Branford Students’ Test Scores Inch Up

Newly released preliminary results for the Smarter Balanced assessment and the SAT tests show that Branford students are about on par with the state.

“Our kids are performing at a level commensurate with the state,” said Schools Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez.

Smarter Balanced assessment tests are given to students in grades three through eight in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The Connecticut Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned to Common Core State Standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. A final breakdown by districts, schools, grades, and student groups is expected by the end of August.

SATs are administered to high school juniors and are consider a benchmark for college and career readiness.

Formerly given only to college-bound students, the SATs are now taken in place of the Smarter Balanced assessment for 11th graders and the $46 fee is waived, depending on a student’s finances. The change was made last year.

The test has been revamped to align more with Common Core standards, which concentrate on critical thinking, and shifted from drilling of vocabulary to distinguishing words within a reading passage; a timed essay is optional.

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell said in a press release that the redesigned SAT is harder to prepare for because there is less strategizing over how to beat the test, or cramming of vocabulary lists, and a deeper reliance on tapping the analytical skills and advanced math concepts that are expected to be taught.

SBA Results in Branford

Statewide, across all grades, achievement increased in math by 1.6 percent, to 45.6 percent. In English Language Arts (ELA), the scores decreased by 1.4 points to 54.2 percent, according to data from the state Department of Education.

Achievement levels are categorized from Level 1 to Level 4, generally referred to as “novice, developing, proficient, and advanced.” Students performing at Levels 3 and 4 are considered on track to demonstrating the knowledge and skills necessary for college and career readiness.

In Branford among all grades, the number of students achieving Level 3 or above in ELA declined from 63.6 percent in 2015-16 to 60.1 percent in 2016-17. In math, 53.3 percent achieved Level 3 or above in 2016-17, while the score was 53.2 percent in 2015-16.

Scores were lower in East Haven and higher in Guilford and Madison. East Haven’s ELA scores were 47.1 percent and 46.6 percent in ELA in 2015 and 2016 respectively and in math, 30.8 percent and 32.6 percent.

Guilford’s ELA scores were 81.7 percent in 2015 and 78.1 percent in 2016, and in math, 70.5 percent and 75.6 percent. Madison’s ELA scores were 71.1 percent in 2015 and 66.9 percent in 2015; math scores were 63.4 percent and 62.6 percent. 

SAT Results

Overall the SAT results in Connecticut show that the number of students taking the exam is up 0.4 percent in English language arts (65.0 percent to 65.4 percent) and by 0.2 percent in math (39.3 percent to 41.3 percent), according to data from the state Department of Education.

On the SAT scale of 200 to 800, Branford’s ELA scores are up four points from 520 in 2015 to 524 in 2016, and by five points in math from 502 to 507.

In contrast, East Haven’s scores were lower than Branford’s: 481 (2015) and 487 (2016) for ELA and 450 (2015) and 461 (2016) for math. 

However, the scores in both Guilford and Madison were higher. Guilford’s ELA scores were 587 (2015) and 582 (2016); math scores were 561 in both 2015 and 2016. Madison’s ELA scores were 597 (2015) and 591 (2016); math scores were 578 (2015) and 580 (2016).

As with the SBA score, the SAT scores of those towns were higher, they generally declined, while East Haven’s improved slightly. 

Branford had a 99 percent participation rate: 200 out of 202 students took the test on what was designated as Connecticut School Day SAT, which is part of a campaign to ensure that all public school students, especially those from low-income families, have the chance to take the test.

Despite its all-inclusive nature, SAT scores for Branford students still increased, albeit modestly. Often college-bound students receive extensive SAT preparation, something that may not be available to students of lesser means.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, school enrollment was just under 3,000. Twenty-six percent of students are eligible to receive free or reduce rate lunches, and 11 percent of the school population is entering or leaving at any given time. Click here to read a recent story.

Hernandez cited “slow but steady gains” despite a diverse student population. “We’ll continue to work in making gains,” he said, adding that there are areas where they can improve. He acknowledged the support of parents and guardians in helping the students’ achievement.

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