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Connecticut’s Choice Programs Evaluated in New Study

The Connecticut State Department of Education has released a study showing statistically significant improvement on the Connecticut state test, called the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), for students in some schools of choice.

The study used innovative control groups to “match” samples of students in the traditional public schools to those in schools of choice by various demographic data, baseline scores on state tests, and percentage of special needs or English Language Learner students. The study found improvements on the CMT in magnet schools and the open choice program for students studied from the 3rd to 5th grades, while charters showed statistically significant gains only in the 6th to 8th grade cohort. Because the matching groups carefully controlled for where students started, the gains in schools of choice observed in this study are unlikely to be chalked up to differences in the student bodies.

In addition to the findings above, move specific results from the study include:

• Among 3rd to 5th graders, Regional Educational Service Centers (RESC), or regionally-run magnet schools of choice improved the percentage of students that scored proficient by 25.4 points, compared with 4.4 percent in non-choice urban schools, for an overall proficiency bump from 58.2 to 83.6.
• The Open Choice program, which allows students to choose public schools across ZIP-code based enrollment lines, performed almost as well in the 3rd to 5th grade cohort, improving proficiency by 19.1 percentage points, going from under half to almost two-thirds of students scoring proficient.
• Although charter schools showed no statistically significant improvement in the 3rd to 5th grade cohort, they showed the biggest improvement in the 6th to 8th grade group, improving proficiency by 8 percentage points, from 73.3 to 81.3 percent. This improvement was much larger than the next highest groups, in the Open Choice program, of 2.6 percentage points, and non-urban schools, with 1.8 percentage points of improvement.
• Gains at the “Goal” level (higher than proficiency) were even larger for charter schools in the 6th to 8th grade cohort, at 10.7 percentage points of improvement, demonstrating a “higher level of learning and understanding.”

For more about the study, read “New study finds Choice programs effective in raising academic achievement” via the West Hartford News.

For more about school choice in Connecticut, see CER’s Parent Power Index.