NEWTOWN, Conn. — Students across the state — and in Newtown — are showing improvements in preliminary English language arts and math results on the Smarter Balanced exams, which were administered to students for the second time this past spring, the State Department of Education announced.
Overall, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the achievement standard of Level 3 or above statewide increased by 3.3 points to 55.7 percent in ELA, and 3.9 points to 44 percent in math.
In the Newtown School District, the numbers are even higher:
English Language Arts:
- Level 3 or above 2014-15: 72.3%
- Level 3 or above 2015-16: 75.1%
- Percent change: +2.8%
- Level 3 or above 2014-15: 62%
- Level 3 or above 2015-16: 70.7%
- Percent change: +8.7%
The 2014-15 test administration represented the baseline year for the Smarter Balanced exams, which set a new, higher bar for students, the state said. Unlike the tests of the past, they are designed to assess critical thinking skills with more complex, difficult questions, according to the state.
The 2016 Smarter Balanced results showed improvement in both subjects, across all grades, and for all high-needs student subgroups. All of Connecticut’s Alliance Districts showed improvement in ELA and most showed improvement in math, the state said.
“With record-high graduation rates and now significantly improved scores on the Smarter Balanced test, our smart investments and commitment to our children are changing lives. ... This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction — and it’s a step we should all celebrate. And it could not have been done without our outstanding educators — teachers, principals, and other district staff,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. “We need to continue the momentum, and we need to maintain a laser-sharp focus on preparing all children for success in college and the workforce.”
Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell said said the results show that Connecticut's schools are moving in the right direction.
"These gains are a testament to the commitment of our students for rising to meet the challenge of higher standards and to our families, teachers, and leaders for instilling critical thinking skills and a love of learning in our students,” Wentzell said. “Our promise to our children is that we will give them an education that prepares them to succeed in college, career, and life, and we are getting closer to making that a reality for more students.”
Two years ago, Connecticut transitioned to new Connecticut Core-aligned exams that presented a higher bar for students — with significantly tougher questions intended to test critical thinking ability and real-world skills.
The change was part of a broader transition that involved aligning curriculum, standards, and exams to higher-level thinking required for college and career success.
The release of the 2015-16 Smarter Balanced results is the first time Connecticut is able to measure student growth.
The Smarter Balanced exam is administered to all public school students in grades 3-8. Individual results will be released to parents and students this fall.
Students in 11th grade take the SAT as their Connecticut Core-aligned state exam.
The results also showed improvement for all subgroups of students, the state announced. Overall, 31.4 percent of black students and 33.2 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, while 17.6 percent of black students and 21.2 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded achievement standards in math. That represents a jump of over 3 percentage points since 2014-15.
Nonetheless, it highlights that achievement gaps remain, the state said. On ELA, 68.6 percent of white students met or exceeded expectations, while 56.9 percent did so in math. The results showed similar disparities among high needs populations of students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families.
Over 234,000 students in grades 3-8 participated in the second administration of the Smarter Balanced assessment. This represents a participation rate of over 97 percent.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.