Scores show improvement

Maple Hill Elementary School teacher Jodie Burns watches as first-grader Ava Cabazas solves a math problem on the board last week. Naugatuck school officials are pleased with improved standardized test scores that they say are directly linked to changes in curriculum. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Maple Hill Elementary School teacher Jodie Burns watches as first-grader Ava Cabazas solves a math problem on the board last week. Naugatuck school officials are pleased with improved standardized test scores that they say are directly linked to changes in curriculum. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck Public Schools have released standardized test scores that show significant increases that officials credit to changes in their curriculum.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke released Thursday the latest numbers from the Northwest Evaluation Association, or NWEA, tests that students take throughout the school year. The schools use the tests as to gauge student improvement.

The scores show gains on how many students were proficient in reading and math at every level tested. They also showed that the percentage of students who met their growth target is higher in every area than the national average of 50 percent for the more than 7,400 schools that use the NWEA exam in the U.S.

Locke said she is particularly pleased about gains in math. In the fall, 49.5 percent of students tested in math were considered at Tier I on the state Department of Education’s Scientific Research-Based Intervention, or SRBI, scale. That tier is supposed to show proof that children are receiving high-quality curriculum and instruction. That number jumped 10.8 percentage points to 60.3 percent on the latest test taken a few weeks ago.

Reading scores also improved as 67.7 percent tested at the Tier I level on the latest test, compared to 58.5 percent in the fall.

Although educators always focus on reading and use reading coaches more than ever in Naugatuck and other districts, much of the borough’s focus this past year has been on improving the math curriculum.

Locke said a new program launched in the fall calls for teachers to work with students on multiple strategies to solve math problems.

First-grade teacher Jodie Burns at Maple Hill Elementary School showed a reporter last week a math lesson with her students. It focused on making a pizza. Students had to make a picture of a pizza out of several pieces of construction paper. Some made it in fourths, some in eighths, while others made it halves.

Additionally, students had to use fractions to divide how many toppings they could fit on the pizza.

She also had them count the toppings using their own favorite math techniques: some counted in groups of 10, while others counted each individual topping.

Burns, a veteran teacher, said the new math curriculum has made math more fun for the students, and students have shown tremendous growth.

The NWEA scores also test students on individual target goals. So if a student is in sixth grade, for example, and is reading on a seventh-grade level, his or her goal would be to read at an eighth-grade level. While the national average is 50 percent achieving their target goal, Naugatuck had gains in each of 12 categories that ranged from 53.2 percent in middle school math to 84.8 percent in first grade math.

The test results also showed that fewer students are considered at the lowest level in the SRBI scale, which is Tier 3. Again, first-grade math showed the highest improvements with a decrease of 20.6 percent in that area — 34.1 percent were at Tier 3 in grade one math in the fall compared to 13.5 percent now.

“The improvements are huge thanks to tremendous work by students, faculty and staff, and we believe the programs we have put into place will only allow for continued student growth,” Locke said.