With new results CMT and CAPRT scores in: Board pledges to continue improving scores

The results are in from this year’s Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) and while there is improvement, district officials say more must be done.

Last year’s results had been met with disappointment and demands for action from parents and Board of Education members. Because of that the board has tried to examine the causes of student achievement to try and focus response more directly on those causes. This year’s results have shown improvement, but also did not show Greenwich moving over schools with it in the District Reference Group (DRG) B or neighboring schools in areas like Darien or New Canaan in DRG A, which also posted steady and improving results. There were also areas, like seventh grade science, where drops were measured.

The CMT and CAPT tests cover grades three through eight and then 10th graders in the high school and cover reading, writing, math and science.

In a district press release, new Superintendent of Schools William McKersie was quick to highlight those improvements. He noted that the district is closer to its goal of having 83% of third grade students at the mastery level for reading by 2015 by improving from 73% in 2011 to 78.8% this year as well as the goal of having 87% of eighth graders achieve mastery in writing by 2015 by moving from 78% last year to 82.6% this year. He also pointed to five-year highs in the aggregated percentage of students in third through eighth grade at the proficiency, mastery and advanced level on the CMT for math, science and reading.

The district further highlighted CAPT results that showed five-year highs for the percentage of students in tenth grade hitting the advanced level in math, science and writing and a three-year high for the advanced level in reading. And in the areas identified last year as “challenge areas” the district said that “achievement levels have been maintained or increased.” Those areas included students new to the district, those transitioning from elementary to middle school and those in the free and reduced lunch program.

“In our initial review of the results of the 2012 CMT and CAPT assessments, we are pleased to see improvements in virtually every grade level, assessment area and achievement level,” Dr. McKersie said in the press release. “These successes reflect many years of dedicated work and we applaud the staff of the Greenwich Public Schools, the supportive families, and of course, our students. Our objective now is to sustain and build upon these successes.”

Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty spoke with the Post about the results on Tuesday. She noted the areas where Greenwich has shown improvement, but acknowledged that improvement was shared by many schools in the state.

“Really I don’t think our performance changed dramatically,” Ms. Moriarty said.

She added, “There seems to be general improvement in most areas and overall the performance on the tests either stayed the same or increased. There are also areas where there needs to be further improvement. There were no spikes and no real areas where anything fell. It was a more consistent overall growth.”

But is it enough growth? That’s an answer the district will have to confront. Greenwich’s improvement did not push the school much higher than other schools in its DRG and in writing, science and math in eighth grade on the CMT the district’s number of students ranking at or above the goal level are comparable to districts like West Hartford which spends far less per student than Greenwich.

Ms. Moriarty said that an issue that needs additional focus is the achievement gap in town, which continues to show itself in the test results. Ms. Moriarty said the gap, especially when it comes to students from economically disadvantaged areas in town, has to be something the board addresses.

“That’s a real concern,” Ms. Moriarty said.

Overall, Ms. Moriarty said there was good news and areas where further improvement needed and that the data would be used for future board decisions. In the wake of last year’s results, the board has been working to try and implement plans that would not only have an impact on student achievement by diagnosing and addressing the root cause of lower than expected achievement, but show results quicker so the board could react if further changes are needed. Earlier this year the board began to concentrate efforts more directly on reading, math and writing to go along with earlier changes in the science curriculum within the district.

“We need to continue the path that we started in the spring,” Ms. Moriarty said. “We set our three academic goals for reading, writing and math in June and the district is looking at those areas to see what is causing these issues. The administration will reviewing the test results in detail to further identify what it is that’s negatively impacting performance. Once that happens we can identify strategies for improvement.”

The Post will feature an interview with Dr. McKersie where these results and future district strategies will be fully discussed in it’s Aug. 2 edition. Both Dr. McKersie and Ms. Moriarty have said that while they consider standardized tests important, they are not the only measure of student achievement.

“Each student’s individual performance in all areas of education, not just on these tests, is what’s going to matter to them and their family,” Ms. Moriarty said. “We want every child to achieve, at least at the proficient level if not higher, but the measure of a student’s success is not entirely based on these results.”

Ms. Moriarty said she had been in a “general discussion” with Dr. McKersie about the results but they would talk more extensively in the weeks to come. The Board of Education is scheduled to have its first meeting of the new school year on Aug. 30 and Ms. Moriarty said that both the test scores and the overall discussion of the achievement gap will be on the agenda.

 

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