New Canaan High School Principal Bryan Luizzi shared good news on standardized test results with the Board of Education Monday night.

"This year we did very well," Luizzi said, speaking about the Connecticut Academic Performance Test results relative to District Reference Group A. District Reference Groups are collections of schools grouped together for comparison based on the district's enrollment and the students' socioeconomic status.

"Math increased 2.3 percent," Luizzi said. "Writing is close to last year's score. Science saw a strong jump. Reading places us again at the top."

CAPT grades are scored on a 1 to 5 scale, with 4 being the goal level. In math, 86.1 percent of New Canaan students scored at or above goal, which was fifth out of nine schools in the DRG. In science, that number was 83.6, which was second in the DRG. Reading was 87.7, which was best in the DRG, and writing was 92.9, good for second in the DRG.

Luizzi said that because of the strength of the schools in DRG A, which includes Darien, Weston, Westport and Wilton, the school's rank in the DRG is probably also its rank statewide.

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One area in which New Canaan has been weak in recent years is science. In 2012, New Canaan ranked fifth; in 2011, seventh. Luizzi said the district put particular focus this year on preparing its students for the exam.

"The science department focused all year on improving scores on the CAPT and their results speak for themselves," he said.

Luizzi was particularly upbeat about participation in Advanced Placement courses. He noted that in 2009, 375 AP tests were administered districtwide, while last March, 613 AP tests were administered, a 61 percent increase in participation.

"At the same time, we see our performance has been consistent," Luizzi said. "We anticipate this trend continues as more AP courses are brought into the curriculum."

A full 96 percent of students who took an AP test last year scored a 3 or above. The tests are graded on a 1-to-5 scale, where a score of 3 or above is counted as equivalent to completion of a college class at some universities. The district also had eight "national scholars," a title given to students who scored 4 or better on eight or more AP exams.

"I'm so impressed with the AP results," Board of Education member Penny Rashin said. "It really is something for this whole team of teachers to be so proud of. Those tests really do require you to think deeply and analyze."

There were two areas of some concern: SAT scores and gender gaps.

The district's aggregated SAT scores were down slightly, placing New Canaan fifth in DRG A. The average reading score in the district was 578, math was 601 and writing was 595. The reading and math scores are the lowest in the district in the last five years. It was noted, however, that the SATs are an aptitude test, rather than an academic one and, therefore, reflect the learning in the classroom less than the CAPT does.

There remain gender divides on CAPT performance. For example, 60.5 percent of boys received a score of 5 in science, while only 45.6 percent of girls did. In writing, the tables were reversed, with 73.8 percent of girls and 53.7 percent of boys scoring a 5.

Luizzi said similar discrepancies are par for the course statewide and nationally, but that the district has addressed the achievement gap as something it would like to change in recent years.

"A few years ago a teacher started a reading team, talking about strategies for reluctant readers. We have done some research on the neuroscience of learning and are asking, `how do we learn?' We've looked at the writing we're asking our students to do and looking at placement criteria for classes," he said.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews