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SAT Scores Rise Slightly

By GRACE E. MERRITT

September 13, 2010

HARTFORD

The average SAT scores of Connecticut students rose slightly in 2010 compared with the year before, but the increases in math and reading simply made up for declines over the past five years.

State Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said Monday he was disappointed that the scores remained essentially flat despite marginal increases.

"It's steady progress, but it's small and it's not sufficient, to my view," McQuillan said.

McQuillan said the results highlight how important it is for the state to implement new legislation for high school education reforms that will require students to take more math and science courses starting in 2014.

"We can't continue to tread water and remain competitive as a state," he said.

In both math and reading, average SAT scores in Connecticut rose by two points each over last year's levels, regaining ground lost since 2006. The average math score was 510 lower than the national average while the average reading score was 505, slightly higher than the national average.

Connecticut students did better in writing, with an average score of 510, six points better than five years ago and 22 points higher than the national average. The writing portion of the test was added in 2006.

The test results are based on scores from 27,044 public school students. Averages for religiously affiliated and independent schools in Connecticut were higher, with private school students averaging about 80 points higher.

The scores also showed that Connecticut had one of the highest percentages of students taking the SATs, with 73 percent of all students taking the standardized tests. The number of minority students taking the SAT in Connecticut increased by 38.4 percent compared with five years ago.

Janet Finneran, vice chairwoman of the State Board of Education, said she was pleased with the participation rates and the scores overall.

"We're up in all three categories. I think that's a reflection of all the work we've been putting into education for the past year," she said.

McQuillan said he was pleased that more students were taking the test, but also troubled that low-income and minority students performed worse in Connecticut than they did in other states. African Amercians, for example, scored an average of 413 in reading in Connecticut, compared with 429 nationwide.

Alex Johnston, CEO of ConnCAN, a school reform advocacy group, said that he, too, was concerned about the stubborn disparities, but noted that other states have proved that the gaps can be closed.

"We know this can be much more positive because we know other states have made gains in the same groups of students," Johnston said. "In Florida, Hispanic achievement has increased exponentially. Hispanic students are now out-performing all students in 15 other states."

The SATs also revealed a gender gap, especially in math. Boys scored an average 34 points higher in math, with an average score of 529.

However, girls have closed the math gap on the 10th grade Connecticut Mastery Test, so state education officials were somewhat puzzled by the SAT gap.

Boys also outscored girls in reading on the SAT, although by a lower margin of 7 points. Girls, however, were better writers, getting 13 more points on average than boys for an average score of 516. Each section of the SAT has a top score of 800.

McQuillan said the state has begun to move forward on secondary school reform. For now, education officials are focusing on middle school to set some groundwork.

They have been working with an initial group of 40 middle schools to set up early warning systems to identify students likely to drop out. They are also helping staff members work with students to chart long-term "success plans" that set out specific goals and pinpoint what classes they will need to take to reach them.

In addition to the SATs, more Connecticut students than ever took the ACT, a college entrance exam that has been more popular in the Midwest. A record 10,453 Connecticut students took the ACT, up from 9,240 in 2009. Connecticut students had a composite score of 23.7 of a possible 36, up 0.2 points from 2009 and tied for second-highest in the United States.

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.
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