By Michael Puffer
HARTFORD — Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy touted success in narrowing the state’s academic achievement gap between white and minority students, citing student performance on the SAT college entry exams and Advanced Placement exams.
On average, black students improved their performance on all segments of the SAT tests — though they still lag behind both Hispanic and white students, according to figures from the state Department of Education.
Hispanics lost a little ground in all three subjects. Whites, on average, held steady in reading and lost a little ground in math and writing.
White students in general continue to score well above their minority peers on the SAT. In math, for example, the average white test taker scored 531 points, compared to 430 points for Hispanics and 403 for black students.
“While we still have a long way to go to ensure that all students are achieving at high levels, these results demonstrate that we are making significant progress in reducing the achievement gap for a significant percentage of our minority students,” Malloy said, according to a release issued by his office.
Malloy claimed that minorities are making “significant strides” passing the AP tests. Certainly, the numbers of AP tests taken by minority students has climbed significantly.
The number black students taking AP tests climbed to 1,640 last academic year, up 36 percent from the 2011-12 school year, according to analysis of state figures. A total of 2,437 Hispanic students took AP tests, up 27.4 percent. The number white students taking AP tests also saw a significant bump over the past three years, up 9 percent to 18,335.
SAT participation has also consistently climbed in each of the past three years. Last year, 3,532 black students, 3,955 Hispanic students and 18,335 white students took the test. The number of white students taking the SAT climbed last year, but is still down 474 students from 2012.
Two of Connecticut’s leading education reform groups sounded notes of caution about the numbers released by the College Board this week.
“Fewer than 43 percent of Connecticut kids who took the test were ready for college-level work, according to SAT results,” said Jennifer Alexander, head of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN. “That’s more than 50 percent of kids who graduated without the tools they need to succeed. We clearly need to do better, for all our kids, in every school.”
Connecticut Council for Education Reform Executive Director Jeffrey Villar said his group is pleased to see more minority students taking SAT and AP exams, and some improvement on the pervasive achievement gap. But Villar also warned against reading too much into a single year’s improvement.
“We won’t really know whether Connecticut’s achievement gap is narrowing until we can track a longitudinal trend,” Villar said.
Family income appears to play a big factor, according to figures in the College Board report on Connecticut’s performance on the SAT in 2014. Scores rose consistently with level of family income across all subjects.
In Connecticut, 2,039 members of the Class of 2014 who took SATs came from families earning between $20,000 to $40,000 yearly. This group achieved an average reading score of 467. The next tier up, families earning $40,000 to $60,000, had an average of 488 in reading. Students from families in the top income tier — greater than $200,000 — scored an average of 576.
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