Despite progress, more still needed on SAT scores

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Recent data results of the Connecticut SAT indicate an overall success for Bristol Public Schools, but also a need to close the achievement gap.

Last October, the Connecticut Board of Education adopted the SAT as the grade 11 state assessment, which replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment for all juniors. This change allowed all juniors in Bristol Public Schools to take the SAT free of charge during the school day.

Although the state has not reported a firm participation rate yet, the district is looking at a 97 percent participation level, which is “very high” and “very admirable,” said Bristol Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek during a recent Board of Education meeting.

A three-hour exam scored on a 400 to 1600 point scale, the redesigned SAT focuses on the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Under the new format, the evidence-based reading and writing section and the math section are scored on a 200 to 800 point scale, and there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers.

The new SAT also will be used for school and district accountability like SBAC and CAPT in the past.

Although the district’s average came close to exceeding the state average in reading and math, juniors at Bristol Central High School met the state average in math and scored only two points away from the state average in English/Language Arts, said Solek.

Bristol Eastern High School’s 11th graders scored only five points away from the state average in English/Language Arts, added Solek.

During the meeting, Solek highlighted the CT SAT results released by the state, including how the district’s performance compared to students in the Alliance Districts. Bristol is one of 30 school districts in Connecticut’s Alliance District program, which includes the state’s lowest-performing districts. Solek said Bristol ranked third from the top on the reading part of the SAT, and ranked second from the top in math.

Solek said this is “quite an accomplishment” for the district’s students, staff and administrators.

The results were similar when comparing Bristol’s performance to other school districts in District Reference Group (DRG) G. DRG G includes 15 districts that Bristol is most contiguous to economically and through its general population, including Naugatuck, Torrington and Middletown. When compared to other DRG G school districts in math, Bristol ranked third from the top, and second from the top in English/Language Arts, said Solek.

Data released from the state also included the CT SAT performance results of students in the district’s “high needs subgroup.” Solek said this subgroup is defined in general terms as “students with special learning needs and other needs that impact their ability to perform academically.” Students in special education also fall under this category.

When compared statewide, students in the high needs subgroup of Bristol Public Schools ranked in the top 27 percent, reported Solek.

“That’s a commendable first start for us,” said Solek. “We certainly recognize that while we have more work to do, we’re very proud.”

Overall, when compared to the total average SAT subject scores, the district scored a total of 515 in English/Language Arts and 492 in math. The data report showed that male students scored slightly lower than the district’s average in English/Language Arts, but higher than the district’s average in math. Meanwhile, female students scored higher in English/Language Arts than the district’s total average, but slightly lower than the average in math.

The SAT data report also compared the performance of students in other subgroups to the district’s average scores in math and English/Language Arts. These subgroups included students in special education, students eligible for free/reduced lunch, Hispanic/Latino students, and black American students, which all scored lower than the district’s average for math and English.

Students included in the free/reduced lunch eligibility qualification scored an average of 487 in English and 469 in math, reported Solek.

Solek said seven students from the district’s English Language Learners’ (ELL) program took the CT SAT, scoring an average of 413 in English and 403 in math.

Hispanic/Latino students scored an average of 474 in English and 456 in math, and black American students scored an average of 479 in English and 439 in math.

Solek said closing the achievement gap is a priority this year.

“We need to work harder than ever to close the achievement gaps going forward,” said Solek. “We have some concrete measures in place. We have other plans to add even more strategies and measures to make that happen.”

Solek also compared the district’s performance on the CT SAT to other Hartford County school districts based on their per pupil expenditures.

“We are fairly low when compared to other Hartford districts regarding per pupil expenditure, but we are average to average high with performance,” said Solek. “Because our per pupil expenditure is relatively low, it must mean that we’re doing terrifically despite that. In my estimation, it’s credit to the very hard work and diligence of our OTL (Office of Teaching and Learning) staff, our teachers and our administrators.”

When compared to other Alliance Districts and DRG G districts based on per pupil expenditure, Solek said “Bristol’s performance was excellent when compared to DRG G districts.”

“Again, huge achievements across the board,” said Solek.

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.Bristol All Heart