Ridgefield math scores get a boost
Math scores are up in Ridgefield elementary and middle schools, turning around a three-year tide of sinking test scores that led the district to call for more than $640,000 in new curriculum spending last year.
Ridgefield elementary and middle school students saw a 10 percent growth in state mandated tests, said Craig Creller, the district assistant superintendent and head of curriculum.
“We’ve had tremendous growth,” said Creller, himself a former math teacher and the administrator who has presented on the math achievement gap most to the school board.
“Double digit growth is unbelievable,” he added. “It’s really outstanding.”
Ridgefield students outperformed their counterparts in similar districts, and the statewide average, he told the board.
Schools in Ridgefield’s District Reference Group (DRG), a system the state uses to classify communities of similar socioeconomic status, grew by around 2.5 percent on average. Statewide, math scores went up by less than one percent.
The district ranked fourth in its DRG in math scores in the Smarter Balanced Assessments, the standardized test that replaced the CMT and CAPT assessments the state used to administer to elementary and middle school students each year.
Creller pointed to new curriculum and professional development for teachers as having put student scores on an upward track.
Among middle school students, the district brought back algebra for seventh graders and geometry for eighth graders to prep students headed into high school. Creller said the schools increased professional development for math specialists, reworked how the schools place students in classes, and updated the curriculum.
The schools also invested in math video games that track students strengths and weaknesses in different areas to give them a boost where they most need it.
Board member Carina Borgia Drake raised concern the schools are focusing too much on teaching to the test — which traditionally allows higher-income families with the means to invest in academic help outside of a school to give their students a leg up.
But Vice Chairman Doug Silver argued that was beyond the scope of the curriculum.
“We aren’t changing this country’s dynamic,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to “conflate the notion that by changing curriculum” the schools would alter the “backwards correlation” of education in the United States.
Creller said the schools also unhitched middle school math and science courses, meaning students will be able to take higher level science courses while taking a math course they feel comfortable with.
Looking ahead, he said middle schools plan to double the number of math intervention periods from three to six at each middle school, an expansion the schools are funding through the federal IDEA grant.
He said the schools may also want to consider granting middle school students high school credit for taking algebra, geometry, and world language courses, an idea the board said would require future discussion.
“It would be awesome if a student could roll into high school with three credits towards their 25 [needed to graduate],” Creller said.