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Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jean Evans Davila shared a presentation on student data from tests over the last two years at the Board of Education’s meeting on January 16.
The school board will resume its budget workshop meetings on January 23, and a public hearing on the budget is scheduled for January 30 at the Newtown Municipal Center, at 7:30 pm.
Ms Davila said looking at student test data was timely with the continuing budget discussions, because both “tie into” the district’s goals and strategic plan.
“Tonight we are going to look at student performance data on broader level assessments,” said Ms Davila.
The presentation included data from the Smarter Balanced assessments for third to eighth grade in English language arts/literacy and in mathematics; the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) in science for third, eighth, and eleventh grade; Advanced Placement tests; and the Connecticut School Day Standardized Aptitude Test (SAT) assessment for English language, arts, and mathematics, which was administered to eleventh grade students.
“I want you to keep in mind that tonight’s presentation still has a larger piece of the puzzle behind it, not on the screen today,” said Ms Davila, adding that “in-house data” also offers a fuller picture of individual students and the school environment.
Starting with the Smarter Balanced assessment data, Ms Davila said the tests have been in place for three years. The presentation shared information for each grade cohort, following the grade level performance for third to eighth graders from 2015 to 2017. The Smarter Balanced assessments replaced the CMT test for English language arts/literacy and mathematics testing.
The results for the Smarter Balanced scores were reported for the number of students who tested at target level three or four, the two highest score levels for the assessments. In all levels Newtown was reported as scoring higher than the state average.
Ways the district is addressing the testing information, Ms Davila said, include curriculum writing and committee work to establish teaching practices, coaching, and personal development. Budget requests to support teacher and curriculum supports have also been requested as a result of supporting students based on the results of the assessments, according to Ms Davila.
For the science CMT and CAPT results, Ms Davila shared the percent of students in fifth, eighth, and eleventh grades that tested above the test’s goal. Of the students who took the test in 2017, 74.5 percent met or tested above the goal. Ms Davila shared information comparing Newtown’s results with other towns in Newtown’s District Reference Group (DRG). Farmington was the highest performing district in the DRG, with 82.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding the goal. Newtown is eleventh in order of testing of the 19 districts in the DRG. On average students across the state passed at 51.1 percent at or above the goal.
Ms Davila said a “new, more rigorous” state test based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for science will replace the CMT and CAPT assessments. Providing supports for the transition to NGSS are incorporated into the district’s proposed spending plan for 2018-19, according to Ms Davila.
The test results for students who took Advanced Placement classes at NHS in 2016 and 2017 were also shared. In 2016, 84 percent of students scored between target of 3 and 5 on the tests, and in 2017, 82 percent of the students who took the tests scored between 3 and 5.
A New SAT
The new SAT, called the Connecticut SAT School Day, was offered for the first time in 2016. Ms Davila shared information from both 2016 and 2017. It tested eleventh grade students during the school day for both English language arts and mathematics. The percentage of students who achieved 3 or 4 on the tests was reported and again compared to the state average. In 2016, 88.6 percent of students scored at the level for English language arts, and the state average was 65 percent. In math that year. 65.5 percent scored at the target in Newtown, and the state average was 39.3 percent.
In 2017, 87.8 percent of Newtown students met the target scores for English language arts, and at the state level the average was 65.4 percent. For math that year, 73.2 percent of students met the target, and the state average was 41.3 percent.
When comparing Newtown’s 2017 performance on the Connecticut School Day SAT with the performances of other districts in its DRG, Ms Davila said Newtown was placed fifth out of 20 in English language arts and fourth in math.
“It tells us that we can feel confident that our students are prepared for college and careers,” said Ms Davila.
After the presentation, board members asked questions regarding the data. To a concern board member Dan Delia voiced about one grade level’s declining performances in English language arts on the Smarter Balanced assessments, Ms Davila said a new curriculum is one way to address that performance. Board member Debbie Leidlein also expressed concern for declining math and English language arts scores, and she requested information on how anxiety is affecting student test scores.
School district Business Director Ron Bienkowski also shared his monthly financial report at the meeting.
According to the report, all of the 2017-18 budget’s main object accounts continue to have a positive balance, with the exception of the Other Purchased Services category, “which contains the line item for Out-of-District Tuition which will remain over budget until the receipt of the Excess Cost Grant.”
Mr Bienkowski reported the budget has an overall negative position “somewhat less than the prior month.” Some maintenance issues are also anticipated, he said.
“The budget, still, is in a negative position, but it is mitigated quite a bit since last month,” said Mr Bienkowski, adding that the projected budget negative balance is roughly $72,000.