CMT Scores Lower for Latino Students on Food Assistance


CT Voices, an independent research and advocacy group for Connecticut children, says statistics show improvement on Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores among the Latino population but improvement is slightly less for those not receiving free or reduced price school meals.
The report revealed, “Notably, Black and Latino students that were not eligible for free or reduced price meals in the 2009-2010 matched cohort started out in third grade, on average, at a substantially higher point than low-income students in their same racial and ethnic minority group.”
According to the report from CT Voices, “Despite different starting points, black, Latino, English Language Learning students, and students with disabilities on average experienced a comparable amount of growth or improvement on the standard CMT in math and reading from one year-grade 3 in 2009 — to the next-grade 4 in 2010 — compared to the statewide average.”
Robert Cotto, Jr., Ed.M., a senior policy fellow at the institute, wrote in the report that standards based results, like those generated from the CMTs, are going to play a major role in education reform recently passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Cotto points out, though, that students on free or reduced price lunches in those groups aren’t doing as well. “[They] start out lower on the vertical scale and average slightly less improvement,” he reported.
The thrust of the report is on the alternate measure of educational progress – vertical scale scores – that can present a different picture of change over time in the performance of Connecticut students. As the report reveals, each summer, the state reports the results of the CMT by showing what percent of students scored at five different levels: below basic, basic, proficient, goal, and advanced.  These types of “standards-based” levels are the most widely cited measures of educational progress in Connecticut and will take on increasing importance in the new education law.
The report points out, however, that standards-based reporting may miss improvement that occurs within levels and does not explain improvement over time on different grade-level tests within a subject area. “Therefore, the state Department of Education developed an additional improvement indicator in 2007 — vertical scale scores,” Cotto wrote.
He said, “Vertical scales allow us to understand how students perform on the state tests of math or reading in one grade compared to the next grade, despite more difficult and different math content.  Vertical scale scores are a rough indicator of improvement on the standard CMT from one year to the next, following the same group, or matched cohort, of children.”
There is one major caveat, though from Cotto’s report. “According to the state Department of Education, vertical scale scores, like proficiency rates, should never be used as the sole basis for making important educational decisions without taking into account additional classroom or school-based information. Nor should vertical scale score increases or improvement alone be conflated with educational progress, school, or district performance.”