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Adamowski highlights Next Gen gains; Yordon cites ‘dedicated staff’

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Gains in Norwalk Public Schools’ state assessment rating were trumpeted Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting.

“If we continue to invest in our schools, follow our well-thought out improvement strategy in the form of our strategic operating plan and have the continued support of our city I am sure we will continue to improve. I think this is a testament to the fact that when our students receive the same things as students in other districts, they do just as well if not better,” Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said.

The 2016-17 Connecticut Next Generation Accountability Report, released by the state recently, show 15 of Norwalk’s 20 schools performed better in the assessments, and the district gained 56 points in the accountability index score, Adamowski and Testing and Evaluation Specialist Diane Filardo said.

Filardo presented an in-depth look at the statistics, and Adamowski offered an analysis.

“I’d like to get the negative out of the way first. The negative is science, science and science,” Adamowski said.

The state’s science accomplishments are low and Norwalk Public Schools are lower, but there’s a reprieve next year when the state shifts to the new test that measures the Next Generation Science Standard, a replacement for the CMT test, Adamowski said.

That year gives NPS time, and the 30 minutes that will be added to the school day at six elementary schools – should the city fund the $1 million-plus proposal – should be used for science instruction, he said.

NPS needs to develop a science curriculum that is experiential, based on the scientific method, he said.

“We have to shift away from the old textbook approach to science that we have been using, and we have been using old textbooks as well, to kids’ experiments, uses of labs, a much more hands-on oriented approach,” Adamowski said. “We have a year to work on this. I want it to be our priority because that is the one thing that is holding us back at this point.”

Now, the good news: “Nothing magically happens at the district level. Our accountability index is up because 15 of our 20 schools improved,” Adamowski said.

It’s the third year of the Next Generation Accountability plan; in the first year Norwalk scored lower than Danbury and in the second year Danbury and Norwalk were tied, beneath the two-year front runner Stamford, he said.

Now, Norwalk is on top and, “that hopefully does a lot to build confidence in our ability to compete in Fairfield County,” Adamowski said.

Norwalk’s score improvement was the highest of all of Connecticut’s cities and second only in the state to “the 1,000 student East Hampton school district,” he said.

The state split the Center for Global Studies from Brien McMahon High School last year, but Brien McMahon “did not suffer the loss we expected” and instead gained 11.5 points, Adamowski said.

Norwalk High School made a very healthy gain and now BMHS and NHS are “virtually identical,” he said.

All four middle schools improved and Naramake Elementary, “once a low performing school, had the greatest gain last year at 45 points,” Adamowski said.

Naramake Elementary School had an overall accountability rating of 75.7, up from a 2015-16 rating of 70.2 percent, a state document shows. Filardo’s chart shows Naramake earning 596.7 points in 2016 and 643.5 points in 2017, a 46.8 point gain.

“When you have a gain that large you worry about regression toward the mean and losing ground the following year,” Adamowski said. “Had they lost eight or nine points they still would have had a 40-point gain over two years, or 20 points per year, it’s pretty good. But Naramake increased another 46.8 points. Were it not for outlier in science it would be category 2. That’s what we would expect next year.”

Cranbury Elementary had the largest gain of any Norwalk elementary school and Tracey should have shed its stereotype as a low-performer given its “gain of 31 and no gap,” Adamowski said.

It’s the first Norwalk school to advance categories, as it’s now a category 2, he said.

Rowayton has become a school of distinction, as a category 1 school with no gap outliers, Adamowski said, pointing out that 45 percent of the students are special needs, either English Language Learners, Special Education students or on free or reduced lunch.

Adamowski and the Board honored administrators from Rowayton Elementary School, Roton Middle School, Cranbury Elementary School, Tracey Elementary School, with some Rowayton parents and children marching to the Board to get handshakes. Also mentioned for congratulations were families and “hard working scholars.”

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon was not at Tuesday’s meeting but emailed a statement to NancyOnNorwalk afterwards:

 

“Norwalk Schools are successful places, despite the high turnover in Central Office, low morale among school staff, and multiple challenges with communication and planning.  Despite these challenges, Norwalk has dedicated, innovative certified staff in every building who go above and beyond each and every day in the classroom to make sure that great things are happening in our schools. It is encouraging to see data to show that our hard work pays off.  Accolades should be shared among the entire educational community including parents, para-educators, community members, certified staff and administrators who all contribute to these good results together.

“The accountability report is a state formula that boils down everything a school does into a single number. Some schools made more gains than others. There is no short response to or simple explanation for schools that did not make the hoped-for gains. However, elementary schools may be more vulnerable because 7 of the 20 elements contributing to ‘the number’ don’t apply to elementary schools at all. Nonetheless, the reports allow us to examine the data to develop strategies to improve rigor and relevance of instruction tailored to the differing populations, needs, facilities, and available resources and support.

