The first results from Connecticut's new standardized Smarter Balanced exams appear mixed. While more students than expected are excelling at English language arts, the scores show a need for improvement in math.
While the math scores matched state estimates, Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said Friday there's "significant room for improvement" and announced a new council to assist teachers.
This year, the Smarter Balanced tests replaced the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test for students in grades 3 through 8 and 11. About 267,000 students took the test and schools have been eagerly awaiting the scores.
Results show more than 55 percent of students are meeting or exceeding the achievement level for English and about 39 percent for math. Officials have warned the scores would look lower than previous test scores.
Wentzell said while the scores are on track with estimates, and even beat the previous mastery exam scores in English and were very similar to the math scores, "that doesn't mean we're satisfied with them. We know we have a lot of work to do for our kids."
State officials said the mastery tests from previous years were outdated and didn't provide students with enough real-life challenges.
Smarter Balanced exams are done on a computer.
Critics from the Connecticut Education Association, which represents teachers, said that is the problem and not all third graders have the computer skills to show what they truly know.
"It's more of a test of a student's ability to do computer work than to do the academic work," said Mark Waxenberg, of the CT Education Association.
They are calling for the test to be replaced.
"As 32 other states were in this testing regimen, 17 have dropped out. One would assume if the test was so good, they'd be running to take that test, instead they're fleeing and looking for alternatives," Waxenberg said.
This year, a legislative committee will look into the long-term possibilities for this test but Wentzell is hoping to wait for a few more years before making drastic changes.
"I think that it's really important to stay with a test so you can establish growth over time," Wentzell said.
The national average has not been released yet.
While officials are happy with the English scores, they are assembling a council to work on getting the math scores up.
Statewide, district and school results can be found by clicking here.
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