SAT scores show English results ahead of math

The SAT scores of 11th-graders in Naugatuck and Region 16 mirrored statewide results that showed Connecticut students performed significantly better in English than math.

Last school year marked the first time Connecticut used the SAT as its mandated test to measure achievement for high schools statewide. Before that, the state used the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, which had been developed for a group of states adopting the new Common Core State Standards. And, for many years before that, the state had used the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.

Results for this first statewide use of the SAT were released last week.

“This is a baseline year,” Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said. “This year will now be compared to years following.”

Statewide, 65 percent of students met or exceeded the state target in English, while only 39.3 did so in math.

Woodland Regional High School students in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, beat the statewide average in both subjects — just slightly in math — but followed the same theme. In English, 76.8 percent of Woodland students met or exceeded the target, while 39.6 percent did so in math.

“In math, we are disappointed,” Yamin said. “We would have liked to see our scores a lot higher than the state average.”

While officials are disappointed in Region 16’s math results, Yamin said they are not surprised.

Yamin said officials previously noticed the trend of lower math scores in the district and have taken steps to address it. The steps include requiring all freshmen and sophomores to take the PSAT, a new required SAT prep course for juniors who do not score at least a 530 on both the verbal and math sections of the PSAT, and implementing summer course work in math through the Khan Academy, a non-profit educational organization.

The scores for Naugatuck High School students came in under the state average in both subjects. In English, 47.8 percent of Naugatuck students met or exceeded the target.

The percentage of Naugatuck students who met or exceeded the target in math wasn’t reported by the state. The state doesn’t release results when the percentage is so small out of fear of identifying individual student performance. This was the case with the percentage of Naugatuck students who met or exceeded the target in math. The results showed that 41 percent of Naugatuck students are “approaching the target.”

“The results indicate a discrepancy in [English-language arts] and math performance that has been the focus of our attention in the district for the past year, and we saw great growth in our math results,” Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said. “We are also building a curriculum that is designed to provide the educational experiences necessary to excel on standards-based assessments like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and new SAT. As with any new assessment, we will work with our teachers to examine the information closely and continue to target instruction in identified areas.”

Locke and Yamin both said a full and in-depth presentation on the results on the will be given later this year.

Ajit Gopalakrishan, head of the Connecticut State Department of Education’s performance office, said the state has already reacted to its math deficits with the formation of a task-force to identify best teaching practices.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Gopalakrishan cautioned against comparing the new SAT results against last year’s Smarter Balanced results, or last year’s SAT results. The new SAT test is significantly different from either. Still, both the SBAC test and the new SAT are being used as the measure of college and career readiness.

Gopalakrishan said teachers from four states came together to set the score targets. Students who landed on “Level 3,” the target, are determined to have a 75 percent probability of earning a “C” in that subject in college level coursework, Gopalakrishan said. The state will track student performance into college to determine if this holds up, he said.

At some point, Gopalakrishan said, the SAT scores will be used by the state to determine which schools and districts need additional scrutiny and help. That will require multiple years of results of the same test, allowing comparison that can be used to show improvement, state officials said.

The scores will be used to generate a new ranking of schools at the middle and upper performance levels, state officials said. Those results will be released later this year.

The state is still using SBAC tests in grades three through eight. Results from the tests taken by elementary and middle school students will be released later this month, State Department of Education spokeswoman Abbe Smith said.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.

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