“NFT Certified staff have dedicated their careers to student success and will continue to do so in the future.”

19 comments

Ben Wise February 21, 2018 at 9:16 am

Maybe not gutting the Science department for years in the middle school and high school levels would have prevented this. There are teachers teaching Science that have not been trained to teach Science.
At the middle school level science is every other day in the block schedule. No Professional Development on NGSS! I am a teacher in NPS and the failure is because a lack of trying or dedication, rather it lies on the structure of the middle school redesign. Some of my colleges have over 150 students across 2 grades level. Some teach multiple subjects. This is a failure of management and structure.

Nora K King February 21, 2018 at 9:42 am

Mary Yordan – I really question your judgement with a statement like that. You just couldn’t help yourself by slamming Central Office. We have good news with our schools and you cannot help yourself by being negative. Dr. Adamowksi has created a vision and guidelines to help all schools improve. Rowayton has made so much progress due to the amazing teachers, leadership and high parent involvement.

Piberman February 21, 2018 at 10:30 am

For decades taxpayers have been told its essential to match salaries and outlays with our surrounding towns with incomes 4 to 5 times the per capita income. Yet the difference in student outcomes remains large and persistant. And many retired homeowners have left the City unable to afford the double whammy of ever higher property taxes used to finance our lofty school budgets and fears that our long stagnant property values would begin to decline. Homeowners have an obligation to fund City schools. But at levels that force large numbers of homeowners to leave the City or prevent property appreciation. Few students will live in Norwalk as adults. But homeowners would like to be able to afford to live in their City.

Nora K King February 21, 2018 at 10:36 am

Piberman – taxes unfortunately our a realty in the State of CT under this governor. Norwalk is doing all the right things with our schools. Schools bring people, raise property values and bring builders who want to develop our area. The better our schools, parks, walk ability, athletic programs are the better our city has of prospering under this Governor and the past Governors who have bankrupted our state. We are moving in the right direction and we need to keep heading in that direction in Norwalk.

Also February 21, 2018 at 11:38 am

ELL students are in these Science Class with NO support. The aides were pulled for subjects that require testing. Science is the only class where there is no ELL support, yet we wonder why their scores are down?

Also… Science is not taught with validity at the elementary level, and those are facts.

Ben Wise February 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm

@NoraKing
Then why do you bash Mrs. Yordon. You should at least respect her enough to spell her name correctly. You gush over Rowayton, but neglect the negatives that are middle school redesign. I believe that point out the negatives and step backs of a plan while supporting the positives is the prudent thing for Mrs. Yordon and the NFT. I am proud of her work. She and others in the NFT have to fix and fill the pot holes of the BOE plans.
Why was so much gutted from middle school to fix high school? The credit requirement is a phony argument. That change was know about for several years and the BOE did nothing. Lyons, Meek and Barbis are spending what the city cant afford. A balance between the teachers, the BOE and taxpayer must be found.

Mike Barbis February 21, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Peter Berman — you have made some incorrect allegations. As a member of the Board of Ed and now its Chairman, I have NEVER once said anything along the lines of “we need to match the pay of our NPS employees with that of our wealthy neighbors”. So quit making that allegation.
I have worked hard to reform our union contracts — maybe of which have crazy provisions from years ago. A perfect example are the number of hours our elementary schools are open (900 versus the state average of 1000).

Mike Barbis February 21, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Nancy,
Why protect some nasty anonymous commenter??? I just don’t understand the logic. What is constructive about your policy? I’d love to know.
It is so obvious who the commenter is so I don’t know why you bother to protect them …
when you do away with the anonymous commenter policy, I’ll be happy to start donating again. But not until then.

Claire Schoen February 21, 2018 at 8:54 pm

@Mike – I don’t know who Ben Wise is, and frankly I don’t care – although I believe that hiding behind and alias is weak, it does at a bit of flavor to the overall level of comments. I suppose I’d rather see the comment from the alias than none at all.

This is all good news, and given the state of education in general, we should applaud it. My kids did a combo of NPS and private school at different stages of their academic careers and we found that NPS delivered a great education. There are some really, really good people teaching our children. In any system there will be challenges, but it seems to me things are moving in the right direction…

@Ben Wise, I would agree that your argument would be much stronger if you would just stand up and identify yourself as an NPS teacher who would like to see some more support for middle school science. What are you afraid of?

Mike Barbis February 21, 2018 at 11:16 pm

Why Nancy adn Claire? You have never explained or justified the reasoning for this policy
And I love how elected volunteers can not be anonymous but others (including paid NPS employees) can be anonymous and attack these volunteers. Talk about an unlevel playing field.
I would appreciate an explanation. Thanks

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 21, 2018 at 11:50 pm

I have used a pseudonym here from time to time only because the practice is permitted. It is not a practice that universally elevates discussion. But very inflammatory comments from anonymous sources can drive hits. I agree that the prohibition on fake names for public officials is an inconsistency if city employees are exempt.

