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Easton Students' SAT Scores Drop

EASTON, Conn. – Joel Barlow High School students scored lower on the SATs this year in all categories – but the numbers weren't out of the expected range, Head of School Thomas McMorran said Thursday.

"It's not like a temperature where 103 is sick and 98.6 is OK – there's more to it than that," said McMorran. The expected range for the mean score is 550 to 575, said McMorran, which he said is fairly consistent with high-performing schools.

"We can't use SAT scores as a referendum for the quality of the school," he said. "Nationwide, scores are trending lower. Our scores were going against our more recent trend, but it's not a big surprise to me."

About 95 percent of seniors at Joel Barlow took the SATs in 2011. The high school includes students from Easton and Redding.

"I'm somewhat disappointed," said Marie McPadden, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. The mean verbal score decreased from 571 in 2010 to 547 in 2011; the mean math score went down from 561 to 555; and the mean writing score dropped from 580 to 563. The top 25 percent scored in the mid 600s.

"We have an excellent writing center at Barlow. Students write quite a bit – the writing score baffles me," said McPadden. "It's a timed writing, but I would still have expected it to be higher."

Barlow offers an evening course, Revolution Prep, which students can pay to take to get read for the SATs. McPadden said another way to help students may be needed.

"Some schools use class time to drill in vocab words specifically so students do well on a test. We do not believe drilling in to falsely increase a test score is a good use of class time," said McMorran. "I think we should be growing kids' vocab so they can think and express themselves well – not so they can do well on a test."

The administration will look for a place to change programming to "improve the output," said McMorran.

Eighty-five percent of the 2011 graduating seniors are attending four-year colleges and 7 percent are attending two-year colleges. A total of 190 students took 329 AP tests in 2011 – with 285 with 3, 4 or 5 scores.

"More kids are earning higher numbers over time. This is an indicator that we are doing the right things," said McMorran. He said the district is working to align curriculum and practice in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The results on the SAT, AP, CAPT and CMT and admissions are "together, a good indication that things are going well," said McMorran. Twenty-five percent of students had advanced scores in all four categories of the CAPT, which is congruent with the rest of the district reference group A. The SATs are about 20 to 30 points lower than New Canaan, which the "income differential throws off," he said. When comparing to other schools, the percentage of students who took the test and the socioeconomic status should be taken into consideration, said McMorran.

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