April 2, 2009

Bristol SATs trail state, nation

Bristol students are doing worse than their counterparts across the state in reading, writing and math on the critical SAT test that is used by many colleges to help determine whom they admit.
“We have work to do,” school Superintendent Philip Streifer said Wednesday.
The scores generally show that students in Bristol whose parents are low-income or lacking a college education do better than expected, but those from higher income families whose parents are well-educated fall well short of expected results.
Bristol’s mean SAT score for 2008 was 1491, which is about 30 points lower in each of the three categories than totals posted in neighboring districts such as Farmington, Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, Southington or West Hartford.
Perhaps most disturbing is that Bristol students who reported they were in the top tenth of their class at Bristol Central or Bristol Eastern high schools were lower in every area than Connecticut students as a whole.
Bristol’s white students as a whole did worse than white students across both the state and the nation.
African-American and Hispanic students in Bristol, however, outscored minorities in Connecticut and elsewhere in the country.
The numbers spurred education officials to plan a wholesale campaign to raise SAT scores in years to come by offering more accelerated and Advanced Placement classes, improving instruction in key classes and other measures that may help.
Administrators need to bring the sort of focus to the issue that they did to CAPT scores nearly a decade ago, said Denise Carabetta, who coordinated the push.
Bristol’s CAPT scores have jumped significantly as a result of that push, putting the district on par with communities that have much higher income and educational levels.
“When we focus on something, it improves,” said Martin Semmel, the principal at Central.
The new plan calls for adding AP classes in statistics, English & Composition, environmental science and U.S. history.
It would also offer more accelerated middle school classes to get students ready for college level work as soon as their sophomore year of high school.
Streifer said part of the effort will be to convince teachers that every student is capable of doing high level work. He said that’s the necessary foundation.
Also crucial is that Bristol’s education funding hold up, which is by no means certain as state leaders try to cope with unprecedented revenue shortfalls.
Over the past five years, the only SAT area where Bristol has made any meaningful gain is in math. Reading and writing scores have been flat.
Officials hope that emphasizing the skills the test addresses across the curriculum will help students do better on their SATs while simultaneously preparing for a more successful college education.

2008 Test scores

Bristol 493
State 509
Nation 502

Bristol 503
State 513
Nation 515

Bristol 494
State 513
Nation 494

LINK HERE FOR PDF of "Action Plan" to improve Bristol SAT scores

Here's the entire report to the Board of Education, via the schools' website

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

We're a city... what do you expect? The results of these tests (in aggregate- there are always exceptions) are driven by socioeconomics and nothing more. Bristol will never compete with Weston or New Caanan. When your father is the CFO of Merril Lynch and tells you to do your homework, you do your homework. When your dad is working 2nd shift or is out getting hammered at the local bar... or on the street selling drugs... what kind of authority is there? And yeah, there's something to be said for coming home to a nice beautiful house with a quiet room full of books and computers. This isn't an excuse for us to open our wallets for more education spending.

Anonymous said...

Surprise, Surprise.

Let's keep throwing money at the problem, that will solve the problem! NOT!

Anonymous said...

In years past, the percentage of students taking the SAT Test was higher in Bristol compared to neighboring communities like Avon, Farmington and Simsbury.

Bristol did have students who had no intention of furthering their education take these tests. I wonder if this is still the case in Bristol. Also, does it remain a fact that only those interested in college from other communities take the test?

If only college bound students take the SAT's in other communities, it's understandable that their scores would be higher.

Steve, possible you can determine from Central Office if Bristol still has a higher percent taking this test, thereby reducing the overall scores.

Anonymous said...

If the data says that the top 10% of kids at BEHS and BCHS are underperforming on the SATs, that means that our smart kids are doing worse than average kids in other parts of CT and the Nation. What are we teaching these kids? Clearly not how to take the SATs. How will more AP classes in statistics, history and environmental science improve scores - the SATs measure a kid's performance in math, reading comprehension, and writing! It looks like we need to get back to basics!
Honestly - what are these kids learning? My concern is that they are so focused on learning targeted materials for CAPT preparation and standardized test preparation that they are missing the forest for the trees.
Here's a 4-step plan to improve SAT scores. Take heed, school system!

1. Go to the bookstore.
2. Buy the Kaplan, Princeton, and Barrons guides to taking the SATs.
3. Find out what you're NOT doing.
4. Do it. (Either afterschool, or offer a SAT prep class that kids can choose to take for credit during their elective periods.)

Steve Collins said...

70 to 74 percent of Bristol's students take the SAT. There's no way that at least that many don't take it in Farmington, West Hartford and the like. But I think the real percentages might be in the report somewhere. I haven't got time to look.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

How will more AP classes in statistics, history and environmental science improve scores - the SATs measure a kid's performance in math, reading comprehension, and writing!

Because nothing builds basic skills like putting those skills into practice. And if you can perform well in a college level course, you can do well on the SAT.

Honestly I'm not surprised by this report. The school system (when I was a student)had no real plan for teaching students how to get into college, or how to do well on a test like the SAT. And too often professors would cherry pick students making it obvious that there one person was a favorite over another.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, everything will be fine once we build the new megaschools. Nice shiny new buildings will solve our problems.

not my way said...