DrewT February 22, 2018 at 12:07 am

I find it interesting that people love to post things weather its truthful or not and HIDE behind an Alias! If you think you have the stones to say something then tell everyone who you are! What are you afraid of!?!!? But considering we all know who it is I guess the true colors are really showing by them hiding.. I personally never have or will hide behind an alias. If i won’t say it to your face there’s no reason to post it then!

Enough February 22, 2018 at 5:59 am

What Ben wise is saying isn’t a secret. We have been addressing our concerns, but no one wants to listen to the people in the trenches. I know I’ve addressed my concerns directly to administration and central office staff and it fell on deaf ears. What do we know right? We just work with the kids every day.

Also February 22, 2018 at 6:24 am

Why hide behind an Alias?? Maybe because we know what happens to educators who do speak up. Remember, the educators are the true experts here, the ones who work with kids for the majority of the day in Norwalk. We have the experience and know what happens Mr. Barbis, and if you are TRUELY curious about why the scores are the way they are, why haven’t you simply asked the teachers? Why hasn’t any BOE member simply asked teachers what they need to better assist the students? How about they come to each school and simply ask? Is that too much? Why would people make policies without asking the educators what they think would be best?

Maybe because the teacher opinion does not matter.

It’s both alarming and sad that a blog is the only means of communication. Thank you Nancy for keeping it anonymous, the people who are asking to change the policy probably aren’t educators and do not understand the ramifications of speaking up.

Brenda Wilcox Williams February 22, 2018 at 11:54 am

One point that Dr. Adamowski made is missing here: this summer NPS will hold summer institutes that will focus on our science curriculum, with participation from science teachers from the district. This is the same as what we did successfully in prior summers for math and reading.

In an otherwise strong report reflecting significant gains, we know science is an issue. The point is that there are plans in place to improve science as well.

Bob Welsh February 22, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Mike Barbis:

You volunteer many hours towards work that you hope will improve Norwalk schools, so you are understandably frustrated by anonymous comments alleging issues within the schools.

You aren’t the only smart reader of NON. I know of many who read anonymous comments with interest and a grain of salt. In fact some regular anonymous commenters have been identified by astute readers as contrary indicators.

In response to your question about the policy, anonymous comments are allowed because some people will only comment if they don’t have to fear retribution. The fear of retribution may exist only in the commenter’s mind, but it exists nonetheless. Unfortunately some commenters use the cloak of anonymity irresponsibly. Many anonymous comments have been edited for violations of the comments policy, including personal attacks against you and others.

The NON Board has repeatedly encouraged all commenters to focus on policy and not people. The board has also discussed the possibility of allowing anonymous comments with new and specific content restrictions, but no idea emerged that seemed practical. If you have one, please let me know.

The reason that elected officials are required to comment under their own names is that in the past, some posted anonymous comments supporting themselves and/or attacking opponents. Mark Chapman felt strongly that elected officials should comment only under their own names and be accountable to voters for their words. I agree with this reasoning.

Hope this answers your question.

Best,
Bob

Debora Goldstein March 7, 2018 at 12:10 pm

For the record, Mr. Barbis has taken umbrage at Mr. Berman’s characterization of what the BOE’s policy is about compensating NPS employees competitively, but he did vote along with two other members who did say things along those lines.

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/10/five-norwalk-boe-members-approve-raises-for-senior-staff/

That set a tone for the topic, with Yvel Crevecoeur, Sherelle Harris, Mosby and Kassimis voting to keep the planned compensation changes on the table, and Erik Anderson, Bryan Meek, Heidi Keyes, Mike Barbis and Lyons voting to reconsider it, a voting result that would be repeated later when the changes were approved.

The plan had been adjusted to reflect market realities, Meek said, as the discussion began, asserting that the $65,000 in additional compensation would be less money than would be needed to recruit new people to the positions.

“We need to remain competitive with other school districts in Fairfield County, many of which pay significantly higher salaries than we do. We don’t want to be in the position where we are becoming the talent pool for Fairfield County, by developing talented people who then leave for greener pastures,” Lyons said.

Particularly odious is the continued sniping about the cost of union negotiated contracts, and then using those contracts to justify pay raises for management.

From the same article:

“The way this is set up, our non-unionized management team can get the same raises as the unionized administrators,” Adamowski said.

“What we are trying to do is rationalize these positions,” Lyons said. “All the other positions who work for us are governed by union contracts… This is an attempt to bring the same kind of order to the way the salaries are set for these positions as we have for all the other positions in the school system.”

Reading the comments on the same article will also shed more light on BOE thinking with regard to compensating management.

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