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More students take CAPT; performance increases in all subjects

Results of the 2004 Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) show two important trends. First, there are significant increases in the numbers of students taking the test, including minority, poor and special education students. Second, there are gains in student performance in all subject areas.

Given in Grade 10, CAPT assesses student performance in Science, Mathematics, Reading Across the Disciplines and Writing Across the Disciplines. Performance increased in all four areas over 2003: from 43.2 percent of students scoring at the goal level or above to 47.4 percent in Science; from 45.1 to 46.1 percent in Mathematics; from 47.0 to 48.0 percent in Reading Across the Disciplines; and from 52.8 to 53.7 percent in Writing Across the Disciplines.

These increases in scores occurred despite significant increases in the student participation rate on the tests – approximately 5 percentage points from 2003 to 2004 in each subject area, and roughly from 90 to 95 percent overall. Participation increased more dramatically for subgroups that were underrepresented in the past, such as students receiving special education services, English language learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals (a poverty indicator), and African American and Hispanic students.

In general, higher percentages of test takers mean lower scores; however, the opposite is true for the 2004 CAPT, as it was for the most recent (2003) Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT).

The participation of students in two key subgroups increased dramatically: students eligible for free or reduced-price meals by an average of 10.8 percent and students with special education needs by an average of 15.4 percent. The performance of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals was notable. The percentage of these students scoring at or above goal increased by an average of 2.2 percentage points, while the percentage reaching the proficient level or above increased by an average of 5.7 percentage points across the four subject areas. Special education students made gains in both reading and writing; this is especially significant because special education students were required to take the assessments of their actual grade levels, not adjusted in any way.

Connecticut’s tenth graders should be proud of themselves,” said Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg. “Their participation rate is very high and their performance continues to increase. These two factors show that they are working hard – as are their teachers and administrators.

“We all know there is much more work to do in order to have all our students achieve at the highest possible levels, but they and we are moving in the right direction.
“I am especially pleased by the participation rates,” Dr. Sternberg continued. “At approximately 95 percent across the board, Connecticut is just about at the level mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). You get what you expect of youngsters. And when you expect them to take the test – no matter what designation has been put on them – they will not only take it, but do their best on it. High expectations are the foundation of achievement.”

One factor affecting participation rates is state legislation (P.A. 01-166) that now requires local boards of education to establish standards for graduation and ways to measure achievement of those standards, with results of the CAPT being one of those measures. The graduation standards are in effect beginning with the class of 2006 (Grade 10 students for the 2004 administration of the test).

Student performance in the state’s Regional Vocational-Technical Schools (RVTS) increased significantly from 2003 to 2004, with an average of 4.8 percent more students scoring at or above the goal level in the four subject areas in 2004 than 2003. Participation also increased by an average of 2.1 percentage points.

While much of the State Department of Education’s reporting focuses on the state goal level, the proficient level is also important. It is lower than (and includes) goal, but it is critical because students working to improve their performance must move through this level first. It is also the performance level on which certain NCLB designations are based. Gains are also reflected in proficiency data.

From 2003 to 2004, the percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level increased in the four subject areas: from 74.3 to 76.5 percent in Mathematics; from 80.7 to 81.7 percent in Science; from 77.9 to 79.1 percent in Reading Across the Disciplines; and from 81.0 to 84.5 percent in Writing Across the Disciplines. The gaps in performance between Hispanic and white students decreased in all four subject areas, as did the gaps between African American and white students. The gaps between male and female students’ performance in reading and writing declined over the two years.
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Dr. Betty J. Sternberg Commissioner

Henry Garcia/860-713-6528