Plan targets ‘average’ scores

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BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School is middling when it comes to math and SAT scores.

“Our SAT scores, to be perfectly honest, are pretty average. … I don’t want them to be pretty average,” Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said.

Administrators developed a one-year improvement plan that focuses on improving the school’s math and SAT scores. Ogren presented the plan to the Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, at its Sept. 20 meeting.

The state measures achievement at the high school level by how students perform on the SAT, a test administered to students in the 11th grade. Last school year, Woodland’s average math score on the SAT was a 508, and 41.7 percent of students met or exceeded the standard set by the state on math.

The percentage of Woodland students meeting or exceeding the standard on math was up slightly from the prior year and a little better than the state average of 41.3 percent.

“We should be performing higher,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said. “Our benchmark is not the state.”

Officials implemented a math lab at Woodland this school year to try and improve math scores. A full-time certified math teacher — a new position created in this year’s school budget — was hired to run the lab. The salary for a first-year teacher in the region is about $46,000, according to Yamin.

Ogren said students identified as needing help in math, including eighth-graders coming to the high school, go to the math lab for half of their study hall period, which is every other day, for extra help.

Ogren added the math lab, which is not a credited course, is open to any student who wants help in math. Typically, he said, about half a dozen students are in the lab at any time throughout the school day.

Math is only half of a student’s SAT score. The test also measures performance in evidence-based reading and writing, formerly known as English language arts.

Woodland students — along with students across the state — score much better in evidence-based reading and writing.

Last school year, Woodland’s average score in evidence-based reading and writing was 541 and 77.4 percent at least met the state standard. Woodland’s average total SAT score last school year was a 1049.

Ogren said colleges are continuing to raise their standards. Years ago, he said, if a student scored over a 1000 on the SAT there was a good chance that student would get into the University of Connecticut. Now, he said, students need to get about a 1200 to get into UConn.

Last year, Woodland started a semester-long SAT prep course for juniors to help them on the SAT. New curriculum for the course was implemented this year, Ogren said.

In order to improve math scores, school board member Daisy Laone said the region should start with younger students rather than waiting until they get to high school. She added that it’s vital to make sure curriculum in the district is aligned across all the grades.

The SAT, which is administered by the College Board, was revised for 2016 to reflect the new Common Core State Standards. Administrators only have two years of data from the revised SAT to examine.

Yamin said administrators need three or four years of data to see whether programs in place are working. He said the math lab will be evaluated to see whether it’s working and if it would be better suited in the younger grades.

“It is a process,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”