Students from Trumbull topped those from all 20 other towns in its reference group, and six towns from the one above, in the latest round of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests. The tests have replaced the Connecticut Mastery Tests as the primary assessment test for grades 3-8.

“Used to be students took the CMT, but that’s gone by the wayside,” said Supt. Gary Cialfi.

Cialfi and Assistant Supt. Mike McGrath said the SBAC is a far superior assessment tool than the CMT was.

“With the SBAC, there’s often no clear-cut answer that can be ‘A,B,C,D,’” Cialfi said. “The newer test really measures critical thinking. It’s not so easy to outsmart the test by guessing the right multiple choice answer.”

The test, given on a computer, is also adaptive, Cialfi said.

“It really identifies the students’ limits,” he said.

For example, if two students take the test, and one gets a question wrong, the two students will each get a different question next as the SBAC asks progressively more difficult questions to find the limit of the student’s ability.

By evaluating not only if the answer was correct, but also why one answer was superior to the others, McGrath said the integrity of a student’s knowledge could also be evaluated.

Trumbull students performed at a level far above the state average, with 81.4% of local students meeting grade standards in literacy and 77.3% meeting standards in math. The state averages were 54.2% and 45.6%, respectively.

But Cialfi said he was most proud that the students in Trumbull schools ranked #1 in Trumbull’s Demographic Resource Group (DRG) in SBAC performance. The state divides school systems into DRGs for comparison purposes. Trumbull’s group, DRG B, includes Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, Newtown, Cheshire and Madison, among others.

The performance of Trumbull’s students also would have placed them toward the top of DRG A, which is comprised of the most affluent towns in Connecticut, including Darien, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Redding, Easton, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

But rather than compare Trumbull students to students in other towns, the best assessment is to compare them to themselves, or rather a younger version of themselves.

One critical measure of a school system is the performance of each class of students as the class matriculates through the school system. If the students in one grade perform better than that same group did last year, it is a positive sign, McGrath said.

“And grade-by-grade, we saw impressive overall growth, which is all the more impressive considering how well they performed last year,” he said.

The best example, McGrath said, is this year’s sixth-grade students, who met state goal at a 77% clip. Last year, as sixth graders, 68% met state goal.

Cialfi said the performance on the SBAC was a tribute to the pride the entire town has in its school system and the diligence and professionalism of the staff, a sentiment shared by school board Chairman Loretta Chory.

“The Board of Education is extremely proud of all of our educators, and the pride, effort, and standards of excellence they exhibit every day in preparing our students for success.”