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Burr Calls Shelton Test Scores a 'Mixed Bag'

Was it caused by layoffs and retirements, the school district reorganization, or all those snow days last winter? The school superintendent says he can't say.

Shelton’s standardized test scores were a "mixed bag," according to School Superintendent Freeman Burr, who said a number of factors could be the cause.

Burr declined to blame teacher layoffs that went into effect in the 2010-11 school year for declines that occurred in some of the scores, because other factors could have had as much impact.

"I think it’s impossible to attribute it to a single variable when we had so many things at play a year ago," he said.

The Shelton public schools laid off 51 teachers, guidance counselors and school librarians, and 25 teachers took a retirement incentive offer, after receiving no budget increase for the second year in a row.

However, Burr also noted that the entire school system for kindergarten to grade six was reorganized, redistributing students and reassigning teachers. Six K-6 schools were reduced to five K-4 schools and grades 5-6 were consolidated districtwide in the newly opened .

And the unusually snowy winter resulted in 11 snow days during January and February, the two months just before the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) are given in March.

"It was a disruption of educational continuity," Burr said of the excessive snow days, but "I don’t think we can use that as an excuse."

He noted that other school districts also had disappointing test scores this year. "We held our own better than some other districts, but those districts did not go through the reorganization, so I’m reluctant to assign a single factor as the cause," he said.

He said Shelton wouldn’t have to deal with layoffs, retirements, a reorganization and, hopefully, excessive snow days in the 2011-12 school year, so it would be interesting to compare next year’s test scores to see if they are different.

Burr said he was scheduled to meet with school district central office staff on Monday for their first review of the scores.

He said elementary school principals and their school leadership teams would return to work in August and begin analyzing the test results. That will lead to revisions of the school improvement plans for each school.

The school teams will submit preliminary drafts of their school improvement plans before the first day of school on September 6, the day after Labor Day, and the plans will be finalized by the end of September.

The CMT, which is given to grades 3-8, and CAPT, given to grade 10 students, provides scores on two levels, a basic "proficiency" standard and a target "goal" standard, for math, reading, writing and science. The proficiency standard is used to determine the school district’s status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But the scores also provide data that breaks down the four subjects into strands, which are general test areas that are further broken down into skill sets. That can tell educators if their students learned what was taught about fractions, for example.

"We taught fractions, but how many kids mastered it?" Burr said. "It’s not enough just to cover the material."

That’s what the principals and school leadership teams will be looking for when they begin analyzing the data next month.

In Shelton districtwide, the percentage of students scoring at or above proficiency in math went down three percentage points, but those scoring at or above goal went up two points.

The proficiency percentage went down slightly for science, but the goal percentage went up slightly.

For writing, proficiency dropped two percentage points and goal dropped two percentage points. Reading proficiency dropped five percentage points and goal dropped three percentage points.

The CMT scores for math proficiency showed a two-point decline for grades 3, 4 and 7, but a three-point gain for grades 5, 6 and 8.

As for CMT scores for math goal, grade 6 showed a 10-point increase, and grade 8 a four-point increase. But grade 7 dropped 4.5 points, grade 3 dropped two points, grade 4 dropped two points and grade 5 dropped 1.5 points.

A complete list and breakdown of the CMT scores as compared to last year's can be seen , and for CAPT, .

Alan Cook July 27, 2011 at 10:16 PM
National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids. Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out. The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting. Project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room. Alan Cook info@thenumberyard.com www.thenumberyard.com

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