Groton students outperform peers in similar districts on new assessment test

Groton — Results of new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, to be detailed at the Groton Board of Education meeting Tuesday, showed 52.8 percent of Groton students met or exceeded achievement levels in English language arts and 38.8 percent met or exceeded the levels in math.

Groton students scored at about the state average on the test, but at or near the top of their peer group with similar demographics.

Groton schools ranked first among about 22 comparable districts in math and third in literacy.

Superintendent Michael Graner said he's pleased by this but wants to focus on the test as a tool.

"We really want to use the data to support student learning. Not so much as a competitive thing. I'm happy that some grades did quite well," Graner said. "But in my mind, the data is really going to provide teachers with the data they need to put together a learning plan for students."

Graner will brief the school board on the details during a meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Charles Barnum Elementary School.

Statewide, 55.4 percent of students met or exceeded targeted expectations in English language arts and 39.1 percent exceeded the targets in math on the tests, which were being used for the first time to officially measure student achievement.

A research and advocacy group singled out Groton as being among a handful of "standout districts" with a higher percentage of low-income or minority students than the state average and performance exceeding the state average.

Groton was cited specifically for serving more low-income students than the state average and also having a higher percentage of total students scoring at the top two levels of the test. 

"Results from standout districts across our state suggest that educators and students are rising to the challenge of meeting these higher standards regardless of race, wealth or zip code," said a statement by Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN. "The results are a baseline from which we can — and must — improve."

Statewide, 30 percent of students eligible for free lunch met or exceeded the achievement level in English language arts and 15.4 percent met or exceeded the achievement level in math.

Of the students eligible for reduced-price lunch, 45.6 met or exceeded the level in English language arts and 26.4 met or exceeded the level in math.

Results showed student performance in Groton varied widely by grade.

At the high school, 38.7 percent of 11th graders met or exceeded the achievement level in language arts, while 15.8 percent met or exceeded the achievement level in math.

By comparison, 59.1 percent of third graders met or exceeded the achievement level in language arts, and 48.6 percent did so in math.

At the middle schools, 53.2 percent of seventh graders met or the exceeded achievement level in language arts and 36 percent met that standard in math.

The smarter balanced test, or SBAC tests, replaced the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test for students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 this year.

This is the first year of the SBAC, so the results provide baseline data.

"Over the next three or four or five years, we're really going to to see a trend," Graner said. 

After Graner presents the data to the school board, principals will get together with the teaching staff and develop plans to improve student learning.

They will look not just at areas of weakness but of success. In one forth grade, 81 percent of students scored at or above expectations, for example.

"The fascinating question is what's working and why and how can we improve?" Graner said.

About 267,000 students took the test this spring, which is given on a computer and based on the new academic "Common Core" education standards. 

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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