NORWALK, Conn. — Connecting data to the needs of the community and using it to drive the questions, find the challenges, and enhance new ideas and solutions. That was the main theme of Norwalk ACTS quarterly meeting on Tuesday, which featured the unveiling of two data dashboards — one on kindergarten preparedness and another on a breakdown of the Norwalk neighborhoods.
The different dashboards will be useful for all community partners, including the school district and policymakers, who can use the data to highlight needs and areas that need to be addressed, Norwalk ACTS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Barahona said.
“This is tremendously helpful for those especially those who write grants, and (those who) are interested in kind of disaggregating by a whole number of ways of looking at how students are doing in our community,” she said.
Ready to Learn
The first dashboard titled, “Are Incoming Norwalk Kindergartners Ready to Learn?,” shows that for the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school years, 89% of the incoming kindergarten class had attended preschool, while 86% of the incoming class of 2019-20 had attended preschool.
That basic data point is one of a variety of indicators charted in the dashboard, all used by Norwalk ACTS’ Pre-K to Kindergarten Transition Initiative to measure how a student might be ready for kindergarten.
“This dashboard enables us to see all of the indicators for the entire kindergarten cohort,” said Paula Palermo, Norwalk ACTS data director.
For all three years, the incoming kindergarten class was approximately 30% under the age of 5 on Sept. 1, with about 70% 5 to 6 years old.
There are also more in-depth benchmarks, such as how students scored on the Kindergarten Beginning of Year (BOY) DIBELS Literacy Assessment Results. The assessment wasn’t given for the incoming class of 2020-21 due to COVID-19, but in 2018-19, about 54% were at or above the benchmark for kindergarten, 18% were below, and 27% were well below, while in 2019-20, 60% were at or above benchmark, 15% were below, and 24% were well below.
This comprehensive dashboard allows for an alignment between preschool and kindergarten teachers, Palermo said.
“By bringing together all of the data that we can collect on the incoming K students, we’ve been creating better alignment between pre-K and K teachers expectations,” she said. “What we found along the way is that the pre-k providers had an idea of what it meant to be ready for kindergarten. And then talking to kindergarten teachers, we found that their expectations were quite a bit different. So the work in the initiative has really been to try to bring that together.”
One of the challenges is that some of the assessments were not done due to COVID-19, which will throw off some of the trend data and student tracking over time, but one of the goals of Norwalk ACTS’ data dashboards is to see how students progress over time, Palermo said.
“Those students that weren’t in (or) didn’t go to preschool and typically weren’t ready for kindergarten, according to our measures did they catch up? Did they do kindergarten really well and then manage to maintain? Or did they start out at a disadvantage, and never catch up?” she said.
Those data points can help pinpoint where interventions or additional supports might be needed, Palermo said.
The second new dashboard titled “Norwalk Census Neighborhoods at a Glance,” is a breakdown of demographics and landmarks across 22 neighborhoods in Norwalk.
“We created this dashboard really for ourselves and for the community to get a better sense of the makeup of Norwalk and its neighborhoods, its landmarks, and the demographics of the people who reside,” Ray Leslie, data analyst for Norwalk ACTS, said.
The dashboard can show what the age range, education level, income level, ethnicity breakdown, and poverty level are in each neighborhood. For example, the “Hospital Hill” neighborhood has the most 35–39-year-olds, while Brookside has the most residents 65 and older. Rowayton has the most residents with a bachelor’s and/or graduate degree, while Brookside had the highest number of residents making $75,000 or more.
The breakdowns also allow viewers to sort by landmarks, which include everything from bus stops to schools, libraries to COVID-19 services. Viewers also sort by two groups, such as seeing which bus stops are near childcare centers. These neighborhood maps were used to help set up food distribution sites during this past year, Leslie said.
Disproportionality and Equity
Norwalk ACTS also highlighted some ongoing data work they’ve been doing in partnership with the Norwalk School District on disproportionality in the district, such as are some groups of students overrepresented in discipline or are other students underrepresented in the gifted and talented program? Palermo said that this dashboard was created using the work of Edward Fergus, Ph.D., of Temple University, who is conducting an equity and education initiative study here.
“Some students are probably overrepresented in discipline and special ed, and underrepresented in gifted and talented, and this data tells us that,” she said.
For example, the data showed in the 2019-20 school year:
- Black students made up about 14.8% of public school students, but received about 32% of the discipline
- White students made up 25.5% of the student population and received 12.9% of the discipline.
- Hispanic students in that year made up 52.2% of the student body and received 52.5% of the discipline.
In terms of gifted and talented programs, Hispanic students make up 52.2% of the overall student body, but out of all the students enrolled in gifted/honors/AP courses, 40.9% were Hispanic, while out of all the students enrolled in K-8 gifted programs, 32.1% were Hispanic. White students make up 25.5% of the overall student population, 39.3% of students enrolled in gifted/honors/AP courses, and 47.3% of students enrolled in K-8 gifted programs. Black students make up 14.8% of the student body, 10.7% of gifted/honors/AP courses, and 7.7% of K-8 gifted programs.
“Basically, what we want to be able to do is start to really look at these numbers and see where the big red flags are,” Palermo said. “Obviously, Black kids are disciplined more than white, Black kids seem to be given higher special ed designations.”
Palermo said that Superintendent Alexandra Estrella has started to do some of the work in addressing these inequities, but it’s going to take time for those efforts to show up in the data points.
Putting the Data into Action
Denique Weidema-Lewis, manager of implementation and collaborative action for Norwalk ACTS, said the goal of these dashboards was to take the information and put it into action.
“I think the biggest piece is really, hopefully that today you’ve been able to really see how we’re trying to turn data into information and how that information is then turned into insight,” she said. “But that insight only comes from the community. So really, I think that as this conversation continues to move forward, we’re really looking to all of you to really help guide what this work looks like, where the priorities lay, and really, how do we continue to move this work forward.”