I can see the BOE asking for even more money toward educating our teachers in the way to teach kids to pass the test - this is learning?

Anonymous said...

Give Streifer a raise!! Maybe he will start doing things better if we do. "We have work to do" ??
NO, HE has work to do!!

Anonymous said...

We dont have a school leader in bristol. Streifer thinks he is a builder he has no idea how to run the school system. He and tom obrien like spending tax payers money.

Anonymous said...

Build more basket ball courts . thats what they want to learn. Then start laying off school board personal. See how fast things get better.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I think it would be a good idea for the schools to create a critical thinking class. I took such a class in college, and what I learned in that class - inductive
and deductive reasoning, deductive argument patterns, logical fallacies, nonargumentative
persuasion, critical evaluation of claims - enhanced my performance on certain portions of my graduate school entrance exams. It would do the same for SAT reading comp and writing.

Anonymous said...

Tom O'Brien DOES NOT like to spend tax dollars, but he does believe in investing them!

If you don't think so, just calculate how much he has saved the city by his getting the city to invest their pension fund some 25-30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

No need for the students to learn anything .... Teachers have a union to cover their buts.

silly rabbit said...

Hey 2:43....why is it that when ever there is a failure in a school system, the teacher is invariably to blame, along with the "union that protects them"? How about assigning blame where it belongs....with the OVERPAID, NARROW MINDED, JOB JUMPING ADMINISTRATORS THAT SET AND ENFORCE POLICY AND PROCEDURES?
Isn't it their responsibility to ensure that a communities children are educated to the highest degree possible? We entrust them with this basic precept, and compensate them obscenely. And yet we blame the teachers....Can't make budget? Layoff 50 teachers instead of losing 3 or 4 administrators.
We have been brainwashed into thinking that because a person has a title, or is paid alot of money, that they must be all knowing about the departments they run. This is a Machavellian concept that has been running rampant in our community for decades.
The best people to ask how to fix a broken system often times are those that have a vested interest in succeeding. These are the people that are at a level to see the problems, and apply situational awareness and problem solving techniques. Those existing above the mainstream and looking down nearly always lose sight of the real issues because of the large shadow that they cast (real or most often ego-induced)....

Anonymous said...

This report is a little surprising. When I was in school all it seemed we were taught was how to take tests, not how to actually take notes, study or learn concepts...just test well. That was all well and good until I reached college and got the reality check of my life. Talk about being underprepared!

Anonymous said...


chris wilson said...

After reading the SAT report and hearing the administrations presentation and thinking about the implications I have a few thoughts.

1.) we certainly must hold educators and administrators accountable. Changes in curriculum, course sequencing and rigor will help. However, it appears we are missing the issue if we just focus on the end result and not the means. So much emphasis is now on test scores that the process of learning, exploring and being inquisitive is some how lost. I remember a day when test scores were a by product of a quality program not the end itself. We almost have the attitude that we can apply some prescription and all students will achieve 750 on their SAT's. I don't think it works that way.

2.) I probably shouldn't say this but I will. We as a community must accept some responsibility for the test scores. We as a community must place a greater value on school, achievement, and success. We seem to have the attitude that OK is good enough. The best teachers and administrators in the world cannot overcome that handicap. If one would look at the community culture in those communities whom you want to compare yourselves against you will find that those communities place a greater emphasis in the aggregate than we do in the Bristol Community. I don't just mean $ but the entire educational experience. Our actions as to how and what we impart to our children speaks volumes about what we value as a community. Do we expect excellence from our children? Do we teach and expect accountability? Is it the teachers/administrators fault when they don't take advantage of educational opportunities? Do we as parents challenge our children to be excellent students? Being an educated individual is a privilege not a right. Do we value the opportunity and the privilege?

If we as a community want increased test scores we must change the culture in Bristol to do so. Parents and families have as large a role as the school system. But I hope we don't limit ourselves to just judging the quality of our school system based upon what our scores are in the aggregate!

Finally, we cannot dismiss that the students who come to the Bristol School System have a multitude of more social, familial, poverty and relationship problems than some of the comparative towns. The school system must deal with those psycho-social issues in addition to the educational issues. The task is a daunting one! In my involvement, I see evidence every day that the entire staff is attempting in every way possible to positively effect the lives of the students they interact.

not winter but still snow jobs said...

chris wilson seems to think that we are all uneducated and that the board of ed is the sole authority on education - remember chris, we elected the boe to represent US, not your own egos.
you haven't listened to us on the enormous new school issue but now we are supposed to become mesmerized by your excuses for educational failure?
can't have it both ways and the next votes that I cast for boe members will be for NEW BOE MEMBERS.

chris wilson said...

anonymous 7:43am

I was trying to put the SAT's into some context. Obviously you disagree with my assessment.

I am not sure who "us" is but if they choose to elect someone in my place(even if I choose to run again) so be it. I'll just spend more time on my lawn, playing with grand kids or some other worthwhile endeavor like doing more work for the church or some other non profit.

BTW I have listened to you on the enormous issue of new schools-I just disagree. Since we are a representative democracy I can do so. If enough people agree with you at the next election they'll vote me out and if not you'll be stuck with me for another 4 years-assuming I run again.

Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you teach students to take a tests. We are not preparing these students for college or jobs, when will the school leaders wake up!?