NORWALK, Conn. – The “change in district leadership and the lack of an aligned vision and strategy” at Norwalk Public Schools were the reasons cited by the Dalio Foundation in May when it declared that it was pulling its funding for Norwalk’s curriculum and instruction site directors.
Dalio had committed to spending $1.1 million over two years to support the curriculum and instruction site directors (CISD), a position created by former Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera to replace the assistant principal positions, but pulled out after one year. The email that explained why and the “mid-year update” analysis that precipitated the decision were obtained Tuesday by NancyOnNorwalk through a Freedom of Information request.
Dalio’s grant funded half of Norwalk’s 12 CISDs, one at each elementary school. There is funding at this point for seven CISDs this year, Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said two weeks ago. Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams said Tuesday that more information about how the CISDs will divide their time is imminent.
BoE Chairman Mike Lyons said in June that the grant was lost because some school principals did not follow Rivera’s instructions on using CISDs, but the foundation also cited Rivera’s departure as one of the reasons for the reversal.
Dalio informed NPS of its decision on May 12 with an email from Andrew Ferguson:
“I am writing to inform Norwalk Public Schools the Dalio Foundation will not be extending its support for the Curriculum and Instruction Site Directors (CISDs) at Brookside, Jefferson, Kendall, Marvin, and Tracey beyond the 2014-15 academic year. Quite simply, the change in district leadership and the lack of an aligned vision and strategy require a new approach for the Foundation. When new district leadership is confirmed, we are hopeful district and school leaders will revisit the data from this year to learn from the successes and challenges in implementing the Common Core and aligned assessments in the five Title I elementary schools.
“Notwithstanding this decision, the Foundation’s interest in collaborating with all stakeholders to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Norwalk’s children remains as strong as ever. We will continue to support programs and leaders committed to closing achievement and opportunity gaps in the Norwalk community. For example, we are exploring ways to significantly increase opportunities for teachers to partner with the Fund For Teachers to pursue self-designed professional learning expeditions. We are always eager to find new ways to support Norwalk’s students and teachers.”
The mid-year update to the Dalio Foundation is dated Feb. 27. Then-Norwalk interim Superintendent of Schools James Connelly, in the report’s executive summary, states that the mid-year assessments at Brookside, Jefferson, Kendall, Marvin and Tracey elementary schools show that students are “not achieving the desired level of success in reaching benchmark on the assessment of early literacy skills. … In general, a higher percentage of White students are reaching benchmark than are Black or Hispanic students. A higher percentage of Black students are reaching benchmark than Hispanic students.”
Connelly states that progress has been made but challenges remain, providing the following list:
- We are in the process of ensuring a clear, consistent understanding of SRBI (Scientific Research-Based Interventions) across the district with outside assistance, via a uniform protocol.
- Inconsistency exists in provision of differentiated Instruction and tiered interventions across schools.
- Consistency in management of intervention, including a reported lack of staff. Schools do not have adequate support such as reading specialists or reading tutors/Interventionists.
- CISDs came to District with a variety of skill sets, levels and experience.
- CISDs are offering support for reported gaps in teacher knowledge of reading Instruction and intervention.
- The need for additional training on the use of mClass (assessments), for staff and CISDs, including use of progress monitoring, retraining, and calibrating of users for reliability.
- Currently addressing inconsistencies in the development and implementation of Individual Reading Plans for substantially deficient students, through professional development and with the assistance of SERC (State Education Resource Center).
Connelly makes reference to a challenge in changing teachers’ beliefs and about reading instruction in the first year of a new reading program.
The CISDs need additional professional development, Connelly states. That would include Literacy How PD two full days a month, with “data team”-like meetings to develop instructional strategies and student intervention plans, Connelly states. The CISDs were also slated to get professional development in the Journeys curriculum. A week-long boot camp is possible, he states.
The mid-year data shows that “students are not currently enjoying the level of achievement and movement towards benchmark goals on measures of early literacy that are necessary to meet Common Core State Standards,” Connelly states. “… additional work needs to take place, as far too many students are performing below benchmark.”
“In addition to the recommendations listed in the Executive Summary, the District will undertake a midyear review to focus on the duties and fidelity of the original intention for CISD positions,” Connelly states. “This is necessary to make sure the ‘action items’ listed can be successfully implemented. After a completed review, a meeting with Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Central Office staff, Principals and CISDs will take place to collaboratively look at how to meet best meet the needs of our schools.”
Excerpts of the mid-year update: