Schools score below state average on Smarter Balanced test

by LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Recent data shows that Bristol students from grades three to eight, as well as grade 11, overall scored slightly below the state average when meeting or exceeding the expected level of achievement in math and literacy on the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

During a recent Board of Education meeting, the district data team presented the baseline results of SBA, which measures the range of concepts and skills associated with the Common Core Standards for math and literacy.

This year, testing replaced the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Testing in language arts and math for elementary, middle and high schools, and was administered at the end of April. In Connecticut, 267,000 students took SBA. The test participation rate in Bristol reached above 97 percent.

Students received an overall score between achievement Level 1 (the lowest level) and achievement level four (the highest level). Level 1 means that the student does not meet the achievement level, while Level 2 means the student is approaching the expected achievement level. Level 3 means the student has met the expected achievement level, while Level 4 means the student has exceeded the expected achievement level.

Within the language arts/literacy area, SBA examines whether students can read closely and analytically, produce effective and well-grounded writing, employ effective speaking and listening skills, and engage in research and inquiry to investigate topics.

In this subject area, 49 percent of third graders met Level 3 and above, while the state average was 54 percent. Fourth and fifth graders scored slightly below the state average in literacy at 53 and 54 percent. In grade six, 47 percent of students in the district met or exceeded Level 3 while the state average scored at 56 percent. But 59 percent of seventh graders met Level 3 or above, surpassing the state average of 57 percent. Meanwhile, 49 percent of students in Grade 11 met or exceeded Level 3 in literacy compared to the state average of 53 percent.

Overall, a total of 10 schools in the district exceeded the state average in literacy and five schools exceeded the district average.

Solek noted that the scores of the SBA cannot be compared to past scores of the CMT and CAPT, as the new test provides different content and skills. Solek said this year’s results reflect a change in the expectations for what students should know and be able to do—not a change in student abilities.

“As expected, results look different from scores under the old assessment system,” said Bristol Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek. “This does not mean that the students are learning less, rather it reflects that our students are now experiencing a bar that has been set significantly higher.”

The math section of SBA measures how well students can explain and apply mathematical concepts while interpreting mathematical procedures with precision and fluency. It also determines how students can solve a range of complex well-posed problems in pure and applied mathematics, as well as analyze complex, real-world scenarios and clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning.

In this area, all grades that took SBA scored below the state average when meeting Level 3 or above. In grade 11, 18 percent of Bristol students scored Level 3 or above while the state average was 30 percent. In grade three, 43 percent of Bristol students scored Level 3 or above while the state average was 48 percent. In grade four, 40 percent of students scored Level 3 or above, just slightly below the state average of 44 percent. In grade five, 31 percent of students met or exceeded the expected achievement level, while the state average was 37 percent. In grade six, 26 percent of students scored Level 3 or above, compared to the state average of 37 percent. Bristol students in sixth and seventh grade scored slightly below the state average when meeting Level 3 or above.

Overall, eight schools in the district exceeded the state average in math, and five schools exceeded the district average.

Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Pamela Brisson said SBA is not the “sole” measure of student achievement, but will be used for some guidance with student instruction. She noted a variety of other ways to assess student learning, such as teacher observations, student work portfolios, and classroom assessments.

“These achievement levels have absolutely no relationship to CMT and CAPT achievement levels used previously,” added Dr. George Michna, supervisor of evaluation and assessment. “They should not be viewed as predicting students’ failures, and should only be used in the context of the multiple sources of information that we have about our students and schools.”

Initiated many years ago by the National Governors Association, SBA was developed by teachers, parents, administrators and experts from across the nation. It has been adopted by over 40 states nationwide. In 2010, Connecticut joined the SBA, partnering with other states to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment system, said Solek. State educators have been actively involved in many aspects of the new assessment.

Designed as a global measure of learning, SBA provides an annual snapshot of student achievement that should be used with other information, including class work and other tests when making educational decisions.

