Reading down, math up on Connecticut SBAC test
Updated 1:06 pm, Friday, July 14, 2017
Fewer Connecticut public school students are reading at grade level and slightly more are competent in math according to state’s 2017 standardized test results released on Friday.
Preliminary numbers show 54.2 percent of all third through eighth graders are at grade level in reading, a drop of 1.4 points from 2016.
In math, 45.6 percent of students scored at grade level in 2017 compared to 44 percent in 2016.
This is the third year the state has given the Smarter Balanced Assessment which measures how well students are grasping tougher Common Core curriculum standards and the earliest the state has managed to produce result, giving districts time over the summer to analyze the data.
The computerized test taken by students last spring.
Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell said what is important to her is that the percentage of students meeting the reading and math standards have both increased over 2015, the first year the test was given to all students.
“These results are a testament to the commitment of our students for rising to meet the challenge of higher standards and to our educators for instilling critical thinking skills and a love of learning in our students,” Wentzell said.
State officials pin some of the improvement in math on an intensive effort to strengthen math instruction. A statewide Math Council made recommendation for developing clearer and consistent mathematics standards, more training and support, and more interventions.
In math, according to the state, half of the state’s highest needs school districts outpaced the statewide improvement, as did students who are black, Hispanic, or low-income.
Statewide, there was a small narrowing of the achievement gap between white, Black and Hispanic students. In 2017, while 67.3 percent of white students were on grade level in reading, 30.5 percent of black students and 32.3 percent of Hispanic students made the grade. In math, 58.6 percent of white students scored at grade level or better compared to 19.8 percent of black students and 23.9 percent of Hispanic students.
In Bridgeport, 13.4 percent were at grade level in math in 2017, compared to 9.9 percent in 2016. In Norwalk, 39.3 percent scored on grade level or above in math in 2017 compared to 33.9 percent the year before. In Milford, the percentage at grade level in math jumped from 51.6 to 56.2 percent.
While reading or language art scores dipped, the state pointed out that still, more than half of all students meet or exceed grade level standards across all six grades that took the test. Also, more than 30 percent of districts saw improvement in ELA though fractionally.
In reading, the percentage of Easton students on grade level went from 83 to 84.8 percent. In Fairfield, the needle jumped from 74 to 74.5 percent and in Monroe from 78.5 to 80 percent.
One noticeable scoring jump went to The Bridge Academy Charter School in Bridgeport, which this year was put on probation for low test scores. Last year just 17.3 percent of its students scored at grade level in reading. This spring that rose to 28.9 percent. In math, the percentage at grade level went from none to 11.2 percent.
“Making a double digit gain in (English Language Arts) and doubling our prior math score does make me happy,” Tim Dutton, principal and founder of Bridge. “We have a long way to go until we truly reach our students tremendous potential, but we are happy that our current strategies are moving us in the right direction.”
Bridgeport Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson was also happy about her district’s math scores, telling school board members at a retreat this week that a local shift in math instruction seems to be paying off.
Each grade level showed math gains as did nearly all elementary schools in the city, Johnson said.
“In (English Language Arts) we are holding our own but the results were not as good,” Johnson said.
Although districts already have school data, state officials on Friday claim the numbers are not yet official so will not be released until late August along with results of the state-administered SAT test given to high school juniors. Also released at that time will be data on how student improvement over time, comparing for example, last year’s third graders against this year’s fourth graders.
The state didn’t have hard numbers on the test participation rate statewide but called it strong with more than 95 percent of all students tested.