Darien’s students are testing well by the state’s standards and in comparison to the rest of district resource group A but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Matt Byrnes, assistant auperintendent for secondary schools, reported on scores for the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement, Connecticut Academic Performance test, all of which are taken in high school, and Connecticut Mastery Test scores, for grades three through eight.
Connecticut Mastery Test scores in math for 2012 are all above 90%, except for 86.4% in grade 3. These scores are not the highest over five years, but the trend is generally upward. Reading scores varied since 2008 but they increase over grade levels in 2012.
Writing scores had the same upward trend over grade levels, but were varied over the past five years. Scores in 2011 were relatively low in comparison to earlier years.
The science section remained consistent with scores at 88% and 89% in fifth through eighth grade. Byrnes attributed the consistent science scores to no standard science curriculum across the state. Students may not have learned all of the necessary science at the time of the exam.
Byrnes also said that they want to see “some progression over time” on state exams but their main focus is on the district’s curriculum.
“At third grade we’re not aiming for the CMT test, we’re aiming for a deeper understanding,” he said. When students reach higher grades, they will be used to taking tests and will need less help performing well.
All of these trends are evident by looking at last year’s eight graders and their consistent improvment in math, reading and writing since grade 3.
Three times in the last five years, Connecticut Academic Performance test reading scores were below standard, between 75 and 78%. Reading and science scores were generally low compared to the resource group. There was only an upward trend in writing scores. Math scores have not hit 90% in the past five years and science scores have not reached 80% in the same time.
“We feel that more students should be meeting the goal for CAPT reading test,” Byrnes said.
Darien juniors did well on the SAT’s compared to other students in the area. Students generally perform higher on the math section.
Superintendent Stephen Falcone added that boys performed 4% better on SAT math than girls, while girls performed 11 and 19% better on reading and writing, respectively.
There are more new students taking the ACT for college and it is possible affecting the average score, Byrnes said. Participation is at an all time high and the average score decreased in 2011.
Students taking advanced placement exams has increased 40% since 2008. Byrnes reported that about 95% get a 3 or better, while 52% get a 5, the highest score.While the distric encourages more students to take the tests, it is not having any impact on scores.
“We need to do more in ninth and tenth grade to prevent a drop in later grades,” Byrnes said about preparing for state exams. He said that there is not much more extra preparation possible for college placement exams like the SAT and ACT. He said that these test taking skills are built over time.
On average, Darien students scored a 606 in the math section, 579 in the reading/verbal section and 591 in writing.
“The challenge of SAT, if there is prep for it, that begins in third grade probably. The depth of your vocabulary, your understanding of relationships is built over time,” he said.
The district uses state scores to change the curriculum, and will continue to analyze the results. One way they do this is to breakdown scores by gender, and then look at how the students did in related classes, like english or history. Byrnes also said other factors like teachers on leave could be a factor.
“It’s a concern and something that we’re working on but it’s not an emergency,” Byrne said.