One-third of high school juniors are not reading and writing well enough to begin taking college courses or start a career, statewide SAT results released Monday show. Math results are even more dire – 59 percent failed to meet the college- or career-ready standard.
Here are five things to know about this year’s results. (Including results for your school and district)
1. Some groups of students thrive – others stumble
Connecticut has long had a reputation for having some of the largest gaps in achievement between minority students and their white peers.
This year’s batch of scores did nothing to narrow those yawning gaps.
White students in Connecticut continue to be twice as likely as black or Hispanic students to have the reading and writing skills needed to be ready for college or career, the results from the 2018-19 SAT show. For math skills, white students are three times more likely to be prepared.
Ajit Gopalakrishnan, Bureau Chief Connecticut State Department of Education Performance Office, said the scores show slight improvements for minority students but there is still work to be done.
“These SAT scores are not painting a new picture about the current state of achievement in our state … [African Americans and Hispanics] are showing a slight increase in mathematics, but they are still lagging their white and Asian student peers,” Gopalakrishnan said.
Gopalakrishnan said a better measure of student progress is the Next Generation Accountability System, which is a broader state assessment of schools and districts that relies on data from a dozen indicators including test scores, academic growth, chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, college readiness, and arts access.
“We just have to continually meet students where they are, continue to engage students, make instruction relevant and interesting, and give them opportunities to excel,” Gopalakrishnan added, “because we believe and we know that all students under the right conditions can excel and that is our job as educators to provide that for all of our students.”
2. Just how far behind?
Many students are on the cusp of being where they should be and have their senior year to catch up. However, many students are multiple years behind. In math, one out of every four Connecticut students is significantly behind. In reading and writing, it’s one-in-five students.
Gopalakrishnan said there is a totality of circumstances that go into a student’s ability to master a subject, and those changes must start with instruction and curriculum.
“The [SAT shows] how students did on a standardized test on a particular day and that is a decent measure, but that is a culmination of students staying in school, coming to class, paying attention, teachers and instructors adhering to standards and not shortcutting them,” he said. There is so much that goes into whether a student has mastered the content, so that when they go into that testing center that one day they can actually demonstrate their knowledge. So changing instruction to make that happen is the long game.”
3. No improvement
Overall, Connecticut’s high school juniors have shown no significant changes in performance since 2015, when state officials decided to require every high school junior to take the exam instead of the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment.
This year, the average math score was 501 points. This means the average Connecticut junior did not have the math skills necessary to begin a career or begin taking college courses. Students are considered college- and career-ready if they score at least 530 out of 800 points on the math portion of the exam. Students who reached that target have a 75 percent probability of earning at least a “C” in that subject in college.
The threshold for students to be college or career ready for English is 480 points and the average score was 515 points.
This stagnation is present across all groups of students – despite various state funding and reform efforts during this time.
“We always expect more and want our students to achieve more,” said Gopalakrishnan. “We had hoped for it to be better than this.”
Gopalakrishnan said reform efforts and increased funding have paid off in ways that may not be discernable from one day of testing, however, and stressed that the investments must continue despite the lag in improvement.
“We’ve seen improvements in our graduation rates. What used to be in the low eighties is now in the high eighties and we’re exceeding the national average,” Gopalakrishnan said. “I think our schools are fine and are doing a better job at engaging students, retaining them, keeping them involved in school and instruction, exposing them to a more rigorous curriculum. So it might not show up on this one test at this one place in time but I think if you were to look at the totality, I think you do see that investments are paying off.”
4. See how your town did
5. Other measures are important, too
Grading schools based on test scores has dominated much of the debate about school quality in recent years. But there is so much more that contributes to how students may do.
The CT Mirror created a database to provide parents with a broad collection of measures to judge their child’s school — from a breakdown of class sizes, how money is spent to how often students are disciplined. We will periodically update this tool. Check it out by clicking here.
Can’t find what you are looking for? The state also has created a site with more data that you can find by clicking here.