Monday, July 21, 2008

CT CMT Scores - Results And Issues

Here are this year's Connecticut Mastery Test Scores:

The scores are listed with percent that met State Goal and State established Proficiency levels. A state proficiency level was established and baseline data were collected for the 2001-2002 school year, according to information on the State's website.

"Goal" basically is CT's standards which are higher than those deemed "Proficient". The measurement of "Proficient" is used towards determining the Annual Yearly Progress for purposes of the No Child Left Behind legislation and Title 1 funding. Annual Yearly Progress measurements are raised every year because at some point 100% of all children in CT public schools will have to show that they are 100% proficient in each of the subjects. That was the point of NCLB, to put measurements in place and continue to raise the bar of how many kids can meet the proficiency levels. As that bar is raised, more and more schools may struggle to stay off the failing schools list. As it is, based on proficiency percentages alone, CT may look like we are doing fairly decently. Based on State goals which are higher standards, we clearly have more work to do in educating CT children.

You can find out more about what the difference is between what is meant by meeting Statewide "goal" and "proficiency by reading the "Performance Level Literals" in each category tested.

For example in Mathematics - The difference between meeting Goal and meeting Proficiency is
expressed as such (page 20 of the 2007 Interpretive Guide for the CMT):

Score of 242 – 287 Goal
Generally, third-grade students who perform at this level demonstrate extensive knowledge of grade-level content. These students demonstrate well-developed conceptual understanding, computational skills and problem-solving skills, as well as an ability to solve complex and abstract mathematical problems. Typically, the solutions these students provide to math problems are organized and include clear and concise explanations.

Score of 210 – 241 Proficient
Generally, third-grade students who perform at this level demonstrate adequate knowledge of grade-level content. These students demonstrate adequate conceptual understanding, computational skills and problem-solving skills, as well as an ability to solve complex and abstract mathematical problems. Typically, the solutions these students provide to math problems are adequate and include sufficient explanations.

Here were last year's Goal scores:

In comparison, scores for meeting "Goal" have pretty much remained the same from 2007-2008, hovering in the mid 60%. Some scores have gone up a tick or two and some have gone down a tick or two. Nothing startling, but what can be drawn from this is that even though CT has pumped more money into education, the results seem to be negligible based on State Goal percentages.

Studies have shown that you can throw more money at the problem but that will not necessarily translate into better performance.
"Raising student achievement levels and improving our schools is not a matter of spending more money doing the same things as before but rather using the resources we have available in better and more innovative ways," said ALEC Education Task Force Chairman Rep. Jane Cunningham from Missouri.
So what we ought to be looking at before we raise taxes even higher here in CT is to see what we are doing with the education funding already in place. People are already debating the issue of the need for more parental involvement (although when they choose to homeschool and really get involved, it's not a good idea - wink, wink) and the impact of the deterioration of home life as it affects kids' learning abilities.

You can't just throw money at social problems either. Either parents are going to involved in their kids' education or they are not. It has also already been seen that poor parents can be just as involved in their kids' education as more affluent parents. And while poor parents may have more of a struggle to juggle their work and life circumstances to deal with their kids' education, that's an issue that can and has been overcome by many caring parents without the help of state funding or legislation. You cannot legislate or fund desire and commitment.

Despite the fact that we have neglect laws, I still find it incredible that we solve the problem of kids not coming to school fed properly, by feeding them when they come to school. We somehow don't punish the parent who sends their kid to school without being properly fed or clothed. We tend to end up enabling the problem to continue. And for those parents who don't have the money for food or clothing for their kids, you cannot tell me that we do not have enough social programs in place to address that in the government and in the faith-based sector.

The State and schools can, and should, only do so much. Aside from making physical abuse illegal, they cannot dictate how people raise their kids or legislate the amount of interest their kids must have in educating their kids. Most parents have already abrogated their responsibility regarding educating their kids to the school systems. The social implication of that has already been felt as well. Parents have become lax in teaching their kids anything because they feel the school will cover it, and that goes from everything from sex education to manners, to instilling a sense of self-esteem to teaching right from wrong. If the school doesn't teach those things, then the media does. Therein certainly lays one problem.

Perhaps if CT wasn't so highly taxed that families need to spend more time at work to pay the bills and pay taxes, we might have more time for parents to be involved in their kids education. Perhaps if CT were more friendly to all choices in education there would be more opportunity for kids to find programs that work for them better, rather than being shoe-horned into traditional models that may no longer work well. Perhaps if we used our resources more wisely in the process of educating our kids, instead of just using resources to create and perpetuate jobs, they might do better. Perhaps if we took a closer look at what our curriculum contains and toss out the non-academic and social engineering aspects, then our kids would be better able to read and calculate and reason. There are so many ways that we can and should be looking to improve.

Getting back to teaching the basics is one way to improve. The tougher problem is to somehow bring accountability back into parenting, because many parents are just not doing their part. And I have news for you; that happens no matter what the family income level is.

One thing is for certain: we should be doing better and throwing more money at our education problems will certainly not guarantee any improvements.

Further reading: CT Education Cost Sharing Entitlements