Update: 10:13 a.m., Monday, Oct. 8:
Editor's note: Now added to this article are:
- A table comparing Darien's SAT results for 2011 and 2012 with those of other high schools in District Reference Group A
- A report from Darien Public Schools administration on recent standardized testing in Darien schools (a document attached to the article)
- A news release from the state Department of Education on SAT test results in the state
- Two tables of SAT test results for high schools across the state, one for 2011, the other for 2012
Original headline (Sept. 26): 'Darien Girls Testing Better Than Boys in Reading, Writing'
In response to a slight dip in reading and writing scores on standardized tests in certain grades, the Darien school administration will be investigating, among other things, what appears to be a slightly wider than average gap in the test performance between boys and girls.
Through standardized testing (and also anecdotally), it's well established that, on average, girls have better reading and writing skills than boys. However school administrators have noticed a trend in the recently-released 2011-2012 district test scores indicating that the gulf between Darien boys and girls, in terms of reading and writing performance, has widened and in some cases is now greater than the state average.
During Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Matt Byrnes presented the District's report on standardized test scores for the 2011-2012 school year, including analysis of the CMT, CAPT, ACT and SAT tests. The results show a slight dip in scores in reading and writing for certain grades compared to previous years — for example the Grade 3 CMT reading score dropped from 81.7% meeting state goal in 2011 to 80.7% meeting state goal in 2012. There were also slight dips in CMT reading scores for sixth and seventh grade as well.
Pointing to a significant dip in CAPT reading scores, from 82.6% to 75% meeting state goal in 2012, Byrnes said "that's something we need to look at — we feel that more students should be meeting goal on the CAPT reading test — especially considering the high percentage meeting goal in eighth grade on the CMT reading test."
He said after the administration determines which trends it wants it wants to investigate, it then must then "drill down into the data" to determine a cause.
"For example, we might look at how many kids didn't meet [state] goal and ask, of those, how did they perform on earlier tests?"
The district will also take into consideration the gender of the students who are performing below goal, so that it can more effectively target those who need help.
SAT RESULTS FOR DISTRICT REGIONAL GROUP A: 2011, 2012TOWN
WritingDarien 295 579 606 591 1,776 309 589 617 604
(Joel Barlow High School)220 559 562 574 1,695 187 547 555 563 New Canaan 306 591 604 600 1,795 291 589 608 597 Ridgefield 414 567 578 576 1,721 405 570 580 580 Weston 156 589 597 608 1,784 166 575 598 594 Westport 363 589 599 597 1,785 406 581 599 595 Wilton 301 596 598 608 1,802 295 581 599 610
Region 9 (Amity High School in Wood-
bridge)220 559 562 574 1,695 353 544 546 556 CONNECTICUT
506 512 510 1,528
509 513 513
Source: Connecticut Department of Education website (see documents attached to this article)
An analysis into what caused the dip in the 2012 CAPT reading scores revealed that of the 48 students who were below goal, 32 were male and 14 were female, Byrnes said.
"Girls in Darien are doing a lot better on the CMT Reading test than boys — and that's a historical pattern that we have collected a whole lot of data on," he said. "So that's definitely something we're looking at too — because obviously it's a concern. I mean, it's great that the girls are doing better, but not so great that the boys aren't doing as well. We have some theories as to why that might be — but we have to dig deeper on that."
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone said based on state figures, boys outperformed girls by four percentage points in math and science in 2011 — both on the state and local levels.
However in reading the margin is much wider: This year girls outperformed boys by 14 percentage points on the state level, and by 19 percentage points on the Darien level.
Similarly, in writing girls outperformed boys by 18 points on the state level, Falcone said, and by 11 percentage points in Darien.
The administration will have to determine whether the widening gap is due to girls' performance improving, boys' performance decreasing, or a mix of both.
Regardless, Byrnes said the goal will be to try to bring the boys up to the girls' level. He said the administration will be crunching the test results in multiple other ways as trends are revealed and questions raised.
Byrnes prefaced his report by saying the slight dips in test scores in certain grades are not indicative of a major district problem.
"I'd like to emphasize that this is a snapshot," Byrnes said of the results, pointing out that each year a new class of students posts a new set of scores, and that performance by school class can vary. "The students, over the course of a few days, take these tests, and we use the results to determine where we are as a program. We then drill down into the data to determine what help students might need — but this is only a small part of what we do."
Byrnes said the school administration primarily uses the data "to generate questions" about what can be done to improve student performance.
"Because these numbers are generated from fairly small sample sizes — there's only 350 to 400 students per class — they can easily move a few percentage points from year to year, based on the results of only a few students," he said. "I think sometimes we get too focused on movement of one point up and two points down, and then comparing to our neighbors, when in fact the standard deviation on most of these tests is probably greater than 30 [percentage points]. So, on any given day a student can sit down and post a score that swings as much as 30 points in one direction or the other."
Byrnes said it is more meaningful to measure district performance over the long haul, as opposed to a year-over-year basis.
"You like to see some progression over time," he said, adding that the expectation is that scores will improve as students move into upper grades, which in general has been the case for the past five years in Darien.
"In third grade we're not aiming for the CMT test — we're aiming for deeper understanding and building skills," Byrnes said. "We think if we do that, by the time they're in eighth grade our students will be performing very well on the CMT test, without us having to spend a lot of time prepping them for that particular test. So you will sometimes tend to see lower scores in the lower grades, as the students get used to taking these tests, and building stamina."
"So what we're seeing is positive — and it is certainly in line with what we expect," he added.
Regarding the recent dip in CAPT reading scores, Byrnes said the administration will be meeting with DHS English and Social Studies departments on Oct. 8 to identify what's happening and come up with a solution. "We're going to go back to square one and discuss what is being tested and how to build those skills," he said.
To view the CAPT and CMT results for the 2011-2012 school year, click here.