Updated, 5:58 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline
NORWALK, Conn. — Preliminary Norwalk Public Schools state testing results show some “regression towards the mean,” in the words of Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski. Gains in math scores mean Norwalk could close the achievement gap in math, Adamowski said.
When the Board of Education implemented its strategic operating plan, fourth and fifth grade test scores were a concern. Those scores have since come up, and now third grade classes have the lowest scores in English Language Arts, Adamowski said July 27 at the BoE retreat.
Math scores are up in Norwalk’s eighth grade classes, but eight of 12 elementary schools showed a loss in third grade math scores, Testing and Evaluation Specialist Diane Filardo said. Grades three and seven are struggling in ELA, but there’s been a “stellar increase” in eighth grade scores.
Nearly 5,200 students were tested in third through eighth grades, with nearly 65 percent of them high needs students, 16 percent English Language Learners and 14 percent students with disabilities, Filardo said.
“Until we have state results, we really can’t put this in context,” she said. “… Although this is certainly not an analysis, this is the best look at the information that we have right now.”
State results are due in December, Adamowski said.
Adamowski began the presentation by noting that the 2016-17 Next Generation assessments had been the cause of much celebration, as they showed a 56-point gain in the state accountability rating.
“It poses a problem for us this year in that you never want to gain that large in one year,” he said, drawing laughter. “If you had two 25-point gains everyone would be absolutely delighted. Now the question is statistically it’s very hard to avoid regressing to the mean after that.”
The 2017-18 ELA results are on par, with a 1 percent increase, Filardo said, with the PowerPoint presentation showing a 1.2 percent increase from 2016-18 and a .1 percent drop from 2017 to 2018.
There was a “nice gain” in fourth grade, a 1.9 percent increase from 2017 to 2018, and an “8 point gain in fifth grade,” a 8.3 percent increase from 2017 to 2018, she said.
Grades three and seven are struggling, Filardo said, presenting these results:
- 2015-16: District 51.8 percent, State 54 percent
- 2016-17: District 50.1 percent, State 51.8 percent
- 2017-18 preliminary: District 46 percent
- 2017 to 2018: District -4.1 percent
- 2016 to 2018: District -5.8 percent
- 2015-16: District 46.7 percent, State 55.2 percent
- 2016-17: District 47.2 percent, State 54.9 percent
- 2017-18 (preliminary): District 43 percent
- 2017 to 2018: District -4.2 percent
- 2016 to 2018: District -3.7 percent
The “stellar increase” in eighth grade:
- 2015-16: District 41 percent, State 55.5 percent
- 2016-17: District 48.8 percent, State 53.7 percent
- 2017-18 (preliminary): District 48 percent
- 2017 to 2018: District -.8 percent
- 2016 to 2018: District 7 percent
“Some of this is regression toward the mean. I think what you look at is trends over a two- and three-year period of time,” Adamowski said.
The staff has done a great job in implementing CK3LI (Connecticut K-3 Literacy Initiative), “the gold standard for early literacy in Connecticut,” and “the early literacy primary grades are relatively strong,” he said. “Where we need to continue to build is in fourth and fifth grade, where you make the transition into comprehension and where writing becomes more important. Both areas have been weaker areas for us.”
“If you look at what is underneath these results you see a much higher rate of growth with high need students than those who are not. That suggests a tier I issue,” Adamowski said. Tier I is the basic instruction every child receives, and “the next set of gains are going to be made around improving the quality” of Tier I instruction, he said.
A breakdown school by school shows that only one fifth-grade class declined in ELA scores, and “grade four did a pretty good job,” Filardo said. Brookside, Jefferson and Kendall Elementary Schools had gains in all three grades, so, “We are seeing some progress,” she said.
Last year, Norwalk increased its ELA scores and the state went down, meaning the achievement gap narrowed by a third. The state went up in math but Norwalk went way up, and the achievement gap narrowed by a third, Adamowski said.
“This is relative,” he said. “Some of it equates to the form of test used. If we saw all third graders went down, we would attribute it to that…. the key comparison is how the rest of the state did because that’s our basis for closing the gap.”
The winner in math is fifth grade, Filardo said, presenting this result:
- 2016: District 30.6 percent, State 40.8 percent
- 2017: District 34.6 percent, State 42.9 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): District 41 percent
Grade three showed the most loss, she said:
- 2016: District 52 percent, State 52.8 percent
- 2017: District 54.3 percent, State 53.1 percent
- 2018(preliminary): District 49 percent
Cranbury Elementary lost over all three grades:
- 2016: 69.3 percent
- 2017: 59.2 percent
- 2018(preliminary): 49 percent
- 2016: 51.4 percent
- 2017: 68.1 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 46 percent
- 2016: 33.3 percent
- 2017: 56.5 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 45 percent
Kendall “showed a gain in all three grades”:
- 2016: 48.4 percent
- 2017: 40.6 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 49 percent
- 2016: 40.4 percent
- 2017: 52.6 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 46 percent
- 2016: 25 percent
- 2017: 11.6 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 31 percent
In middle schools, eighth grade did well in both math and English, Filardo said. West Rocks gained in math scores across all three grades:
- 2016: 24.9 percent
- 2017: 33.9 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 34 percent
- 2016: 29.3 percent
- 2017: 33.6 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 37 percent
- 2016: 23.1 percent
- 2017: 29 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 37 percent
Adamowski highlighted the math scores at Nathan Hale, where the Teach to One math program is in place:
- 2016: 26.4 percent
- 2017: 30.8 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 38 percent
- 2016: 34.1 percent
- 2017: 34.6 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 32 percent
- 2016: 27.6 percent
- 2017: 29.5 percent
- 2018 (preliminary): 39 percent
“Based upon this data, it seems possible if not probable to us that at the end of next year will have closed the achievement gap in math, given the gains we have,” he said.
The ELA gains “will be much smaller and more variable,” he said, adding that NPS will “definitely need a fourth year (added to the strategic operating plan) to work on ELA.”