Students surpass state, national test standards
Updated 5:44 pm, Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Continuing a tradition of high academic achievement, Westport public school students outperformed peers at the state and national levels in a range of subjects in 2011, according to the district's annual standardized test report.
On both the Connecticut Academic Performance Test and the Connecticut Mastery Tests, Westport students beat the state averages in math, science, reading and writing by large margins in 2011. In math, for example, 90 percent of Staples High School 10th graders who took the CAPT met or exceeded the state-established goal level of achievement compared to a state average of 50 percent.
The CMT, meanwhile, showed that Westport students scored substantially higher than their peers around the state at an early age. On the reading section, 78 percent of Westport third graders reached or surpassed the goal level compared to a state average of 58 percent. In science, the percentage of Westport fifth graders meeting or exceeding the goal level topped the state average by 25 percentage points.
Staples students who took the CAPT also outperformed their peers in District Reference Group A, which includes the Wilton, Weston and Darien school districts. Staples students beat the DRG A average of students meeting or exceeding the goal level in math, reading, science and writing.
The state Department of Education sorts each school district in Connecticut into a district reference group, with DRG A representing one of the most affluent.
Westport students compared slightly less favorably with other students in DRG A on the CMT. In five of the six grades taking the test, the percentage of Westport students meeting or surpassing the goal level in reading fell below the DRG A average, a trend that was noted by several education board members.
"We consistently fall below our peers, even if we're performing well, we're performing below our peers in reading," said board chairman Don O'Day. "Year over year, reading is the area that we do least well in."
Lis Comm, director of secondary education and research and professional development, replied that Westport students' reading scores showed improvement as they got older but acknowledged that the district "should investigate the CMT reading scores and see perhaps what's going on."
Westport students performed well at a national level this year, scoring above the average on each section of the SAT. In math, Staples pupils posted an average score of 599, compared to a nationwide average of 514, while they beat the average SAT writing score by more than 100 points.
But the Westport school district did not meet every standardized testing yardstick this year.
Staples was cited under the federal No Child Left Behind law for failing to make "adequate yearly progress," because only 85 percent of students with disabilities met the math proficiency standard on the CAPT. This year, NCLB established a group benchmark of 90 percent proficiency in math.
Based on overall student performance, however, Staples met the AYP standard in reading and math, as 100 percent of students showed proficiency in those subjects.
Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon said he supports the goals of NCLB, but suggested that its testing schedule could be revised for higher-performing school districts such as Westport.
"In districts where they have a history of a large achievement gap with other districts, I think standardized testing is a critical component that should be maintained," he said. "In districts such as ours where we've not had those issues ... there could be a system of checks and balance where perhaps there could be (federal) standardized tests once every five years."
Landon added that Westport students had performed "very well" on standardized tests in 2011.
Several education board members concurred with the superintendent.
"Looking where we are, I see this as an adjustment in minor fine-tuning, rather than a big, giant lever," Mark Mathias said of the district's future strategy for students' standardized testing preparation. "I'm not hearing anything that says that we need to engage in any major, wholesale change."