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A Closer Look at West Hartford’s 2008 CAPT Results

Posted by whforums on July 17, 2008

Let’s take a closer look at West Hartford’s 2008 CAPT results in the context of the past 8 years. Many (even some on this site) have a “sky is falling” attitude about WHPS, and as much as I don’t believe test scores are a reflection of quality education, they’re the only real means I have to put that anxiety to the test. So, here’s the guiding question for this post:

Do the CAPT test scores of WHPS support or dispute claims about a school system on the decline?

The table below reflects the students who have reached “Goal” on the CAPT exam in West Hartford over the past 8 years. Keep in mind that “Goal” is the higher level of state achievement — students only need to reach “Proficiency” (a lower score) to pass the exam. Students who achieve “Goal” are high achievers.


Year Math Science Reading Writing
Average % at Goal                
2001 61% 68% 66% 65% 65%
2002 58% 63% 60% 62% 61%
2003 56% 61% 61% 65% 61%
2004 60% 66% 64% 60% 63%
2005 62% 69% 65% 67% 66%
2006 58% 61% 59% 59% 59%
2007 57% 64% 62% 68% 63%
2008 59% 65% 64% 70% 65%
8 Year Avg 59% 65% 63% 65% 63%


The findings? Over the past 8 years, West Hartford has been within 3% of its overall average on CAPT in every year but 2006, which was a “bad” year across the board. The 2008 results fit perfectly into the general 3% hit or miss rule, and represent a slightly “above average” year. The most important thing to notice here: the percentage of students reaching “Goal” in West Hartford has remained remarkably consistent since the year 2000 (you should find a teacher and shake their hand right now). Is the sky falling? Most certainly not.

I was going to run the data on other towns that share a physical border with Hartford (Newington, Bloomfield, Wethersfield, Windsor, East Hartford), but a cursory glance at their numbers show that only Newington and Wethersfield are close to West Hartford’s level of achievement. West Hartford has averaged 64% at goal across the 4 sections of the exam in the last 2 years (right on target with the 63% attained over the last 8 years). Over the same two year period Newington (60%) and Wethersfield (59%) both fall short of West Hartford’s numbers.

Translation? In Hartford’s urban ring, West Hartford holds an eminent educational position.. So let’s take a minute and compare West Hartford’s performance to two towns outside the “urban ring” — Farmington and Glastonbury. Both of these towns almost share a border with Hartford, but don’t quite — West Hartford separates Farmington from Hartford, and East Hartford and Wethersfield (along with the Connecticut River) combine to separate Glastonbury from Hartford (I recognize that I sound like a jerk in this paragraph — and I don’t in the least mean to slam Hartford. Fact is, though, the further you get from any city, within reason, the higher test scores go. At least that’s the idea I’m putting to the “test” here). Here are the 2008 CAPT numbers (percentage of students achieving “Goal”) for West Hartford, Glastonbury and Farmington:


Town Math Science Reading Writing
West Hartford 59% 65% 64% 70%
Glastonbury 74% 69% 64% 70%
Farmington 77% 70% 72% 85%


The results? West Hartford, in 2008, held its own against Glastonbury, and gave some ground to Farmington. Across the 4 sections of the exam, West Hartford had 65% of its student at “Goal,” Glastonbury had 69% of its students at “Goal,” and Farmington had 76% of its students at “Goal.” A pretty good performance against the ‘burbs, if you ask me.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss in a couple of links. I think the ongoing interest in test score numbers in West Hartford relates directly to our confusion over our own identity (who we are, who we’ve been and who we’re becoming). I tried to tackle that issue a bit here. When I saw “El Toro” and “Cynic” chewing on a that same idea on WH Dad’s site, it seemed important to me to fold the issue of identity into this test score conversation in an explicit way.

And finally — I suck at numbers (I was a philosophy major). If someone sees something I’ve done wrong, or sees a way to improve on these numbers, please let me know.

Source: http://www.csde.state.ct.us/public/cedar/profiles/index.htm#go

8 Responses to “A Closer Look at West Hartford’s 2008 CAPT Results”

  1. Roger W. said

    A 60%-65% is a “C” grade isn’t it?
    For all the money that we spend on education and for all the boasting about how great our schools are, one would think that we would be scoring much much higher on these standardized tests. I am not buying into the “we have minorities and urban issues” sound byte. Tell me how the grades from Amistad Academy – an urban charter school – did better than our numbers except in one category in 2008 (They blew us away in writing)

    Nice job on this blog by the way – I am enjoying your posts.

  2. whforums said

    Hi Roger — thanks for the kind words.

