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November 1, 2023

CT graduation rates and academic growth down, report shows

Pixabay | elizabethaferry/

Though the state is seeing slight improvements in chronic absenteeism, some test scores and postsecondary preparation, education in Connecticut continues to trail behind pre-pandemic achievement.

On Wednesday, the Department of Education released its annual accountability report, which showed a decline in graduation rates and the average percentage of growth in core subjects in the 2022-23 school year compared to the year prior.

All 12 of the state’s measures remain worse than the 2018-19 academic year.

“Achievement still lacks pre-pandemic levels. Our growth slowed a little bit this past year, and that is something we’re watching and continuing to work on. On-track to high school graduation is at about the lowest levels we have seen in the system, and that is concerning,” said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the department’s chief performance officer.

The accountability system reports test scores, percentage of growth in English and math, chronic absenteeism, postsecondary preparation, readiness and entrance, whether students are on track to graduate, four- and six-year graduation rates, physical fitness and access to arts.

On average for all students, about 82.4% are on-track to graduate from high school, down from 82.7% in 2021 and 88% in 2018.

“For on-track graduation, we’re primarily looking at ninth-graders here and whether they’re earning the requisite credits to be on pace to graduate on time in four years, and that threshold changed with the increased graduation requirements,” Gopalakrishnan said. “Starting in 2021-22, we now look for at least six credits in the ninth-grade year. Most high schools were already at 24 or 25 credits, even before the requirements went into place, but we implemented that change in 21-22.”

Gopalakrishnan added that rates of students who are on-track to graduate have been declining for several years, but the gap between high-needs students and their non-high-needs peers is staggering.

“Now we are around 74% [on track to graduate] for students with high needs and their non-high-needs peers are almost at a 93%, a 19% gap,” Gopalakrishnan said. “That is something that we continue to pay close attention to and bring a lot of resources and support to.”

In 2022-23, Connecticut also saw a decline in its English test scores, averaging around 63.9, down from 64.2 in 2021-22 and down from 67.7 in 2018-19. The state’s target is a score of 75. Math and science scores for all students improved from 47.7 to 48.9 and 61.4 to 61.6 respectively.

The growth in English and math scores dropped since the 2021-22 academic year, by over 3 percentage points in English and nearly 4 percentage points in math.

"The purpose of the system is not to name and shame schools and make them feel bad as much as to really use the information as reflective information to make good decisions. The idea of the system is also for us at the state Department of Education to bring support and recognition," Gopalakrishnan said.

Gopalakrishnan also highlighted state initiatives that continue to work toward improving education in the state, including free community college, an aspiring educators' diversity scholarship program, model curricula, high dosage tutoring for middle school students and summer enrichment programs.

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