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Test Scores Improve at Fairfield's McKinley School

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Ginger Vail must be doing something right. The first-year principal at Fairfield’s McKinley took over a school with scores far behind the rest of the district on its Connecticut Mastery Tests. But this year’s results show steps forward for the town’s most diverse school.

McKinley had the fewest number of kids at or above goal levels in each subject at all grade levels in 2010. But this year, Vail’s charges “improved quite a bit, at quite a few levels,” said Gary Rosato, Fairfield’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. He mentioned McKinley’s success as one of the first things he noticed about Fairfield’s test scores released Wednesday.

Grades 3 and 5 at McKinley improved in all three subjects, increasing the percentage of kids at goal and advanced over 2010. This year’s fourth grade class posted lower marks than their predecessors (this year’s fifth-graders), but still beat their own scores as third-graders in reading and writing. That same group also saw nearly triple the number of students reading at advanced levels, from 5.7 percent as third-graders to 15.5 percent in 2011.

Still, Rosato said he and the other district administrators have a lot more analyzing to do. “Looking at just one year of data is not going to give us what we want,” Rosato said. “Really what I’m looking at is three- or four-year trends.”

The best way to do this, Rosato says, is to look at groups of students as they grow. So instead of comparing 2011’s eighth-graders to kids who graduated in 2010, Fairfield’s administrators will compare their scores to 2010’s Grade 7 numbers, the sixth-graders from 2009, and so on.

Looking at Fairfield’s scores this way, most classes improved in two of the three areas, though which two subject varies from grade to grade. All groups except Grade 8 improved their reading scores from the year before, and those eighth-graders still had more than 90 percent at or above goal. Grades 4 and 7 also boosted their math scores, while Grades 4 and 6 improved in writing.

Rosato said he was concerned, however, with the 10 percentage point drop among the seventh grade class in writing, with only 78 percent at or above goal compared with the 88 percent at the same mark as sixth-graders.

“Seventh-grade writing is an area that we’d like to take a closer look at,” Rosato said. “But our other numbers at the middle school level are in the 80th or 90th percentile, so they’re doing pretty well.”

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