Hugh McQuaid Photo

Following a Wednesday address to an annual gathering of school superintendents, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called recently released standardized testing results an overall “disappointment” but he said they are a reflection of an education system in transition. 

On Tuesday, the state Education Department released the results of the 2013 statewide Connecticut Mastery Tests as well as the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. CMT results dropped in all grades and subject areas compared to results from last year. CAPT results found improvements in some areas like math, science, and reading but writing test scores fell slightly.

“There are good signs on a district-by-district basis. Overall, they’re a disappointment, but overall that’s also a reflection of a conversion from teaching one skillset to another skillset, which is the Common Core skillset,” Malloy said Wednesday.

Common Core standards set a national bar defined under the congressionally mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress. That means when it is implemented, scores are likely to drop. School districts in Connecticut will be given an option of using the new common core standards test or one of the legacy state tests such as the CMT or the CAPT.

“It’s clear that people are in the process of converting to teaching a different skill set, one that I think is the right skill set… So I think you’ll see some of these fluctuations,” Malloy said.

Speaking to the superintendents, the governor said that the state’s transition to Common Core standards makes for “confusing and difficult times.” Although he said the concept makes a lot of sense, he said it was appropriate to give school districts the option of choosing which type of test to administer next year.

“It didn’t make sense to cause some of you to have to give two tests. We don’t want to be any more test-bound than we have to be,” he said.

Malloy did not focus his address on any disappointment in this week’s test scores. The governor’s comments to the education leaders reflected a desire to put the contentious debate that led to last year’s education reform bill in the past.

He said he admired and was “a little jealous” of their work.

“This does not have to be a battle where we’re head-to-head. We’re actually pulling in the same direction. We actually have the straight desire to see all of our children do as well as they possibly can. I appreciate that’s where you’re coming from and all I ask is that you understand that’s where Stefan’s coming from, and that’s where I’m coming from,” he said. The “Stefan” he was referring to is Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

The governor stressed that the budget he signed this year continues to fund last year’s education reform. He invited the superintendents to speak with their counterparts in other states. He said they would hear about states slashing aid to school districts.

“That is not the case here. I am doing everything I can to make sure educators have the resources necessary to do the work that you all, and all your teachers aspire to do,” he said.

Pryor’s Tuesday statement on the test results focused on positive aspects in the data. He pointed to improvements in some traditionally low-performing areas where the state has focused resources, like those in the Commissioner’s Network. He said those gains are a signal that recently-enacted education reforms are beginning to work.

“… there are initial signs that our signature reforms are working. We are encouraged by the bright spots, especially gains on the CAPT test and in the Commissioner’s Network this year, though it remains clear that major work lies ahead to ensure that each student is prepared for success in college and career,” he said.

Malloy reiterated those points and added a new statistic that high school graduation rates have increased by 2.1 percent.

“That’s significant. When you can do that, when you can see in a process that kind of increase in the high school graduation rate, it tells you that we’re getting some things right,” he said.