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Are Connecticut Schools Meeting the Needs of Hispanic Students? Executive Summary Annemarie Hillman and Alexandra Dufresne,

Are Connecticut Schools Meeting the Needs of Hispanic Students? Executive Summary

Annemarie Hillman and Alexandra Dufresne, J.D.

July 2011

According to a June 2011 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Connecticut has one of

the largest “achievement gaps” − or differences in academic performance − in the United States between Hispanic students and their white peers, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. 1 To

study these claims at a local level, this report describes the size and nature of these gaps in school districts across Connecticut. These descriptions are based on a detailed analysis of the percentages of Hispanic and white students scoring at or above "goal" level on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), generally focusing on scores from 2007- 2008 through 2009-2010. (While student achievement is often analyzed in relation to the lower “proficient” standard, the Connecticut State Department of Education has identified goal as the standard to which all schools

and students should aspire, a "challenging, yet reasonable expectation for Connecticut students”). The purpose of

this report is to provide a foundation for a deeper, data-driven inquiry into methods of ensuring educational

opportunity for Connecticut’s Hispanic students. Identifying the relative severity of gaps in different communities

across Connecticut will help educators and policy-makers identify best practices and target interventions. By

describing in detail the degree and nature of Connecticut’s Hispanic achievement gaps, we hope to lay the

foundation for community-level and statewide conversations regarding both the urgency of the challenge and potential solutions.

Connecticut Voices for Children’s paper focuses on the test scores of Connecticut’s Hispanic students for several reasons. Hispanic children currently comprise the largest growing minority group in Connecticut schools. 2 Although Connecticut’s Hispanic student population is internally diverse, there are reasons to believe that many of Connecticut’s Hispanic students face common challenges. Most importantly, the significant disparities in test scores

between Connecticut’s Hispanic students and their white peers indicate that Connecticut is not meeting the needs of all of its students. This is concerning for two reasons. As a matter of principle, every child in Connecticut should have equal access to educational opportunity. As a matter of economics, Connecticut cannot afford such stark

educational divides, 3 particularly considering the large demographic shifts described in this paper.

Our analysis of Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) goal-level scores yields the following key findings: 4

Achievement gaps at goal level between Hispanic students and white students exist in every district in Connecticut for which data about Hispanic students are publicly available, regardless of income level, location, size, or percentage of Hispanic students.

Gaps between the percentages of Hispanic students and white students at goal level exist across grade level and subject matter.

Contrary to what might be expected, statewide, the largest gaps in performance at goal level are not always on the reading component of the CMT. For example, statewide in 2009-2010, eighth-grade Hispanic students faced larger gaps in math, science, and writing than they did in reading.

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The size of the achievement gaps between Hispanic students and white students at goal level 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 in reading than their Hispanic peers; in contrast, in eleven 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.

Many of Connecticut’s school districts struggle with low levels of absolute achievement among Hispanic students in all subject areas and grades.

In absolute terms, districts vary considerably in their success in meeting the needs of Hispanic students. 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, fewer 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 in 2009-2010, only 30.9 percent of Hispanic students met or exceed goal in fourth-grade reading.

In the state’s districts with student populations that are 30 percent or more Hispanic, achievement gaps at

goal level in math and reading between eighth-grade Hispanic students and white students have generally been equal to or greater than gaps at the fourth-grade level over the past three years.

Although the percentages of Hispanic and white students meeting or exceeding goal level have generally risen over the last five years, achievement gaps between scores have remained relatively constant, with slight improvements in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math, and more significant improvements in eighth-grade math and science.

English language ability contributes to achievement gaps at goal level between Hispanic and white students; however, our analysis shows that 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; 5 if Hispanic ELLs are removed from that number, 37.5 percent of fourth-grade, non- ELL Hispanics in Connecticut met or exceeded goal in that subject. 6

Although the percentages of Hispanic and white students achieving goal level or better tend to be higher in districts within wealthier communities, the achievement gaps in these districts are not necessarily smaller than those in other, less wealthy communities.

Better data are needed to understand more fully the weight of various factors such as income status and parental education level that contribute to the achievement gaps at goal level between Hispanic and white students.

  • 1 See F. Cadelle Hemphill and Alan Vanneman, “Achievement Gaps: How Hispanic and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES 2011-459)” National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (June 2011) (available at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2011459.pdf) (Hereinafter “NCES Report”).

  • 2 See the section of our report entitled “Background Regarding Connecticut’s Hispanic Student Population,” starting on pg. 4 of the report.

  • 3 See, e.g., Social Sector Office, “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,” McKinsey and Company (April 2009), 5-6 (available at http://www.mckinsey.com/App_Media/Images/Page_Images/Offices/SocialSector/PDF/achievement_gap_report.pdf).

  • 4 See Appendices A-D for Connecticut Mastery Test data and information about the size of achievement gaps at the state and district level.

  • 5 See Appendix A.

  • 6 See Appendix D.