This year, New Canaan High School again reported extremely high SAT results, with a mean combined score (1,795) second highest in the state, behind only Wilton (1,802).
On the math part of the test, New Canaan was behind only Darien. New Canaan students as a whole did better than every other town in its District Reference Group, a set of school districts that the state Education Department deems similar in terms of students' backgrounds and municipal tax bases.
How does the school keep scoring so high on its SATs?
New Canaan High School Principal Bryan Luizzi says it's a combination of a high-achieving student body and a school system that teaches them well and expects a lot from them:
"We have a very rich and rigorous curriculum, and opportunities that we offer our students here, and we have very high expectations from them," he said in an interview. "And they tend to deliver."
Interested in New Canaan's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free New Canaan Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
The SAT, once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Achievement Test and now just "SAT" with the letters not standing for anything, helps colleges pick students. With nearly every graduating senior taking the test, it also offers a measurement of how well the student body as a whole stacks up against those in other school systems.
New Canaan High School's mean score for the reading test (591) is up two points from last year, the school's math score is four points lower, and its writing score is three points higher. Luizzi said that the scores typically go up and down from year to year, and with about 300 students typically taking the test in a given year, the mean score for the school can be changed if only a few more students score low.
Luizzi said the test, taken by 306 members of the Class of 2012 last spring (nearly the entire class), is one of a number that teachers and administrators use to gauge how well the curriculum is working. The district also looks at scores on an alternative to the SAT — ACT, which about 100 seniors took last school year.
SAT RESULTS FOR DISTRICT REGIONAL GROUP A: 2011, 2012TOWN
WritingNEW CANAAN 306 591 604 600 1,795 291 589 608 597 Darien 295 579 606 591 1,776 309 589 617 604
(Joel Barlow High School)220 559 562 574 1,695 187 547 555 563 Ridgefield 414 567 578 576 1,721 405 570 580 580 Weston 156 589 597 608 1,784 166 575 598 594 Westport 363 589 599 597 1,785 406 581 599 595 Wilton 301 596 598 608 1,802 295 581 599 610
Region 9 (Amity High School in Wood-
bridge)220 559 562 574 1,695 353 544 546 556 CONNECTICUT 506 512 510 1,528 509 513 513
Source: Connecticut Department of Education website (see documents attached to this article)
CMT test results for pre-high school grades and the CAPT test given to sophomores in the state's public high schools are also used, along with internal school district tests of students, Luizzi said.
Perhaps more important than the overall numbers are the test results for particular areas of the curriculum. For instance, Luizzi said that district officials recently emphasized reading and writing skills. In particular, they found boys were scoring noticeably lower in reading tests than girls. (Darien Public Schools administrators have seen the same pattern.)
In response, he said, "We looked at the reading seletions, especially for students in our reading classes, to make sure they're of high interest to male students. We've increased the nonfiction selections."
Boys also have been encouraged to take honors level English, he said.
"We're never satisfied with what we have," Luizzi said. "We're always looking to do better."