Education board discusses ‘disappointing’ SBAC results


During its Sept. 10 meeting, the Board of Education discussed the results of the 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, on which Wilton — a district accustomed to at least 70% of its students meeting or exceeding standardized test achievement levels — earned scores that weren’t quite up to par.
While there were “bright spots” in seventh and eighth grade ELA performance, Assistant Superintendent Charles Smith acknowledged “the other student results were very disappointing.”
Based on the Common Core State Standards, the SBACs test third through eighth and 11th graders in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics, and they are scored on four levels:


In Wilton, 73.6% of students who took the test met or exceeded the achievement level in ELA/Literacy and 57.3% met or exceeded the achievement level in mathematics.

As a whole, Wilton students performed as follows:
ELA/Literacy:

  • 9.6% at Level 1.

  • 16.8% at Level 2.

  • 41.7% at Level 3.

  • 31.9% at Level 4.


Mathematics:

  • 13.6% at Level 1.

  • 29.2% at Level 2.

  • 31.3% at Level 3.

  • 26.0% at Level 4.


By grade level, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the achievement level was as follows:
ELA/Literacy:

  • Grade 3: 76.1%.

  • Grade 4: 66.4%.

  • Grade 5: 76.1%.

  • Grade 6: 73.2%.

  • Grade 7: 80.8%.

  • Grade 8: 86.6%.

  • Grade 11: 55.8%.


Mathematics:

  • Grade 3: 66.5%.

  • Grade 4: 57.3%.

  • Grade 5: 46.6%.

  • Grade 6: 48.3%.

  • Grade 7: 65.3%.

  • Grade 8: 55.4%.

  • Grade 11: 61.9%.


SBAC vs. CMT


In 2015, the SBACs replaced the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) in both arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics for students in grades 3-8 and 10. Students still take the CMT Science in fifth and eighth grades, and the CAPT Science in 10th grade.
“The achievement levels are different on the SBAC than they are on the CMT,” said Dr. Smith.
“On the CMT, there were five levels and the CMTs really measured content and knowledge. The SBAC has four levels and it focuses more on problem solving and critical thinking — it’s a different kind of test.”
Dr. Smith said the SBAC scores are “very global measures” and “are not reliable enough to give the whole picture of what an individual child knows.”
Because of this, he said, it is “very important for parents to know” that “if you want to know what your child knows, you need to take [SBAC scores] and triangulate [them] with other things, such as benchmark assessments, classroom assessments, classroom work, grades and things like that.”

DRG-A


Dr. Smith said the district wasn’t so much surprised by the drop in standardized test achievement as it was by “the degree of the drop as compared to our neighbors.”
Wilton had the lowest ELA/Literacy (73.6%) and mathematics (57.3%) achievement levels of the nine DRG-A school districts, while Darien had the highest in both — 85.3% in ELA and 75.9% in math.
The other seven DRG-A districts had the following percentages of students meeting or exceeding the ELA achievement goal:

  • Westport: 85.1%.

  • Region 9: 84.9%.

  • New Canaan: 82.2%.

  • Ridgefield: 82%.

  • Weston: 78.4%.

  • Redding: 77%.

  • Easton: 75.6%.


Here are the percentage of students who met or exceeded the math achievement goal in the other seven districts:

  • New Canaan: 74.1%.

  • Westport: 72.8%.

  • Weston: 70%.

  • Region 9: 68.5%.

  • Redding: 67.6%.

  • Ridgefield: 66.2%.

  • Easton: 63.1%.


According to Dr. Smith, Wilton started transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in 2013, while most districts started teaching to the standards three years prior.
“When I got here, what was shared with me was that there was some alignment to the Common Core, but I don’t feel they took it as seriously as they should have,” said Dr. Smith.
“What I saw happening was ... superficial alignment. There are keywords and phrases from the Common Core included in the curriculum documents, but there wasn’t the deep work that needed to be done in terms of planning.”
Unlike Wilton Public Schools, Dr. Smith said, other districts do “a great deal of test practice.”
Because the district had decided not to teach to the SBAC test, Dr. Smith said, “we don’t do a lot of test practice.”
“There’s certainly complacency here based upon the performance history of our students,” said Dr. Smith. “We in the district knew how to integrate tasks into our curriculum so we didn’t have to do [a lot of test preparation].”
To help students meet Common Core State Standards, Dr. Smith said, “there are instructional shifts that we need to make for the Common Core in general.”
Dr. Smith said the district’s late transition to the Common Core is not the only issue, but the way the Common Core is structured.
“It’s not just teachers teaching content — it’s teaching how to solve in a certain way,” he said.
“We have some very clear work to do in terms of what aligns with the Common Core, and the most important thing is the rigor of the tasks that we give our students.”
Dr. Smith said there also needs to be more progress-monitoring of Wilton students.
Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly agreed and said it’s not only the education board’s job to “instill a sense of urgency into the entire system,” but to find ways to help its students meet the standards, such as finding out what schools like Darien are doing.
Likly said he encourages parents to look into the Common Core State Standards because, he said, “it isn’t just about standards — it’s about raising the bar. It’s good stuff.”
Dr. Smith said the district’s SBAC results are “a good kick in the pants” and he is “very confident that teachers and administrators are going to take this much more seriously.”
“We’ve made great strides over the years — we really have — and I think we will continue to do that,” said Dr. Smith.
“These past weeks have been somewhat demoralizing to the staff, but I know they’re going to ... do what they need to do [and] double their efforts to see that through.”
Dr. Smith said although he believes the district will see growth next year, “the transition to the Common Core is not something that can happen overnight.”