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
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
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