State education officials touted improvements in several grade levels and subjects on the Connecticut Mastery Test scores released Thursday, but a statewide education advocacy group pointed out that efforts to close the achievement gap between students in wealthy and poor families have yielded only moderate success.
The state Department of Education said student performance on the CMT improved in several grades and content areas from last year, continuing a trend of incremental improvement since the baseline year of 2006.
The most consistent and significant increases in student performance occurred in reading and writing. Student performance in math and science increased in the early grades but declined in later grades.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said he was pleased there are "signs of progress" in numbers of students reaching state "goal" and federal "proficiency" levels. But Pryor admitted significant gaps in achievement remain between economically disadvantaged students and those with higher-income families.
"So there is reason for optimism regarding our system's ability to advance, as well as cause for continuing concern," Pryor said in a press release. "We need to work together to implement the reforms and initiatives we've recently launched in order to build on areas of progress and remedy the persistent problems in our schools."
But the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now said that in some cases - among African-American, Latino-Hispanic and low-income students - the achievement gap closed by less than 1 percent, and for English language learners, the gap widened.
African-American students in New London, however, far outperformed their counterparts statewide, where 59.7 percent of African-Americans scored at proficiency or better, In New London, that figure was 81.3 percent.
Part of the state education reform law passed this spring called for identifying 30 low-performing school districts called Alliance Districts, including Norwich and New London, to receive additional funding for reform. In addition, the John B. Stanton School in Norwich was named one of four Network Schools by the state slated for intense reform efforts.
The 2012 mastery test scores showed that Alliance Districts continue to perform far below other districts in all subjects and grade levels, state officials said, but some have made significant progress. New London scores improved in many categories. For example, the percentage of New London fourth-graders reaching the goal level in reading increased from 29 percent to 41.3 percent.
Norwich schools showed a mixture of increases and slight decreases in scores, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said. She said the Stanton School had some gains in previously weak areas, such as third and fifth grades, but "we're still low."
Mirroring statewide results, southeastern Connecticut suburban and rural school districts fared much better in nearly all grade levels and subjects compared to the region's cities. In third-grade math, for example, 42.7 percent of Norwich students and 46.2 percent of New London students reached the goal level, but smaller towns' scores ranged from Waterford's 64.5 percent to Salem's 83.3 percent reaching goal. Statewide, 66.8 percent of third-graders reached goal.