Drop in scores attributed to curriculum change

Tuttle-BuildingNAUGATUCK — Following a drop in nearly every subject at the proficiency level on standardized tests this year, school officials are looking at piloting the state’s new assessments. 

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini discussed the results of the Connecticut Mastery Test, which is administered to students in grades three to eight, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, which is taken by tenth-graders, during last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

Declining scores was a trend across the state, as school districts shift their curriculum to meet Common Core State Standards.

“One of the things that is happening is that we are transitioning to Common Core State Standards and we are preparing to shift to the Smarter Balance assessment,” Montini said.

All of the districts in the state will be required to take the new assessments in 2015.

Montini said the curriculum in the classrooms is changing as the district prepares for the new standards. This means that students are not being taught what they are being tested on by the CMT and CAPT. 

“It’s sort of like if I am practicing layups all the time and then you evaluate me taking three-pointers. I didn’t practice those. It’s related to basketball. It’s related to the field, but I specifically don’t have the capacity to win the three-point challenge,” Montini said.

Montini said the curriculum will continue changing over the next year to align with the new standards and assessments.

“So in essence, the state assessment is not an appropriate means to assess the teaching and learning that is taking place in our classrooms on a daily basis because of our transition,” Montini said.

Board member James Scully questioned whether it was just the change in curriculum that caused the scores to fall.

“I don’t accept this because we’re supposed to be educating these kids no matter what,” Scully said.

Scully said the CMT is supposed to test students on what they have been picking up naturally. So, if they aren’t picking it up, there is a problem, he said.

Montini pointed out the situation is not unique to Naugatuck.

“I understand you not accepting these scores, but it is the similar phenomenon that caused every grade level in the whole state for CMT to realize a decline,” Montini said.

In addition to the students being taught a different curriculum, Montini said that there is another problem with the CMT data from this year.

Montini said the closing of Central Avenue Elementary School last year also impacted CMT scores.  

“Something else that will impact the schools here, in terms of the elementary schools, every other elementary school, with the exception of Western Elementary School had a change in population due to the closing of Central Avenue School. So when you are looking at longitudinal growth it’s really not appropriate to measure school by school because the population in each of those schools changed,” Montini said. 

Montini said the district can fill out a waiver and apply to begin taking the Smarter Balance assessments a year early. This is an option because the new assessments need to be field tested before it is released across the state.

“Part of that waiver … is the option for Naugatuck to apply to take the Smarter Balance test in lieu of the CMT or CAPT in all subjects except for science,” Montini said.

Montini said if the district engages in a field test the data won’t be useful until about two years from now. However, since the demographics of the CMT have changed, switching to this test will help the district in the long run.

“You have to establish a baseline,” Montini said. “One of the reasons to opt in to taking the field test is that you’re ahead of the game. You establish a baseline a year earlier.”

Montini felt field testing the Smarter Balance assessment was the way to go for Naugatuck. No formal action was taken by the board.

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