NPS test results ‘regress toward mean’; math achievement gap could close

The Norwalk Board of Education discusses Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) results July 27 in the Cranbury Park bunkhouse.

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.”

2018 sbac 18-0728 20180727

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:

Grade three

  • 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


Grade seven

  • 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:

Third grade

  • 2016: 69.3 percent
  • 2017: 59.2 percent
  • 2018(preliminary): 49 percent

Fourth grade

  • 2016: 51.4 percent
  • 2017: 68.1 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 46 percent


Fifth grade

  • 2016: 33.3 percent
  • 2017: 56.5 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 45 percent


Kendall “showed a gain in all three grades”:

Third grade

  • 2016: 48.4 percent
  • 2017: 40.6 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 49 percent

Fourth grade

  • 2016: 40.4 percent
  • 2017: 52.6 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 46 percent


Fifth grade

  • 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:

Sixth grade

  • 2016: 24.9 percent
  • 2017: 33.9 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 34 percent

Seventh grade

  • 2016: 29.3 percent
  • 2017: 33.6 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 37 percent


Eighth grade

  • 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:

Sixth grade

  • 2016: 26.4 percent
  • 2017: 30.8 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 38 percent

Seventh grade

  • 2016: 34.1 percent
  • 2017: 34.6 percent
  • 2018 (preliminary): 32 percent


Eighth grade

  • 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.”

Norwalk Public Schools Testing and Evaluation Specialist Diane Filardo explains test results July 27 in the Cranbury Park bunkhouse.


TONY DITRIO August 8, 2018 at 8:36 am

Test results continue to be reported in a misleading fashion. In almost all cases results are presented by grade comparing one year to the next. These results, weather up or down, do not represent any real change in scores. If the grade three scores from 2016-17 are compared to the grade three scores in 2017-18 they represent scores from two distinct sets of students. The results by themselves mean very little. The same is true when you take a particularly low score and from a previous year and then claim gap closing or great growth by comparing to a score two or three years later. The next trick is to only note where growth is positive and to ignore when numbers go down. There also has been little effort to demonstrate the effects of any initiatives that have been implemented. This is an example of smoke and mirrors. Dr. Adamowski is still claiming test results improvements in Hartford that have been shown to be the result of not testing students that would have poor test results instead of any real change. Dr. Adamowski has never left a District better after he left and he will not leave Norwalk in a better place either.

Will Erdef August 8, 2018 at 8:55 am

Regression toward the mean should be welcome news given the large influx of non English speaking families Norwalk has attracted. I would think assimilating these students would come at a cost and weighing these results should come with embedded handicaps.

Piberman August 8, 2018 at 8:59 am

Is there any other school district in CT that openly matches salaries with surrounding wealthy towns but achieves only middling results with few students taking advanced math and science placements and less than half ever achieving a college degree. How does high salaries with high property taxes and falling property values benefit homeowners. And what evidence is there that high school teacher salareis are benefiting students.

DB August 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm

@TonyDitrio,I totally agree with you. They should compare achievements for the same group overtime i.e. a longitudinal study. The data presented is kind of meaningless since the groups compared could be significantly different. During the budget presentation, I was alarmed to see the BOE compute an Roi by dividing student achievement by $$s spent. This was a meaningless statistics. You can’t divide apples by oranges and come up with an ROI. I am very curious who is doing their analytics.

Kathleen August 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Tony, spot on. A superintendent should know better. This is very misleading. “Until we have state results, we really can’t put this in context.” And yet, you did.

Patrick Cooper August 8, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Picky picky, I know. But Tony…..you claim to be an educator!

“These results, weather up or down” ….

Tony – you can’t spell? I think you wanted the conjunction – whether – not the noun referring to the atmosphere at a place and time. But it is ironic – isn’t it.

Norwalk – every single time you see an attack on Superintendent Adamowski – chances are it’s an individual who is staunchly, subjectively, unequivocally a pro-union {…} who cares not one iota about the kids. Case in point – the author of Tony’s “proof” – Jonathan Pelto – who if you simply look back at the NoN-archives – is precisely that. Look at all the fake names that crawled out from under the slime covered rocks to spout nonsense. They had it out for our superintendent before he was hired. Now they take any/every shot they can.

Don’t believe it.

