Connecticut ranked the third worst in the country for education equality along racial lines, according to a newly released study by WalletHub that compared graduation rates, high school and college degrees, and test scores between white and Black residents.
The divide was most pronounced among individuals with college bachelor’s degrees, according to WalletHub, with Connecticut coming dead last in the country for having the biggest disparity. Other notable low rankings included standardized test scores (43rd) and average SAT scores (42nd).
Connecticut’s highest ranking across the measured education areas was average ACT test scores, which placed Connecticut 18th in the country, meaning a smaller disparity between the two racial groups.
Although Connecticut is generally considered to have some of the best K-12 schools in the country, there has been a persistent achievement gap based on race and income levels. Only Minnesota and Wisconsin ranked lower overall than Connecticut.
The discrepancy in school and student performance in Connecticut between school systems and students in Connecticut, called the achievement gap, has been a source of frustration among education advocates who have pushed for changes, including reworking Connecticut’s education cost sharing grants with municipalities, trying to address teacher shortages and even zoning reforms to increase affordable housing in districts with better school systems.
In a report examining racial disparities in Connecticut’s school system, CT Voices for Children, found disparities in access to same-race teachers, chronic absenteeism, access to challenging course work and exclusionary discipline, along with graduation rates and test scores.
“The disparities in Connecticut’s education system leave Black students unprepared for college and future careers,” wrote Camera Stokes Hudson, author of the report. “Contrary to arguments that racial/ethnic educational inequalities result from low levels of student effort and inadequate family involvement, research has shown the disparities in achievement reflect disparities in opportunity, including those discussed in this paper.”
Another study on Connecticut’s achievement gap by Yankee Institute,* found high disparities between students depending on income levels, with higher income areas performing better overall than lower income areas. “Put bluntly, Connecticut, a rich and, on average, a highly educated state, demonstrates significant, troubling levels of education gaps,” wrote study authors Abigail Feisig and Shauna Curran.
A 2020 report by the School and State Finance Project found a $639 million funding gap “between district with BIPOC student populations of at least 25 percent and districts with White student populations greater than 75 percent.” Connecticut schools are funded through a combination of municipal, state and federal resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the government shut down in-person learning for students, may have worsened that gap, and test scores overall saw a decline when in-class learning resumed.
Lawmakers have reworked Connecticut’s education cost sharing grant to direct more funds toward schools with fewer resources and more students living in poverty. Connecticut’s latest budget increased the ECS grant by $144 million over the next two years.
“We expect schooling to lead to greater equity but that is often hampered by low-income neighborhoods having under-financed schools and the least experienced teachers,” said Ann Marcus, professor of higher education at New York University. “The gap itself can only be overcome by policies providing better income and more equitable taxation policies but we have made almost no progress at State or Federal levels.”
Connecticut ranked third in the nation for the best Pre-K-12 schools, according to U.S. News and World Report, with only New Jersey and Massachusetts ranked higher.
Interestingly, New Mexico, which had the smallest racial discrepancy in WalletHub’s study, was ranked dead last for schools in the same U.S. News report.
*CII is a project of the Yankee Institute. However, CII has management separate from Yankee Institute which oversees its daily operations and determines its content completely independent of Yankee Institute.