On Tuesday, during a press conference in Meridan, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell announced a slight increase in SAT scores. During the conference, the governor said he was “proud of the progress” being made.
To which, I can’t help but reply: What progress?
I mean, yeah, Connecticut ‘s White and affluent students saw gains on the SAT, but what about everyone else? You know, the other half of all students attending Connecticut schools.
Even with the modest increase, according to the Connecticut Mirror, one-third of all high school juniors aren’t reading or writing well enough to begin taking college courses and in math only half. Not much to cheer about.
In math scores overall from across the state went up by two points and in English Language Arts (ELA) 0.4 points, but if you look at the chart above, you might notice, that the increase can almost entirely be accounted for by an increase in the scores of White students.
The number of White students meeting grade level goals in math went from 49.9 percent to 53.4 percent, meaning the number of Black students who met goals only went up by 0.1 percent — that means the achievement gap in Connecticut between Black and White students has increased. That’s not ok.
The gap in ELA is slightly narrower. Black and Hispanic kids did see some growth, but the achievement gap is still larger than it was last year.
Why Does This Matter?
Other than the obvious — there’s going to be a whole lot of college freshman a year from now forced to take remedial classes.
Think of the repercussions of this.
A widening achievement gap, where the majority of Black, Hispanic and low-income kids are forced to take remedial classes — classes that cost lots of money. We already have a generation of students saddled with student loan debt, and these are are the kids more likely to be reliant on loans.
This is what economic and racial inequity looks like, and it’s only going to get worse if we continue on this path.
The fact is we are not upholding the promises of article eight of the Connecticut Constitution, which guarantees all children a substantially equal education.
How Did This Happen?
State Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruling in the landmark CCJEF v. Rell school funding case, called the state out for the way education funding is distributed.
Ultimately, the reason he ruled the state’s funding system unconstitutional came down to the fact that Connecticut’s system allows “rich school districts to flourish and poor school districts to flounder.”
These SAT scores are a symptom of a larger problem, one that state leaders refuse to face.
Judge Moukawsher ruled last fall that the state had to fix the Education Cost Sharing formula (ECS), the main operating grant that funds school districts. In his ruling, he pointed out that two years ago, when districts across the state saw cuts, a handful of rich suburbian towns ended up getting increases.
The same year towns like Bridgeport, Waterbury and Hartford saw $500,000 in cuts, Greenwich public schools got a $1.25 million increase in school aid.
Has either major party attempted to fix the formula? NOPE.
This Is About More Than Money
For his part, Gov. Malloy did announce that if the state legislature didn’t get their act together, he’d revise his executive order and shield the 30 lowest performing districts from cuts, but there’s only so much he can do.
He can rewrite the formula, but he can’t raise revenue. There are limits to his executive power when it comes to re-allocating funding.
This also goes beyond funding.
Judge Moukawsher called the state out for non-existent school accountability and since then the only thing that the state Department of Education and legislature has done is further dismantle it. This is part of the problem.
For more on PEAC’s decision to take tests scores out of teacher evaluations: here’s my coverage
Clearly, we haven’t learned our lesson. The CCJEF Judge called out the state’s school accountability for being “virtually useless,” and only months later the state moved to further undermine it — a move that was done almost entirely to appease teachers union leadership.
Politics rules the day and that’s why kids end up losing out, but kids grow up.
State leaders need to ask themselves, what are we going to do when we have an entire generation of students who were failed by the school system?
In case you’d like to watch the full press conference, I’ve added CT-N’s video below: