About half of the Connecticut students who took a new statewide standardized science test last spring scored at grade level or better, but state officials say it is hard to say how good — or not– those scores are.

Because the test is new and the same test is not administered in other states, it is difficult to assess how successful Connecticut students were on the test.

“We really did not have an expectation” on how the students would do, said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, chief performance officer at the State Department of Education. “It’s hard to have an expectation when it’s a completely brand new set of standard and a completely brand new assessment.”

About 115,000 students in three grades took the Next Generation Science Standards test, with 53.6% of the state’s fifth graders scoring at grade level or better — the highest average among the grades.

Among eighth graders,  52.2 % scored at the proficient or better level, while 47.7 % of the e11th graders did so.

District by district and school by school scores were released Wednesday and are available on the department’s Edsight website.

As has been the case with all the state’s standardized tests –including the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test in English and math —  a far greater percentage of students in the wealthier suburban towns scored at the proficient level or better than did students in the state’s poor cities.

For instance, only about a quarter of Hartford’s fifth, eighth and 11th graders scored at the proficient level or better compared to better than three quarters who did so in each tested grade in Simsbury and Darien.

Gopalakrishnan said the science test is quite different from past standardized science tests. “It’s not just about communicating the content,” he said. “It really is about getting kids to think and act like scientists.”

He said the results are saying “Sure, our kids can do it. They need the instruction obviously. Obviously,  the instruction has to change. You can’t teach science the old way …This is basically saying our kids can do it and we need more of our kids to do it.” 

Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said the Next Generation Science Standards test goes beyond textbook lessons and asks “students to think like scientists. It represents an important shift in how science is taught and learned with a more enriching experience supported by relevant, exciting and hands-on activities. When the material at hand resonates with students it is more likely to inspire and lead to advanced study and the pursuit of increasingly important STEM-related college and career pathways.”

Kathleen Megan wrote for more than three decades for the Hartford Courant, covering education in recent years and winning many regional and national awards. She is now covering education and child welfare issues for the Mirror.

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  1. The results of the science test are quite clear, and does not bode well for business and industry that requires employees to be proficient in science and math. Nor does the test results provide any comfort for Governor Lamont’s intentions to bring high tech industry to CT. Once again the political establishment in the CT Department of Education prefer to spin the test outcomes as a “first test” and therefore cannot be compared and they did not have any “expected outcomes”. Perhaps this is the biggest problem, our education leaders have no expectations beyond being mediocre.

  2. How does a standardized test get students “to think like a scientist?” Or provide an enriching experience? I also find it hard to believe that in CT only half of students are at grade level. I know we have an achievement gap, but we’re also a state with top performing schools. CT students do well on the SAT, comparing quite well with states that require all students to take the SAT. CT students average 1046 on that test.

  3. Meanwhile, back in the real world (a.k.a., Objective Reality), if only half of your products are meeting their quality standards, there is obviously something seriously wrong with your process, your standards and/or your measurements, irrespective of how your results are trending or compare to those of competitors.

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