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Students Make Modest Gains In CAPT Scores

But State Officials Express Concern Over Dip In Reading Results


July 12, 2011

High school sophomores scored better than last year on the 2011 Connecticut Academic Performance Test in math, science and writing, but reading scores dipped slightly.

The state Department of Education released the results of the standardized test Tuesday morning. The test was taken by about 40,000 10th-graders in March.

"The overall trend of increasing percentages of grade 10 students scoring at the proficient and goal levels in mathematics and writing is encouraging, given that Connecticut is also decreasing high school drop-out rates and increasing graduation rates," acting Education Commissioner George Coleman said in a prepared statement.

However, the magnitude of the increases and the relatively flat performance in reading and science is disconcerting, given the urgency that I feel about preparing all of our high school graduates to be ready to succeed as they enter college or the state's workforce."

State educators use the percentage of students scoring at or above goal level as an indicator of the quality of the state's high schools.

In math, the percentage of students scoring at or above goal level increased by 0.7 percent from 2010 and increased by 1.7 percent in both science and writing. In reading, the percentage of students scoring at or above goal level decreased by 1.1 percent.

Education department data show that CAPT results from many of Connecticut's 15 neediest school districts mirror the state's overall scores. For example, the percentage of students achieving at or above goal in districts like Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury rose last year in math, science and writing, but scores decreased in reading.

Other districts, however, bucked the trend. East Hartford saw dips in math, reading and science scores and a small increase in writing scores, while Danbury saw decreases in reading, writing and science and only a very small increase in math. The state's Technical High School System, comprising 20 schools, saw a decrease in all subjects.

Superintendents in East Hartford and Danbury could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The state education department said despite the small decreases in technical school students' scores, the system has continued to make steady progress over the past five years in all subjects but reading.

In Bridgeport, where the school board last week voted to dissolve itself and have the state take over control, the scores in math and writing showed no change from last year. The district saw small increases in science and reading.

In Windham, where state education officials intervened earlier this year, scores, while still low, improved dramatically from the previous year. Students made gains in every subject area by at least 10 percent; the greatest increase was in reading. The state just appointed former Hartford Superintendent Steven Adamowski to reform the struggling school district.

When studying the data by subgroups, such as gender and race, the education department said the numbers point to "persistent achievement gaps" in student performance gaps that schools across the nation are trying to eliminate.

In most subgroups, students made modest gains.

For example, both girls and boys improved their scores in math, science and writing. The gap shrunk by 1 percent to 4.3 percent in math and decreased by 0.3 percent to 5.2 percent in science. In both areas, male students had the stronger scores. In writing, the gap increased by 1.7 percent to 17 percent despite the better scores. In this subject area, girls outscored their male peers.

In reading, the scores for both boys and girls dipped, but the gap between the genders shrunk by 2.1 percent to 9.6 percent.

However, for those learning English, the CAPT results were not as optimistic. Scores decreased in every subject area, widening the gap between English language learners and students who speak English.

While the state has seen incremental but continuous increases in most CAPT subject areas over the past five years, it should not be complacent, said education department spokesman Mark Linabury. Those accomplishments should be celebrated, but both the districts and the education department also need to remain vigilant and should re-examine how resources and staff are utilized, he said. Redeploying services might help raise scores in reading or for English language learners, Linabury added, explaining that districts need to make sure they help students who need it.

While the performance test is standardized, the test is modified for students with disabilities. An alternative math test was made available to 975 students this year, and an alternative reading test was given to 1,002 students.

The state offered a second alternative test to 495 students with significant cognitive disabilities. Those students were evaluated in math, reading, communication and science.

The data for alternative assessments are separate from the overall CAPT statistics.

For complete results, including town-by-town scores, go to http://www.courant.com/education.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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