Published February 22. 2012 4:00AM
New London - Practice testing of the city's middle and high school students shows accelerated growth and promising results in reading and mathematics, according to school administrators.
The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test results, released by the school district Friday, show "significant" progress in reading across all grade levels at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and "drastic" improvements in 10th grade reading scores.
"We've seen more growth than an average student nationally. Our kids are still below grade level, but they really are improving at an intense rate," middle school Principal Alison Ryan said Tuesday.
In eight school days, middle and high school students will begin taking the CMTs and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), respectively. MAP tests are not official state tests, but they give students and teachers a way to measure progress periodically.
Overall, middle school students have made more than a year's progress in three months, Ryan said.
Administrators will present these results Thursday to the Board of Education:
• Reading scores for sixth-graders and for black students in all grades have risen at double the normal national rate.
• Reading and math scores among sixth-grade non-English Language Learners and non-special education students have grown at triple the normal rate.
• Eighth-grade reading scores among white, Hispanic and non-ELL and non-special education students have risen four times faster than the national norm.
• Math scores among eighth-grade black students and seventh-grade special education students also rose at four times the normal rate.
For the second year in a row, middle and high school students were tested at the beginning of the school year and again at the end of January. They will take the MAP test once more before the end of the year.
"We (started MAP) because we really wanted to find a way to figure out how kids were doing in a standardized way so that we're not waiting for the Connecticut Mastery Test to tell us where we think we are," Ryan said. "All the research says that this is a predictor of the achievement on the CMTs, and we're really excited about that."
Administered to elementary and middle school students across the state, the CMT assesses students' progress in reading, math and writing. Science is tested in the fifth and eighth grades.
Fourth- and fifth-grade students in the city's elementary schools are making progress, but there are still noticeable gaps in skills between white and minority students, Assistant Superintendent Christine Carver noted in a Feb. 17 memo that will be presented to the school board.
Chairman William Morse said Tuesday that he is "cautiously optimistic" about the MAP test scores but is waiting to see the results of the state tests this spring.
"I say 'cautiously' because the results that show groups of students that have advanced an academic year in math or reading, in four months, is very encouraging, especially with the progress of the special education students," Morse said.
"We're seeing the results of a lot of hard work and a lot of collaboration between teachers. I want to see this rate of growth continue so that we can at least close the gap where it's serious."