Connecticut is failing to meet the educational needs of many of its Hispanic students, according to a new report by Connecticut Voices for Children. The analysis by the research-based policy think tank finds that achievement gaps that achievement gaps at goal level between Hispanic and white students exist in every school district in Connecticut for which data about Hispanic students are publicly available, regardless of income level, geographic region, size, or percentage of Hispanic students. The size of these gaps can vary significantly between districts.
“Every child in Connecticut should have equal access to educational opportunity,” said Annemarie Hillman, Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children and co-author of the report. “These findings indicate that we are falling far short of guaranteeing that opportunity.”
The report examined statewide and district-level data on the Hispanic-white achievement gap, as measured by scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) for fourth and eighth graders. It focused on students who meet the “goal” performance level established by the state. Among the findings of the report:
- Although the percentages of Hispanic and white students statewide who meet or exceed the goal level have generally risen over the last five years, the gaps between Hispanic and white scores have remained relatively constant, with slight improvements in fourth and eighth grade reading and fourth grade math, and more significant improvements in eight grade math and science.
- Achievement gaps between Hispanic students and white students who meet the goal level are present across all districts in the state, but vary significantly between districts. For example, in Glastonbury, Manchester, and Trumbull in 2009-2010, fourth grade white students were 1.3 times more likely to score at or above goal than their Hispanic peers; in contrast, in 11 districts, fourth grade white students were at least two times more likely to meet or exceed goal in reading than fourth grade Hispanic students. These eleven districts were Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Stamford, Vernon, Wallingford, West Hartford, West Haven, and Windham.
- Districts vary considerably in their success in meeting the needs of Hispanic students, as measured by the percentage of Hispanic students meeting the goal in CMT scores. For example, in 2009-2010 in Glastonbury, Greenwich, Manchester, Shelton, Southington, Trumbull, and Windsor, fifty percent or more of Hispanic students scored above goal in fourth-grade reading. In contrast, in eight other districts, less than 25 percent of fourth grade Hispanic students scored at goal or better in reading in 2010. These eight districts were Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Vernon, West Haven, and Windham. Statewide, only 30.9 percent of Hispanic students met or exceed goal in fourth grade reading.
- English language ability contributes to achievement gaps at goal level between Hispanic and white students; however, these gaps cannot be attributed solely to differences in English language skills. For example, statewide, 30.9 percent of fourth grade Hispanic students scored at or above goal in reading in 2009-2010. Even when Hispanic English Language Learning (ELL) students are excluded, only 37.5 percent of fourth grade, non-ELL Hispanics in Connecticut met or exceeded goal in that subject.
The report highlights the importance of closing this achievement gap to the state’s economy and future well-being. Hispanic students comprise the largest minority group in Connecticut schools, making up approximately one in six children (17.3%) in Connecticut schools.
“The state’s growing Hispanic population is essential to the health our state’s economy,” said Jamey Bell, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices. “Unless we make substantial progress soon in broadening educational opportunities and identifying interventions that work best, the economic future for all of us will be imperiled.”
The report suggests better data are needed to evaluate the influence of factors such as family income and parent education level that contribute to the achievement gap. It also suggests sharing best practices from districts that have improved scores of Hispanic students or narrowed their achievement gaps, and targeting interventions in communities where gaps are greatest.
About the report: The appendix of the report includes district-level data on this achievement gap, as measured by:
- Scores from 2008 to 2010 on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) for fourth and eighth graders in reading and math for the 12 school districts with the largest Hispanic student populations (non-charter districts with Hispanic populations greater than 30%). These districts are Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury, and Windham.
- CMT scores from 2010 for fourth and eighth graders in reading math, science, and writing for the 44 school districts for which the scores of Hispanic students are reported. These districts are Ansonia, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, Enfield, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Groton, Hamden, Hartford, Manchester, Meriden, Middletown, Milford, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, New Milford, Newington, Newtown, Norwalk, Norwich, Seymour, Shelton, Southington, Stamford, Stratford, Torrington, Trumbull, Vernon, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Hartford, West Haven, Wethersfield, Windham, and Windsor. (Certain goal level subject or grade level scores are not reported for Bethel, Branford, Derby, Enfield, Newtown, and Seymour.)
The report, “Are Connecticut Schools Meeting the Needs of Hispanic Students?,” is available on the Connecticut Voices website. (This report does not reflect the recently released 2011 CMT scores. Caution should be used in comparing 2011 CMT scores for racial/ethnic groups to data from earlier years, because of changes in the SDE classification questions.)