By Christina Rose
As Connecticut adjusts to the new Common Core standards, officials hope they will be a better predictor of success.
While schools in the state have come to rely on the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Connecticut Academic Performance Tests to help assess student progress, those scores may not actually predict which students will graduate and succeed, particularly for Hispanic students.
Statistics show that even children who do poorly on mastery and CAPT tests may still graduate. In fact, the rate of graduation was close to double the percentage of English language learners students who reached performance targets in Bridgeport, New London, and Hartford high schools.
“It does look more certainly that the standards are aligned to college and career expectations,” said Dr. Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, chief academic officer for the Connecticut Department of Education.
The state is transitioning toward the Common Core standards, which Roberge-Wentzell said are designed to increase student achievement and better prepare them for college or career. The standards also will better align what students are doing from one school system to another, she said.
The lack of correlation between graduation rates and scores, is seen as one of the reasons for the need to adopt the new education standards.
While the variance between the current tests’ scores and graduation rates was lower and closer for Hispanic students, the graduation rate for those schools was still higher than the test performance rates. Hispanic students make up almost three-quarters of ELL students in Connecticut.
In Danbury, of ELL students only 24 percent reached performance targets but graduation rates were 62 percent. For Hispanic students 41 percent hit performance targets, yet 69 percent graduated.
A New Haven high school’s 19.6 percent of ELL students reached performance targets, yet 45 percent graduated, while 29.7 percent of Hispanics students made the test grade, yet 32 percent graduated.
According to Marie Salazar Glowski, an ELL/bilingual education consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education, the state has never tracked a comparative study between test scores and graduation rates.
“One could predict that if the scores are continually increasing over time, there is an excellent chance that the student will graduate,” she said.
But educators agree that there are many indicators that reflect the success of any student.
“High expectations on the part of teachers and rigorous curriculum will result in greater success for ELLS,” Salazar-Glowski said.
The state has converted to Common Core standards, which maintain the same standard for education and expectations throughout 49 states. In 2014, the CMT and CAPT test will be abandoned and replaced with new tests based on the Common Core Standards.
“Common Core raises the bar for students.
General education teachers, with the help of TESOL-Bilingual teachers, need to make the more rigorous content accessible for ELL students,” Education Department spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said.
“We are reforming teacher preparation programs to ensure teachers get the knowledge and tools they need to support ELL students.” Donnelly continued, “With the right supports and resources for teachers and ELL students, they will be able to access this more rigorous Common Core State Standards curriculum.”
BridgeportCentralHigh School teacher Drucilla Maldonado said ELL families are more likely to move often. An advantage of Common Core standards is that students should find the same standards in one school as another, even if they move to another state.
Outlining other reasons students may drop out, Maldonado said some students fail to graduate, even with high test scores. Peer pressures and lack of family support may also have an effect on the success of students.
“Many kids go to school, but teachers never come in to meet the parents. They may be working a lot, maybe they are not at home,” she said. “Many times parents can’t read, so they have their kids translate for them, or they take the kids to translate at doctor appointments or interviews.” Maldonado said when parents take their children out of school for any reason, the children’s education will suffer, which can cause the student to fail.
“For students in high school, the unfortunate reality is that some may drop out as a result of frustration and a feeling of failure, which sometimes may be true for ELL students,” Donnelly said.
“I think it is a very big shock when students move come here. Society here is very permissive, and when the parents aren’t home, they spend too much time by themselves and they get in trouble. They try to belong and do what other kids do. But I always say whoever wants to succeed can do it, no matter how many obstacles they face.”
Connecticut’s education system has been experiencing reform since 2010, and according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, “We are entering a new era in public education, one where we help struggling schools improve to the benefit of every child that attends them. Everyone wants to see the next generation in Connecticut thrive, and everyone plays a role in making that happen.”
By Christina Rose