In 2014, the district opted to administer the test as a pilot.

“Although we weren’t able to receive the data we hoped to receive…it certainly was a helpful first shot at not only the SBA questioning and formatting, but also the technology skills students were required to have in order to take the test successfully,” said Solek.

Unlike the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT), SBA is administered online, and can configure testing windows in a flexible way. The test itself is delivered in two main parts for language arts and math: performance tasks and computer adaptive assessment. The performance tasks measure ability to apply knowledge and skills, reflecting the depth of understanding, research skills and the ability to analyze information. The computer adaptive assessment adjusts difficulty and asks students to perform smaller tasks, and provide different responses, including multiple choice with one correct response, graphing, two-part multiple choice, fill-in tables, and more.

In addition to the different score levels, students received a “performance indicator” for each area of knowledge and skills within a subject. This offers a general indication of the students’ strengths and weaknesses in their learning within each subject area.

Brisson said long-term, the results of this year’s SBA will be analyzed deeper.

“One of the undertakings we will do is take a look at how this assessment data matches other data sources we have,” said Brisson. “We have a lot of data from local assessments—we want to do some comparative analysis.”

Solek said this year’s results reveal achievement gaps among high-need students’ performance when compared to their peers. She said a large number of these students attend a school included in the Alliance District program, which serves as a targeted investment in the state’s lowest-performing school districts, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website. Alliance districts serve over a total of 200,000 students in more than 400 schools. Bristol has been identified as an Alliance District.

Out of all the high-need students in the state, 30.6 percent are meeting or exceeding the achievement standards, which would be Level 3 in language arts, said Solek. In comparison, 74.9 percent of all high-need students’ peers are meeting or exceeding those achievement standards. In math, 16.4 percent of high-needs students statewide are meeting or exceeding the achievement standards at Level 3, while 57 percent of high-needs students’ peers have met or exceeded those standards.

“The Connecticut State Department of Education will work closely with us and will be refreshing the state’s guidelines for scientific research-based interventions,” said Solek.

Recent data shows that Bristol students from grades three to eight, as well as grade 11, overall scored slightly below the state average when meeting or exceeding the expected level of achievement in math and literacy on the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

During a recent Board of Education meeting, the district data team presented the baseline results of SBA, which measures the range of concepts and skills associated with the Common Core Standards for math and literacy.

This year, testing replaced the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Testing in language arts and math for elementary, middle and high schools, and was administered at the end of April. In Connecticut, 267,000 students took SBA. The test participation rate in Bristol reached above 97 percent.

Students received an overall score between achievement Level 1 (the lowest level) and achievement level four (the highest level). Level 1 means that the student does not meet the achievement level, while Level 2 means the student is approaching the expected achievement level. Level 3 means the student has met the expected achievement level, while Level 4 means the student has exceeded the expected achievement level.

Within the language arts/literacy area, SBA examines whether students can read closely and analytically, produce effective and well-grounded writing, employ effective speaking and listening skills, and engage in research and inquiry to investigate topics.

In this subject area, 49 percent of third graders met Level 3 and above, while the state average was 54 percent. Fourth and fifth graders scored slightly below the state average in literacy at 53 and 54 percent. In grade six, 47 percent of students in the district met or exceeded Level 3 while the state average scored at 56 percent. But 59 percent of seventh graders met Level 3 or above, surpassing the state average of 57 percent. Meanwhile, 49 percent of students in Grade 11 met or exceeded Level 3 in literacy compared to the state average of 53 percent.

Overall, a total of 10 schools in the district exceeded the state average in literacy and five schools exceeded the district average.

Solek noted that the scores of the SBA cannot be compared to past scores of the CMT and CAPT, as the new test provides different content and skills. Solek said this year’s results reflect a change in the expectations for what students should know and be able to do—not a change in student abilities.

“As expected, results look different from scores under the old assessment system,” said Bristol Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek. “This does not mean that the students are learning less, rather it reflects that our students are now experiencing a bar that has been set significantly higher.”

