Tuesday's release of the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test results showed New Canaan's scores about where they were last year and well above the state averages, which fell across the board.
"We were very pleased," New Canaan Superintendent Mary Kolek said. "If you look from elementary to high school, many of (the results) are the strongest or among the strongest we've gotten in the past several years."
Among New Canaan eighth-graders, 96.6 percent tested at or above goal in reading, the fourth highest of five levels on the CMT rubric. Last year, that number was 93.1. Students fared slightly worse in writing, however, where 92.7 percent of eighth-graders tested at goal, down from 96 percent last year.
From Bridgeport to Milford, Stratford to Trumbull, the percentage of elementary and middle school students meeting the state's reading and math goal were generally down.
Statewide, results showed declines in the third- through eighth-grade results in reading, math, writing and science -- all the subjects tested. Only 61.6 percent of third-graders statewide reached the goal set for them in reading, and just 56.9 percent met the goal in math. By eighth grade, 65.7 percent of students statewide met the goal in math and 78.9 percent met the reading goal. In both cases, the percentages were lower than they had been in 2012.
Sophomores who took the Connecticut Academic Placement Test, meanwhile, showed modest improvement over the class that came before them in reading, math and science, although only 48.5 percent -- fewer than half -- reached the goal in reading, compared to 47.5 percent in 2012. In math, 52.6 percent met the goal in 2013, compared to 49.3 percent in 2012.
In New Canaan, CAPT scores increased in math and science and about the same in reading and writing.
In math, 86.1 percent met goal in 2013, up from 83.8 percent the previous year. In science, 83.6 percent met goal, up from 78.9 in 2012.
Though better than last year, the results are not quite on the level as those from five years ago. In 2008, 90.2 percent and 85.8 percent of New Canaan sophomores scored goal on the CAPT test in math and science, respectively.
While she noted that it was too early to explain the results, which will take analysis and certainly derive from several factors, Kolek said at first glance she thought the work the district has done with teachers was a primary reason for the results.
"We do a lot of professional development," she said. "We spend a lot of time with our teachers working on improving. Even very strong results can be improved. Our new teacher evaluation plan focused on teachers analyzing student performance. I don't think there's ever one reason, but I think the emphasis we've placed on strong teachers has a lot to do with the overall strength of the system."
Statewide, the CMT was taken by about 242,600 students while about 42,000 students took CAPT. This is the last year all districts will take these tests. Next year, some districts will switch over to the new tests, which align with a new state curriculum test.
The results come despite ongoing efforts by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to improve student achievement and narrow the nation's worst achievement gap. That gap lessened in some areas but actually grew in others, according to results.
Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor blamed the decline -- particularly in the early grades -- on the shift to the new Common Core State Standards curriculum, which is already underway in many districts.
Third-graders in New Canaan faced no such issue, though elements of Common Core curriculum have been steadily introduced here in recent years. In each of math, reading and writing, students improved over last year, with 91.2 percent of students meeting goal in reading, in contrast to 89.6 percent last year.
Andrew Doba, a Malloy spokesman, said the governor has been clear from the beginning that the task of improving public schools will take time.
"While there is certainly more work to do, we are seeing signs of improvement, particularly when it comes to the Commissioner's Network schools. Working with administrators and teachers, this is a challenge that we can and will tackle together," said Doba.
Last year, the state began working with a handful of schools with the lowest test scores, called the Commissioner's Network. All four, including Curiale School in Bridgeport, have shown improvement, Pryor said.
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