The Achievement Gap refers to the difference in educational progress in White students and their Black and Hispanic counterparts as well as socioeconomically troubled students and their well-off counterparts. According to an article in the CT Mirror published in November of 2013, “… Connecticut has had the worst achievement gap in the nation between its minority students and their peers in learning to read and do math” (Thomas, 2013). A number of organizations, including the Board of Education, are currently working to close this gap (“Connecticut Commission on Children,” 2013).
The success of students in Connecticut and across the United States is measured through standardized testing. NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tracks success and improvement through the administering of twelve subject area assessments, including civics, reading, science, math, and language to name a few (“Nations Report Card,” 2014).
CT Ed Reform, an organization aimed to help identify current issues within the Connecticut schooling systems, identifies the greatest factors contributing to the achievement gap as:
a) A lack of accountability throughout our system
b) Not setting high expectations
c) The need for more effective teachers and school leaders
d) Inefficient and opaque ways of funding education
e) Complacency with chronically low-achieving schools
This same organization recognizes that low-income also correlates with subpar academic success (“Connecticut Council for Education,” 2014).
One issue currently being tackled by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) is education reform. The main goal that they hope to realize is to “Provide all young people with the education they need to be productive citizens and contributors to Connecticut’s economic vitality.” Through issue initiatives and policy lobbying, CBIA will work to help close the achievement gap (CBIA Government Affairs, 2014). Noted on the CBIA website, Governor Malloy recently announced the creation of a new state agency called the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The office will focus on:
a) Improving academic programs and teacher training,
b) Increasing access to early care and education programs, and
c) Providing a comprehensive, collaborative system for delivering improved programs and services to children up to age five and their parents
The State of Connecticut recognizes the achievement gap issue and offers a few resources to struggling school districts—with funding being the greatest contributor. Through Education Cost Sharing, the State of Connecticut provides funding to municipalities to level the “playing field” in regards to the resources that a school may offer to its students between high-income communities and low-income communities. Information from the State of Connecticut’s List of Statutory Formula Grants, revised in June 2012, includes data that identifies the top five cities and towns during fiscal year 2013-2014 that currently receives the most funding through Education Cost Sharing, and they are:
1) Hartford, $192,781,001
2) Bridgeport, $168,599,571
3) New Haven, $146,351,428
4) Waterbury, $118,012,691
5) New Britain, $76,583,631
Among many other factors, the wealth of the community is the greatest driving force when the State determines the funding allowance via Education Cost Sharing. This funding is guaranteed under law; however, many individuals still find this financial safety net unfair. The five cities and towns that receive the least funding through Education Cost Sharing are:
1) Cornwall, $85,322
2) Warren, $99,777
3) Bridgewater, $137,292
4) Lyme, $145,556
5) Sharon, $145,798
These figures may seem significant, but the report does not go into detail as to the number of students or the demographics benefiting from the Education Cost Sharing.
Currently, the cost of enrollment per pupil in the State of Connecticut is approximately $13,000, which is one of the highest figures in the United States (Busemeyer). It is also worth mentioning that these financial figures do not include the fiscal assistance from the state for Capital Improvements to educational facilities. In conclusion, it is not just about the money. While funding does play a great role in the success of educating the youth of Connecticut, it is only a piece of the puzzle. Qualified and ambitious educators, willing leadership, and informed parents fuel the fire of success. Connecticut needs to address its Achievement Gap in full force.