School Officials In Cheshire, Neighboring Southington Pleased With Scores

School Officials In Cheshire, Neighboring Southington Pleased With Scores


While statewide Smarter Balanced test results were below those prior to the pandemic, Cheshire and Southington administrators are pleased with how their students tested last year.

SBAC tests students in grades three through eight and “is aligned to Connecticut Core Standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics,” according to CT.gov.

Cheshire Public Schools ranked 11th out of the districts who serve grades three through eight when it comes to SBAC test results for the 2021-22 school year.

“So that’s pretty exceptionally high,” said Jeff Solan, superintendent of Cheshire Public Schools. “We had been fifth prior to the pandemic, but you know, I think to come through the pandemic performing where we are is something that we’re pretty proud of.”

In Cheshire, the percentage of students, all grades combined, who met/exceeded expectations (levels three and four) for the English language arts section of the SBAC is 74.2%, with the Connecticut average being 49.1%.

For math, the Cheshire district average for levels three and four, all grades combined, was 70.3%. The state average was 40%.

“For where we perform relative to our peers and relative to the state, we’re really proud of how we’re doing,” Solan said.

Amy Zappone, director of teaching and learning for secondary education for Southington Public Schools, said she is happy with how Southington students performed on last year’s SBAC.

The state’s average for ELA for students meeting/exceeding standards was 49.1%, while Southington’s average for these levels was 64.1%, for all grades combined. In math, CT’s average for levels three and four was 40%, while Southington’s was 58.4%, for all grades combined.

“Our school community and our teachers have really stepped up to the plate,” Zappone said.

“They came off a very emotional, stressful year with the pandemic and they put their hearts and souls into teaching every day and preparing students and ensuring that they can be successful, not only in the classroom but on assessments such as state level assessments because that’s one way to show their growth and their mastery in learning.”

Solan said that his district isn’t solely focused on improving test scores.

“Our focus is supporting students to be complex thinkers and strong social emotional learners and we really believe that when we do that well, test scores will take care of themselves,” Solan said.

Six years ago, the Cheshire Board of Education adopted the goals of creating complex thinkers and strong social emotional learners. Back then, the district was ranked 35th in SBAC results.

“I think by doing those things well, the kids do well on the standardized assessments, but they do really well in other ways as well,” Solan said. “That’s more important at the end of the day.”

In Southington, Zappone said that each year, they track the SBAC results, attempting to get back to the level of achievement the district had pre-pandemic.

The State Department of Education reported that while there are some signs of progress, “the achievement in 2021-22 is still below the three most recent pre-pandemic years.”

The state’s performance index shows that there are declines of around six to eight percentage points in the ELA and mathematics portions of the test.

The state, then, estimates that students in grades four and five may be two to three months behind their expected performance, if there was not a pandemic.

“In the middle school grades (6 through 8), students may be 5-7 months behind in ELA, and a year or more behind in math,” according to an Aug. 25 press release from the state education department. “The rates of academic growth will need to increase substantially in the coming months and years to shorten the recovery period.”

However, Zappone has noticed that the district is starting to move back to where it was pre-pandemic.

“We are starting to get closer to that 2015-2016 performance level,” Zappone said. “… We’re bridging that gap of getting back on that level of proficiency. … We are getting students back to that level of learning we are hoping for.”

In order to achieve these levels of learning, Zappone said the district is focusing on the standards in the curriculum.

“And honing down on the main key components of the standards and focusing on those priority standards, because there is so much to be taught and learned, we have to focus on grade level instruction and finding a way to get all students to that level of mastery,” Zappone said.

Through COVID-19 funding, the district was able to create smaller class sizes in the primary grades and hire additional support staff and intervention staff.

“Through all those efforts with curriculum prioritization and extra support staff and really getting back to in-person learning models, our trajectory of moving forward with achievement and growth is increasing and getting back to where we want to see it,” Zappone said.



 

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