Look, when NASA gets a new president – Tony will be {…}

Edited to remove two insults, a violation of the comment policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Pash August 9, 2018 at 10:44 am

@ Patrick Cooper, you must really have an interesting relationship with the Superintendent {…} Why don’t you ask this Adamowski character how the book he is writing coming along on Middle School redesign?!?! That’s right he has not a care in the world for our kids just as long as his book gets published while Norwalk Schools is his lab rat to test on.

Edited to remove a vulgar reference. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

MarjorieM August 9, 2018 at 11:43 am

Patrick Cooper, unless you are extremely knowledgeable about statistics, you really don’t understand what Tony is saying. There are facts and there is spin. Let me separate fact from spin and make it perfectly clear. The use of “regression to the mean” actually means test scores went down. See? Plain and simple.

MarjorieM August 9, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Appended to my previous comment:
There are studies that have been done to show that spelling and intelligence are inversely related. Ever notice that doctors are poor at spelling?

Patrick Cooper August 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm

@MarjorieM – I am in fact extremely knowledgable about statistics. In fact – there’s a difference between median, midpoint, and mean. Perhaps you would like to meet for coffee and hash it out? Don’t worry – I know the statistical likelihood of that.

MarjorieM August 9, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Patrick, mean and median is now taught in elementary school. Tony Ditrioi is really smart and holds at least one degree in math. I would wager that he can outtalk and out problemsolve you on any math level you want. The probability of that match happening is close to zero.

TONY DITRIO August 10, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Patrick Cooper:
You seem to take great joy in making personal attacks against people you don’t even know. How can you claim that my facts should not be believed simply because you claim that: “every single time you see an attack on Superintendent Adamowski – chances are it’s an individual who is staunchly, subjectively, unequivocally a pro-union {…} who cares not one iota about the kids”. That is not only insulting but untrue. I care a great deal about kids and anyone who actually knows me understands that. Do you really believe that all the parents, teachers and administrators who had to endure Dr. Adamowski don’t care about kids? There is a reason that when you look at all the places he has worked that the majority of average everyday citizens have nothing positive to say about Dr. Adamowski. He leaves nothing but destruction through his so called “reform” agenda. In truth most of his reforms have been tried many times over many years with no record of success.

I know that MarjorieM has turned down your offer to get coffee, but I would gladly accept the same invitation. I know we strongly disagree, but I believe that a real dialogue needs to occur. Let me know if you are willing.

Edited to remove an insult which was later removed from the quoted comment.

Patrick Cooper August 10, 2018 at 5:55 pm

@Tony – brave of you to offer. I know old MarjorieM wouldn’t take the offer, as without her anonymity, her credibility might suffer. Perhaps she is a “Dr.” – as she apparently can’t spell your name.

Your right about one thing – we disagree.

Given the 40th anniversary of “The Godfather”, I won’t meet you at Louis in the Bronx. But – how’s this: how about we set aside 15 minutes at the NoN-night out at Ripka’s Beach Café next Thursday evening? I can be there by 7pm. Bring your donation – and we’ll talk. Remember Tony – it’s a conversation, not a lecture. I get to talk too.

Oh, and Tony – bring an appetite. You say I take pleasure in making personal attacks – I’ll be sure to bring a stack of your posts on this site doing exactly that to most members of the BOE – past and present. Perhaps Ripka’s serves Crow tartare – you can wash it down with coffee.

Patrick Cooper August 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm

@NoN and Bob Welsh – can’t help this response. What happened? You allowed my comment for days – but must have received some flack since. Funny – my “insult” is edited – but it is allowed in Tony Ditrio’s rebuttal comment {…}. Come on…be consistent.

Edited to achieve the consistency the commenter requested.

Bob Welsh August 10, 2018 at 10:38 pm


Yes, I am a new and inexperienced comment moderator, and might even fairly be described as a hack. After re-reading the original comment, it became clear that I goofed. There was no good option. I decided to correct my error.

Lynne Moore’s reassignment is controversial and the passions aroused by this story are remarkable. Elsewhere in this thread I excised a vulgar reference directed towards you.

Anyone seeking to persuade is gently reminded that facts and logic are more persuasive than vulgarities and namecalling.

Nobody gave me any flack – until your message just now, which is deserved. I’ve now excised the term where it appears in other comments.

Thanks for commenting.

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