HARTFORD, CT – More than 550-thousand Connecticut children return to the classroom this week, but they are returning to a state system that is producing the largest achievement gap in the nation.

In Connecticut, the gap between low-income and non low-income students is wider than that of any other state. Studies show that 4th and 8th grade low-income students in the state are, on average, roughly three grade-levels or more behind non low-income students in reading and math.

“This gap is unacceptable and should be of concern to every resident of the state,” said Steven J. Simmons, Chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement. “It is not only a tragedy for the children affected, but will have a dramatic impact on the future welfare of Connecticut. And it is a problem that not only affects our urban areas; non-urban towns throughout the state are also seeing wide performance disparities among their students.”

Research shows that the state’s achievement gap has a negative financial impact on Connecticut’s economy. “An increasing percentage of Connecticut’s population does not have the skills needed to get jobs,” said Dudley N. Williams, Jr., also a member of The Commission. “Connecticut’s high school dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed. Connecticut is highly dependent on a skilled labor force and the state’s businesses are finding it difficult to fill jobs with well-trained workers. We have a moral and economic imperative to educate our children in a way that leads them to good jobs and self-sufficiency.”

The Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement was established in March, 2010 by Governor Jodi Rell. The volunteer and privately funded bipartisan commission is researching why Connecticut has one of the largest achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers, and in October 2010 will make recommendations to the Governor, lawmakers, relevant state and local institutions and the public on how to close it.

Commissioner Yvette Melendez said, “Progress is being made in some districts. And, there are some high performing schools in high poverty districts. But the gap is still dramatic statewide. Significant improvement won’t come without significant changes.”