Increase in Test Scores Questioned | Connecticut Public Radio

Increase in Test Scores Questioned

Jan 26, 2012

Connecticut’s seen a jump in student test scores in recent years. But as WNPR’s Neena Satija reports, a study released today/Thursday suggests that jump may be explained by a new way of collecting data.

In the past few years, scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test appear to have been on the rise. In 2009 the number of students who scored at or above the proficiency level on statewide standardized assessments increased by several percentage points. But Robert Cotto, of the non-profit children’s advocacy group Connecticut Voices for Children, doesn’t think students’ performance is actually improving. He thinks something else is different.  

COTTO: “There was a change in federal and state policy on the testing of students with disabilities.”

In 2007, the federal government allowed states to give students with certain disabilities a modified assessment. Connecticut was one of several states to take up that offer, and soon afterward, many students with disabilities were taking a different test instead of the CMT. Cotto says that’s the reason CMT scores appeared to go up in 2009.

COTTO: “Their shift from the standard CMT to the modified assessment actually distorted the number of students that were scoring at proficient or above.”

For example, the state reports that the proportion of 4th graders with reading scores at proficient or above went up by nearly 5 percent in 2009. But when Cotto eliminated students with disabilities from both counts, he found that the percentage increased by only 1 percent. Cotto says the state needs to re-examine the way it reports these scores.

COTTO: “This matters. Because proficiency rates are what is calculated for No Child Left Behind and the calculation of Annual Yearly Progress, and so we’re concerned that if you’re using this particular indicator which we’ve identified as having been distorted, that we’re using an indicator that could be giving us incorrect information and could be a bit misleading.”

And that information plays an important role in how Connecticut allocates educational resources across the state.

For WNPR, I’m Neena Satija.