The math section of SBA measures how well students can explain and apply mathematical concepts while interpreting mathematical procedures with precision and fluency. It also determines how students can solve a range of complex well-posed problems in pure and applied mathematics, as well as analyze complex, real-world scenarios and clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning.

In this area, all grades that took SBA scored below the state average when meeting Level 3 or above. In grade 11, 18 percent of Bristol students scored Level 3 or above while the state average was 30 percent. In grade three, 43 percent of Bristol students scored Level 3 or above while the state average was 48 percent. In grade four, 40 percent of students scored Level 3 or above, just slightly below the state average of 44 percent. In grade five, 31 percent of students met or exceeded the expected achievement level, while the state average was 37 percent. In grade six, 26 percent of students scored Level 3 or above, compared to the state average of 37 percent. Bristol students in sixth and seventh grade scored slightly below the state average when meeting Level 3 or above.

Overall, eight schools in the district exceeded the state average in math, and five schools exceeded the district average.

Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Pamela Brisson said SBA is not the “sole” measure of student achievement, but will be used for some guidance with student instruction. She noted a variety of other ways to assess student learning, such as teacher observations, student work portfolios, and classroom assessments.

“These achievement levels have absolutely no relationship to CMT and CAPT achievement levels used previously,” added Dr. George Michna, supervisor of evaluation and assessment. “They should not be viewed as predicting students’ failures, and should only be used in the context of the multiple sources of information that we have about our students and schools.”

Initiated many years ago by the National Governors Association, SBA was developed by teachers, parents, administrators and experts from across the nation. It has been adopted by over 40 states nationwide. In 2010, Connecticut joined the SBA, partnering with other states to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment system, said Solek. State educators have been actively involved in many aspects of the new assessment.

Designed as a global measure of learning, SBA provides an annual snapshot of student achievement that should be used with other information, including class work and other tests when making educational decisions.

In 2014, the district opted to administer the test as a pilot.

“Although we weren’t able to receive the data we hoped to receive…it certainly was a helpful first shot at not only the SBA questioning and formatting, but also the technology skills students were required to have in order to take the test successfully,” said Solek.

Unlike the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT), SBA is administered online, and can configure testing windows in a flexible way. The test itself is delivered in two main parts for language arts and math: performance tasks and computer adaptive assessment. The performance tasks measure ability to apply knowledge and skills, reflecting the depth of understanding, research skills and the ability to analyze information. The computer adaptive assessment adjusts difficulty and asks students to perform smaller tasks, and provide different responses, including multiple choice with one correct response, graphing, two-part multiple choice, fill-in tables, and more.

In addition to the different score levels, students received a “performance indicator” for each area of knowledge and skills within a subject. This offers a general indication of the students’ strengths and weaknesses in their learning within each subject area.

Brisson said long-term, the results of this year’s SBA will be analyzed deeper.

“One of the undertakings we will do is take a look at how this assessment data matches other data sources we have,” said Brisson. “We have a lot of data from local assessments—we want to do some comparative analysis.”

Solek said this year’s results reveal achievement gaps among high-need students’ performance when compared to their peers. She said a large number of these students attend a school included in the Alliance District program, which serves as a targeted investment in the state’s lowest-performing school districts, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website. Alliance districts serve over a total of 200,000 students in more than 400 schools. Bristol has been identified as an Alliance District.

Out of all the high-need students in the state, 30.6 percent are meeting or exceeding the achievement standards, which would be Level 3 in language arts, said Solek. In comparison, 74.9 percent of all high-need students’ peers are meeting or exceeding those achievement standards. In math, 16.4 percent of high-needs students statewide are meeting or exceeding the achievement standards at Level 3, while 57 percent of high-needs students’ peers have met or exceeded those standards.

“The Connecticut State Department of Education will work closely with us and will be refreshing the state’s guidelines for scientific research-based interventions,” said Solek.