Region 16 shows growth in SAT performance

PROSPECT — In the four years since the state of Connecticut adopted the SAT as the standard to measure English language arts and math proficiency in high school, Region 16’s scores have never been better.

The state recently released performance data on the SAT taken by 11th-graders this spring.

In Region 16, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, 78.7% of 11th-graders at Woodland Regional High School met or exceeded the state standard in English, which is up from 75.5% in 2018. Statewide, 62% of students met or exceeded the standard in 2019.

In math, 58.6% of Woodland juniors met or exceeded the benchmark, a jump of about 10 percentage points from 2018. Statewide, 41% of students met or exceeded the standard in 2019.

Region 16’s performance this year set a new high mark for the district. The percentage of students hitting the standard in English has remained relatively flat over the past four years — 76.8% of students performed at the standard in 2016. The percentage in math, however, has gone up nearly 20 percentage points. In 2016, 39.6% of Woodland students met or exceeded the standard in math.

“There is a certain degree of satisfaction because we’ve made a conscientious effort to improve our performance overall,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin about the region’s performance.

Yamin said the district’s growth shows the measures put into place over the past few years are working.

School officials have focused on improving math scores over the past couple of years, including hiring math specialists and starting a math lab at Woodland for students to get extra help in the subject. Also, students take SAT prep courses based on their performance on the PSAT.

The percentage of Woodland students that met or exceeded the standard in math this spring ranked Region 16 as the top performing district in its District Reference Group (DRG), a grouping a school districts in the state based on similar socioeconomic factors.

In English, Region 16 ranked fourth in its DRG. While English scores have grown some over the past four years, Yamin said officials plan to carry out the strategies that have worked in math to improve growth in English.

“Our goal is to be a top 10 performing district in the state, and the last five years have put us toward that goal,” Yamin said.

The SAT results statewide showed a wide achievement gap between white and minority students. The student population in Region 16 is mostly white. The state didn’t release scores for minority students in the district since there were too few test-takers to protect privacy.

An area of concern for Yamin is the performance of students classified as high needs, which includes special education students, students who aren’t fluent in English and those that receive free or reduced lunch. This year, 32.6% of high needs students in the region met the target for English and 20.9% met the target in math on the SAT.

Yamin said the subgroup isn’t performing to the level administrators want and that will be a focus moving forward.

Overall, though, he’s pleased with the district’s performance.

“I really want to thank the teachers and the administrators who have been open to new ideas and thinking outside the box and initiatives we’ve implemented, and I think our scores reflect that,” he said.