West Hartford’s ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Scores are Good News, Superintendent Says

Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

District-by-district results for the new ‘Smarter Balanced’ standardized test were released Friday.

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Scores for the new Smarter Balanced (SBAC) standardized tests were released Friday, and West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore said that the news is good for West Hartford.

“We’re almost 17 percent above the state average for grades 3-8,” Moore said Friday.

“Grades 3 through 5 were exceptionally strong. We’re really pleased,” said Moore. The results for those grade levels were about 20 percent above state averages, Moore said.

Because the tests are new, it’s tough to determine how to create comparisons, Moore said. What the district is doing on initial analysis is looking at how West Hartford did in relation to the state averages for the 2015 SBAC as compared to the 2013 CMT – the last year for which there was credible data. The SBAC was administered as a pilot in 2014, but specific results were not released.

In past years, including 2013 which was the strongest year to date, West Hartford’s CMT scores averaged between 10 and 12 percent above state averages, Moore said.

West Hartford also fared well in comparison to its reference group, DRG B, which includes the nearby school districts of Avon, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Simsbury, and South Windsor, as well as Brookfield, Cheshire, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Madison, Monroe, New Fairfield, Newtown, Orange, Regional District 5, Regional District 15, Trumbull, and Woodbridge.

West Hartford administrators had been informed earlier that the district had done well in comparison to state averages, but did not receive specific data until Friday. “Before today we were only able to see the gap, and we knew we were 15 to 18 points above the state average,” Director of Secondary Education Paul Vicinus said.

Vicinus said he will begin disecting the results on a more detailed level, but at first glance “it’s a very good news story,” he said. Vicinus said that all of West Hartford’s schools were in at least the 50th percentile and some schools, like Bugbee, posted scores in the top 1 percent of the state. At Bugbee, 92.4 percent of students received an overall score of “3” or “4” on the test, meaning that nearly all students met or exceeded achievement levels.

Statewide, 55.4 percent of students scored a 3 or 4 on the English language portion and 39.1 percent scored a 3 or 4 on the math section. West Hartford’s results across all schools and grade levels indicated that 72.4 percent scored a 3 or 4 on the English language section and 54.7 percent scored at that level on math.

Although Moore and Vicinus are pleased with the overall results, and will present a detailed analysis to the Board of Education at its Sept. 15 meeting, both stress that this is only a small measure of West Hartford Public Schools’ success.

“All these are is a snapshot. Good scores are a reflection of a lot of hard work over the years to adjust to a new curriculum,” Moore said. “My commitment to parents is that we won’t be driven by test scores. What I’m very pleased with is that these scores are not a reflection of test preparation – they’re just a reflection of good teaching.”

West Hartford has spent the past several years realigning its curriculum in accordance with the Common Core State Standards which are more rigorous. The SBAC tests are also aligned with the Common Core. “Being an early adopter and taking it seriously made a difference,” Vicinus said.

West Hartford Public Schools have focused on “making students college and career ready with 21st Century skills,” said Vicinus, including skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and supporting claims with hard evidence.

High school students in grade 11 also took the SBAC test in the spring of 2015, but many opted out and West Hartford administrators are not spending much time looking at those results.

“Based on the number of students who didn’t take [the SBAC], the statistical validity of those numbers is up for grabs,” Moore said. High school juniors will not be taking the SBAC in future years and the SAT, which has been redesigned, will fulfill the standardized testing requirement for Connecticut’s high schoolers based on a waiver request submitted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in early August.

Specific details about statewide results on the SBAC can be found by clicking here for an excel spreadsheet prepared by the Connecticut State Department of Education. The Hartford Courant has prepared a comparison tool which can be found by clicking here.

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