New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Commentary

Measuring Success Nine Students at a Time

District Performance Index and School Performance Index are the new buzz words in the ever evolving system of student achievement accountability. Connecticut received a waiver from the federal government allowing our state to “leave” the NCLB accountability system and develop our own.

The new system differs from NCLB in a variety of ways. First, students are expected to reach goal not proficiency – however, districts have been given until 2018 to have 88 percent of their students at goal. Specific annual percentage targets are established for each school by the State. The State will first establish a baseline for each school and then require a 3 point growth for following year. Second, the baseline data is generated by averaging the past three years of CMT/CAPT scores on all four areas of the test (reading, math, writing and science). Previously, NCLB focused on reading levels. Thirdly, districts will be given “credit” for moving students through all levels not just to proficiency. Under NCLB, a district was only graded on the percentage of students achieving at proficiency or above. Now, a district will be awarded points for each child moved through a level.advancing to the next. From below basic to basic; from basic to proficiency; and from proficiency to goal – each movement “awards” a district.33 points towards the calculation of their category. Categories range from Excelling to Progressing to Transition to Review/Focus to Turnaround. A school’s category prescribes the types of interventions required by the state. As schools are categorized other factors will be considered such as graduation rates, at risk subgroups and student growth. Previously, under NCLB a school needed to have 40 students in any one subgroup to be “scored” on that particular subgroup. Now, the number has been lowered to 20 students. So, if a school has 20 students receiving free and reduced lunch that subgroup’s performance will now be scored and calculated. The same will apply for students with disabilities, Hispanic students, Black students and English Language Learners. More schools throughout the state will now be reviewed and scored on the performance of subgroups.

For a school to increase their SPI and demonstrate student growth, they need to move 9 students to the next level for every 100 students in that school. So, for a school of 500 students – 45 must progress to the next level. The movement of 9 students per 100 earns the school the designated 3 point growth target. Ultimately working towards the 88 percent at goal for 2018.

What some people object to is the ranking of schools with a number. Basically the State is taking the average of the past three years CMT/CAPT scores and assigning a number from best performing to worst. Labeling individual schools and entire school districts is worrisome. People do make home purchases and school choice decisions based on this information. However, I am looking at this as an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion on student growth, barriers to educational attainment and the inequities that plague the State of Connecticut in terms of town wealth, the impact of poverty and how we fund and prioritize education and the needs of our students. As we compare student achievement school by school and district by district, we must also compare resources. Let us compare per pupil allocations; class size; and percentage of at risk student populations. It frustrates me that we here in New Britain struggle every year with class size issues that our neighboring communities cannot even fathom. I will use this information in my ongoing pursuit of equality and equity for the students of New Britain. If anyone is interested in learning more about how New Britain fairs under this new accountability system – please attend our next Board meeting on Monday, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m.