Board seeks cause of lower test scores

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NAUGATUCK — An analysis presented last week to the Board of Education shows the same group of students tracked over six years generally performed better on the Connecticut Mastery Test each year until last year.

Last year’s eighth-graders took the current version of the CMT for the first time in 2006 as third-graders, Assistant Superintendent Brigitte Crispino said. Six years ago, 70.9 percent achieved proficiency in math, 61.8 percent in reading and 73.1 percent in writing. Those scores increased about 7 percentage points in writing, 17 in math and 25 in reading until last year, when they dropped 1 point in writing, 6 percent in reading and 8 percent in math.

Last year’s eighth-graders could have performed worse because of the merger between Hillside and City Hill Middle Schools, Crispino said.

“It was an unsettling year,” Crispino said. “They may not have been as comfortable taking the tests. … We are trying to find the underlying causes of why something like that would happen in the district.”

Those students, this year’s ninth-graders, cannot be tracked in the same manner this year because they do not take the CMT. They will take the Connecticut Academic Performance Test as 10th-graders, but that is too different from the CMT for comparison, Crispino said.

The state and federal governments do not track standardized test scores by cohort, instead looking at the same grades year after year to help determine whether a school is making “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state has not yet released which schools met that benchmark after tests were given in the spring.

More than 2,000 students in the borough between the third and eighth grades took the Connecticut Mastery Test in March.

The district plans to focus especially on minorities, poor and special education students to improve CMT and CAPT scores, Crispino said.

Other areas of concern include male students who consistently perform worse in reading than females, Crispino said. The district will improve curricula for math and reading topics that students have difficulty with, Crispino said, using fifth-grade math as an example. Writing teachers will also receive more training Crispino added.