generally improved in all six grades and on all of the subjects tested in the last five years.

However, he said, the department recognizes there’s still work to be done to reach students who aren’t making as much progress.

“Our students are performing better, but challenges remain,” McQuillan said when his department released the scores, from which parents will receive individual reports in September on their children’s performance.

For years, standardized tests have shown achievement gaps between Connecticut’s white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts. The trend toward closing the gap became evident when Connecticut educators began tracking each year’s progress against baseline scores from 2006, when the Connecticut Mastery Test was expanded to include all students in third through eighth grades.

Before that, the test wasn’t administered to those in third, fifth and seventh grades. The test formats, scoring and length on some parts of the test also changed in 2006. The latest test results show that over the last five years, minority students have made much faster gains than white students.

Between 2006 and 2010, for example, the number of white fifth-graders scoring as proficient in math increased by 5.2 percentage points. For black and Hispanic students, the gain was 13.1 points.

Similarly, in eighth-grade math results, white students boosted their proficiency by 4.9 percentage points, compared to 15.3 for their black and Hispanic peers.

In reading, minority students in the eighth grade posted a proficiency boost of about 11.2 percentage points versus about 3.9 points for white eighth-graders.

The group with the best scores overall on the Connecticut Mastery Test were Asian students. They outperformed all other groups in each subject except eighth-grade reading and science, where their performance was very close to that of white students.

Associated Press