Test scores elicit excitement, concern 

REGION 16 — A deeper look at Region 16’s results on statewide tests reaffirmed what officials saw when the scores were first released over the summer: student achievement overall is growing, but there are areas of concern.

“I think the common theme is we have growth, and there’s areas that we know we need to work on and we’re bringing them to the forefront,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin during a presentation to the board last week.

Students in the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, showed significant growth when it came to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

The Smarter Balanced test is administered to students in grades three through eight. The percentage of Region 16 students that met or exceeded the goal in English increased 7.9 points in 2016 to 64.4 percent. In math, the number of students at or above goal increased 7.9 points to 53.7 percent.

“I not only think this is sustainable, I think we’re going to increase again next year,” Yamin said.

While the growth gave officials reason to be excited, math scores gave them a reason to pause.

“We all know that’s an area of focus for us,” said Curriculum Director Barbara Peck about math.

Math scores were low across the state, as 44 percent of students statewide met or exceeded the achievement level.

In Region 16, fifth grade was the only grade to see a decrease, 1.2 percentage points, compared to last year in math. However, data for matched cohorts — tracking the same students as they progress through the district — show a dip in multiple groups.

The math scores of students in grades three, four and five in 2015 all decreased as fourth-graders, fifth-graders and sixth-graders in 2016.

Yamin said officials will drill down the data from the scores to identify and help classrooms and students that are struggling.

Math is also a point of emphasis when it comes to the SAT, which is given to 11th-graders.

“We have to work to do, but I think everyone has work to do when it comes to math on the SAT,” Woodland Regional High School Principal Kurt Ogren said.

In English, 76.8 percent of Woodland students met or exceeded the target, while 39.6 percent did so in 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. And, for many years before that, the state had used the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. Last year’s SAT scores will be used to establish a baseline to measure growth.

Without a baseline to compare the scores to, Ogren pointed to how Woodland’s scores matched up with other schools in its District Reference Group, school district’s that are grouped together based on similar demographics and socioeconomic factors.

Region 16’s DRG includes school districts like Litchfield, Portland and Thomaston. Out of the districts in the DRG that the state reported data on, Portland led the way in English with 84.8 percent of students hitting the goal. Litchfield led the way in math with 58.6 percent at goal.

In English, Woodland was in a group of schools that were all within 1 percentage point of each and second to Portland. In math, Woodland was fifth out of the sixth districts where data was reported.

One hundred and sixty-four Woodland juniors out of 168 took the SAT last year. Yamin pointed out that improving in the DRG is just a matter of having a small amount of students achieve higher.

“I really believe in the next couple years, if we keep moving this way, we’re going to be number one in our DRG,” he said.