SAT scores tumble along with the rest of the state
NEW CANAAN — High schoolers this past year followed the larger statewide trend of lower scores in the SAT language arts and math sections.
The average score for New Canaan High students in the 2017-18 school year in both sections was 604 points, a drop from the class of 2017, which averaged 615 in English and 612 in math, according to results of school-administered SATs released last Wednesday.
Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi said the district focuses more on long-term results as opposed to year-over-year comparisons.
“While we’ll certainly look closely at the disaggregated data to consider micro-trends and to identify areas for future focus in the weeks ahead, overall our students continue to perform very well in all measures, including the SAT, and we expect that excellent performance to continue,” Luizzi said.
Luizzi noted New Canaan students “continue to perform very well compared to school districts in Connecticut and across the country.”
Statewide, language arts scores dropped 8 points to 516 and math scores fell 4 points to 503. Both are out of a possible score of 800.
The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in neighboring Stamford showed a 17-point drop in the average score for language arts, but a four-point rise in math, according to the results. The magnet school recorded the highest averages — 527 in math and 533 in language arts — in the Stamford Public Schools district.
At Westhill High School, the averages reflected the statewide trend with scores dipping by one point in math and nine points in language arts. Stamford High School showed a similar decline, with average scores down three points in both language arts and math.
Stamford Superintendent of Schools Earl Kim said the district’s scores are misleading and do not perform on a “typical bell curve.”
“Providing all students with the opportunity to take the SATs, regardless of their immediate future plans, is beneficial to familiarize them with that aspect of the college search and application experience,” Kim said. “However, one cannot and should not infer anything by looking at the central tendency data from those or any placement tests. ... The mean score is misleading and does not describe the distribution in the same way it would if our scores were a bell curve.”
Stamford Academy saw a rise in scores, with language arts averaging 380 — up from 368 — and math improving to 377 from 360.
Statewide, average language arts scores remain higher than the grade level score of 480 set by the state when it adopted the SAT as the state’s standardized test for 11th-graders three years ago. For the third year in a row, more than 60 percent of juniors taking the test scored at or above the expected target.
Average math scores have yet to reach the grade-level score of 530. In math, 40.3 percent of students met or exceed the target.
The score decline cut across every category in reading. In math, the one increase was for students who qualify for free meals, who rose from an average score of 435 to 440.
In that, Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell took some solace.
“While results have remained relatively stable over the last three years, we are encouraged by the bright spots in the results of this year’s SAT School Day including a majority of students mastering college and career readiness in English language arts and an increase in achievement in mathematics for students from low-income backgrounds,” Wentzell said in a prepared statement.
She said the Connecticut SAT School Day serves as an accountability assessment measure but also provides all high school juniors the opportunity to take a college readiness exam at no cost. The SAT is one of two tests many colleges still look to when admitting students.
The results, in addition to measuring student performance, can also be used by students applying to college.
“Our goal is to make sure all of our students are prepared to succeed in college and their careers,” Wentzell said. “To that end, we are dedicated to supporting districts’ efforts to close achievement gaps and raise student performance across the board.”
As for why overall scores went down, state officials say one reason is that different kids are taking the test each year.
“It is hard to say why the achievement of this group of 11th-graders was slightly lower than that of the group from 2016-17,” said Peter Yazbak, a state Department of Education spokesman. He also characterized the change as narrow.
Statewide, 95.2 percent of high school juniors — about 37,900 students — took the test last spring. For many, testing occurred on a make up day in April, since on March 21, the designated SAT Day, many schools canceled classes because of an expected nor’easter.