GREENWICH — More Greenwich Public School students met or exceeded state standards on the Smarter Balanced assessment this year than in the previous two years, according to results released Thursday.
Greenwich students have shown steadily upward achievement over the three years the state’s new testing system has been in place.
“We are extremely proud of our students, our community’s support of public education, and our staff’s tremendous dedication and commitment to the Vision of the Graduate at the Greenwich Public Schools,” Interim Superintendent Ralph Mayo said in a statement.
Greenwich’s results were well above the state averages; the public school system also is climbing the ranks of its District Reference Group, a state-set classification of similiar districts based on socio-economic factors. GPS ranked seventh and fifth in English and math, respectively, among the 19 districts in its DRG, which include Fairfield, Trumbull, Avon and Farmington. In 2015-16, it was ranked 13th and 11th, then 10th and sixth in 2016-17.
Students in grades three through seven were tested in the spring, and followed a statewide trend in which overall performance on tests is increasing, but individual students are not showing greater jumps in performance from one year to the next.
Seventy-eight percent of Greenwich students met or exceeded state English standards, while 71.4 percent did so in math. Both figures supercede previous years. In 2016-17, 75.6 percent of students hit or surpassed the mark in English, while 70.7 percent did so in math.
The tests don’t just measure overall student performance for the district. Each student also is given target marks for performance each year to encourage growth.
In Greenwich, students on average reached 70.6 percent of their target scores this year in reading and writing, recovering from a nearly 8-percentage-point fall from 71.8 percent in 2015-16 to 64 percent in 2016-17.
In math, Greenwich’s growth lagged behind previous years, with students reaching on average 71.3 percent of their targets, losing the ground gained last year when results jumped from 74 percent in 2015-16 to 77.6 percent in 2016-17.
In terms of the achievement gap, the results show overall improvement among high-needs students — those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, or receive English-language-learning or special education services — but also the presence of a persistent gap in town schools. The percent of Greenwich students with high needs who met or exceeded expectations in English increased to 49.7 percent in 2018 from 43.4 percent in 2017. In math, the percentage rose to 41.7 in 2018 from 36.7 in 2017.
School officials are beginning to review the data, according to GPS Communications Director Kim Eves. The Board of Education will receive an academic achievement update at its next meeting on Sept. 20.
“All administrators will review the current status of student learning as measured by the standardized assessments and instructional practices to identify successes to celebrate and amplify, and areas of focus to address through school and program improvement plans,” Eves said in a statement.
Mayo said standardized testing is one metric of many for monitoring students’ progress.
“Our strategic vision to make learning personal requires continuous focus on changing the learner experience guided by a tightly aligned, yet flexible standards-based curriculum in order to meet the individual strengths, needs, interests and goals of each student,” he said.
Statewide, slightly more than half — 55.3 percent — of students met or exceeded proficiency in English. The same cannot be said of math, where only 46.7 percent of test takers hit the target.
Both percentages ticked up slightly from the previous year.
State officials characterized the overall scores as promising.
“I would say they are stable with an upward trend,” Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell said the day before the scores were publicly released. “Obviously, we would like to see the upward trend happening more quickly than it is. We are happy to see steady progress, particularly with the new, more demanding standards. We know it is a heavier lift.”
In terms of growth targets, students statewide are reaching about 60 percent.
Ajit Gopalakrishnan, chief performance officer for the state Department of Education, said the state aims for students to achieve 100 percent of their annual growth targets.
“The growth across the board is not as strong as we would like it to be, while proficiency is promising,” he said.
The growth measurement, which educators call “cohort growth,” interests Gopalakrishnan more than raw achievement scores.
“I think the growth is a leading indicator where things are heading long-term,” he said.
High-achieving and low-achieving kids are both expected to grow, but the gap is greater for students who are farther from the achievement level the state sets.
“We’ve selected the standard based on the standard of getting the lowest kids to achievement level in five years,” Gopalakrishnan said. “Our accountability is 100 percent. We’re not there, we’re working to improve that.”