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After Citywide Test, Poor SAT Scores For Hartford Students


August 03, 2012

HARTFORD For the first time, the city's school system mandated that all high school juniors take the SAT this spring to help prepare them for the possibility of college.

The results for 868 students offered a glimpse into Hartford's struggles.

The average score was 367 in critical reading, 369 in math and 384 in writing, according to data presented to the school board this week. The range of possible SAT scores is 200 to 800 per section.

Relatively few juniors scored above 500 in the subjects: 11 percent did so in reading, 12 percent in math and 13 percent in writing.

All four magnet schools that participated in the April in-class test University High School of Science and Engineering, Classical, Sport and Medical Sciences Academy and Pathways To Technology outperformed the city's non-magnet high schools.

Students have the option of retaking the college entrance exam during their senior year, according to school administrators, who emphasized that admission officers consider various factors when choosing a freshman class.

Still, the scores were another raw indicator of shaky performance for city teenagers.

Only about half of Hartford sophomores who took the 2012 Connecticut Academic Performance Test, in which city scores dipped in reading, math and science, were deemed proficient in those subjects. The achievement gap is wide even between Hartford who attend magnet high schools and those who do not.

"Our concern is that we don't have a school that is not a magnet school that is doing well across the board," Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told the board of education.

In addition to SAT testing in April, the exam also was administered in October to 491 students in non-magnet high schools: Bulkeley, the Journalism and Media Academy, the Culinary Arts Academy at Weaver, High School Inc., Opportunity High, and Hartford Public High's Engineering and Green Technology, Law and Government, and Nursing academies.

The overall SAT averages for those students were 336 for critical reading, 349 for math and 337 for writing. Nineteen students scored higher than 500 in math, but no one reached 600.

Last fall's incoming freshmen at the University of Connecticut's Storrs campus scored an average SAT reading and math composite score of 1216. The national average was 1011, with low vs. high scores strongly correlating to family income.

Hartford entered into a $100,000 contract with the College Board, which produces the PSAT and SAT, to administer the tests during school hours at no charge to students. A five-year grant that the federal government awarded the city in 2010 to improve the graduation rate around 63 percent for Hartford's class of 2011 has helped fund the exams.

In the past, Kishimoto said, some students waited until their senior year to seriously consider a four-year college, only to realize that they needed to take the SAT as part of their application.

Sonia Dinnall, who heads Hartford's college and career readiness efforts as director of post-secondary education, said she planned to work with principals to develop "targeted interventions and strategies," such as offering online SAT preparation for students to improve their results.

"It's bad news," Dinnall said of the scores, but she said she believes the baseline data is important because "it's really telling us where we are and where we need to go."

Board member Luis Rodriguez-Davila wondered if the scores would dissuade some students from pursuing college.

"If I were to define college readiness by these results," Rodriguez-Davila said, he pointed to the fact that only 3 percent of the April test-takers scored above 600 in critical reading.

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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