    Keep in mind the 60-65% numbers are only for reaching “Goal,” which is the highest level of achievement on the test.

    When you look at West Hartford students who reached “Proficiency” in 2008 (students who passed the test and are operating, as far as the state is concerned, at a 10th grade level), you get these numbers (our % first, followed by the state average %):

    Math: 89% (In WH)/80% (State Average)
    Science: 92%/81%
    Reading: 91%/83%
    Writing: 94%/88%

    All West Hartford numbers are well above state average. In letter grade form, West Hartford’s “Proficiency” percentage ranges from “B+” to “A”.

    And you’re right about Amistad — their numbers are great, with 100% of their students at proficiency in writing. One big difference though — WHPS tested 765 students, while Amistad tested 29.

  3. Roger W. said

    Well, it is obvious that we always do better than the statewide average, but I am not impressed with only 60-65% reaching goal.
    If “goal” is a higher standard than “proficient” then we ought to have more kids reaching goal then just 60-65%. To me that is still a “C” letter grade. Proficiency numbers mean little in this case unless you are asserting that goal is just really way too difficult. Being proficient by definition means that you are expert and masterly, and that should be the goal. By adding this second layer of measurement, proficient and goal, that is just a cop-out so when the kids don’t meet “goal” (the highest standard) you can still say they were proficient. It’s real education mumbo-jumbo. Of course it probably is a mechanism so that in order to meet “goal” the school system can say they need umpteem million dollars more, when these kids are already proficient and have learned what they needed to learn.

    My point about Amistad was that those are urban kids and the argument has been that minority and poor kids somehow are doing less well in West Hartford (and elsewhere) and they say that that is also a reason why we ought to be in a different DRG, and I don’t buy that at all especially when we are supposed to have such a great school system which offers all sorts of programs and interventions.

    Bottomline is that I am not impressed with the scores here in trying to meet the highest standard. Yes, the kids did better than the state average and did well – but for what we are supposed to be doing here in our schools these scores should have been much higher in my opinion. I’d like to hear an explanation of why they aren’t achieving more.

  4. gk said

    Interesting posts. I have three quick thoughts.

    1) Whether or not you buy it, hasn’t it been fairly well established that these tests measure academic achievement as well as parents’ income, parents’ level of education, and first/second language acquisition? It seems pretty clear that if the WH population is different than other towns in these categories, our test results will be as well.

    2) A test in which 90-100% of 765 kids scored excellent would be a pretty meaningless test. I bet if you tested 765 kids on their ability to ride a bike or blow bubbles with bubble gum you wouldn’t get those results.

    3) The Amistad comparison seems like a total non-starter. I know nothing about Amistad and less about statistics, but there has to be a huge variation (or some other statistics word) between a sample size of 29 and a sample size of 765. Moreover, you could argue that Amistad is being inefficient: if they have perfected educating high school sophomores, why can they only do it to 29 kids? Why such a small-scale production?

    The point is not that WH school can’t improve, spend less money etc., only, in line with the original post, that according to this one limited measure they have not declined dramatically over the last decade and are competitive with neighboring towns that one might reasonable expect to have higher scores.

    peace out.

  5. Cynic said

    Mastery Test reslts are out.
    Looks like we were agian at the bottom of our DRG.
    Don’t know the State ranking, last year we were 56 in the State.

    The Administration took a year to develop their DIP, and totally ignored the current class of test takers. The DIP is only set to gather data in the next year, leads to much hope for the next year test results

    The picture will not be pretty this year when the NCLB list comes out. Last year they were predicting both High Schools would be on it and if I recall 3 of the 5 Middle Schools

  6. Kevin Walsh said

    The comparison to Amistad Academy is inappropriate to the extent that the student body at Amistad, while urban and poor, is also self- (or parent-) selected. While admission is by lottery, I understand that only about 600 (among the thousands eligible in New Haven) apply each year.

    Comparing the test scores of a sub-group that is by definition highly motivated (if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be enrolled at Amistad in the first place) with those of an entire district does not add anything useful to the conversation.

  7. Maggy W said

    We’re at the bottom or near the bottom of our DRG across ALL categories. For all those who who make the excuses- I’m tired of them. You can disect the numbers any way you want. You can blame our demographics. You can say we are different. Yep we’re different alright. We pay some of the highest taxes in the state and we get mediocre results.

    We all know this is one measure. Let’s take it for that ,one measure and it’s not good. So let’s do something about it. Write, call or visit you BOE members and town council. Tell them that we need to stop the excuses and start taking concrete,understandable, IMMEDIATE, action to improving the overall education in this town.

  8. mchrist said

    60-65 is a D

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