My Day in the role of Norwalk BoE member

Why are Norwalk Public School officials excited about test results this spring?

Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig is sworn in as a Norwalk Board of Education member, December in City Hall. (Contributed)

Despite another challenging pandemic year, students at Norwalk Public Schools, where no fewer than 61 languages are spoken, are making demonstrable strides in standardized tests that measure their readiness to learn more.

What is that all about?

Diane Filardo, Director of Testing and Accountability, and Robert Pennington, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, shared encouraging results with Board of Education members during information sessions over the last month. Both credited skilled teachers for inspiring their students’ consistent, demonstrable results. Specifically, Filardo and Pennington said they noticed a remarkable increase in growth between last fall and this spring.

First, some alphabet talk:

  • Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) measures achievement of students in math and language in terms of grade level. To pass, a student is required to meet (level 3) or exceed (level 4) grade-level standards.
  • Northwestern Evaluation Association assessments (NWEA) are given in the fall, winter, and spring, and serve as a predictor of achievement in the State of Connecticut SBAC.


In the Norwalk community, critics often challenge the school system for not doing enough in preparing students to meet the Connecticut state standards.

Few would disagree with the need to raise the academic achievement of all Norwalk students. NPS Strategic Priority #1 is future readiness. Reaching proficiency on Connecticut’s SBAC is the stepping-stone indicator of a student’s readiness for further educational, career, and workplace opportunities.

SBAC delivers the facts of achievement. NWEA gives educators more information about predicted achievement by looking at growth.

Here’s where it can get confusing: Say a student taking a series of spelling tests, each featuring different words, scores 80 percent several weeks running. That student would score 50 percent on a growth chart, indicating she had maintained learning. If she began scoring 90 percent, that would indicate growth. When the percentage of growth exceeds 50, that’s when things get exciting. Consistent growth scores of 65 to 70 percent correlate to greater academic achievement to come.

The following chart compares reading growth Grades 3-8 over a half year period between the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022.


(Norwalk Board of Education)

This year, in Norwalk, growth is up. Especially notable is the significant growth by Multilingual Learners (MLL). With the NWEA data reviewed, educators can adjust and improve teaching strategies all year. The proof of the pudding will come when the SBAC scores are published in August. Stay tuned.

The data-driven growth information affords an approach to solving the Herculean task of lifting up all students to perform at higher academic levels.

Next topic: NPS Family Center and its role as a linchpin across the system for Student Choice.

All BoE meetings are public. Workshop meetings occur on the first Tuesday of the month when educational partners give presentations. Business meetings occur on the third Tuesday of each month when issues are voted on. Public comment is always welcome. Click here for the link to the calendar for all meetings including BoE committee meetings.

This is a journalistic tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt’s MY DAY periodic column in which she pulled back the curtain, sharing her perspective on experiences she had in the White House. Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig is a Norwalk Board of Education member, representing District E.


8 responses to “My Day in the role of Norwalk BoE member”

  1. Lindsay

    While I think Ms. Flaherty-Ludwig’s intentions mean well, I am laughing at the false logic used here.

    Please provide us a readable growth chart that an out of touch statistician didn’t provide.

  2. Nora King

    OMG. I am appalled. She is joking. There is no logic here. She is the person that District E chose to replace Mike Barbis. Parents have no one to blame but themselves for continuing to elect unqualified people to the BOE. The kids that were average or above average declined. What learning excellence is she referring too?

  3. If someone repeats the same grudge over and over ad nauseam, as one pundit above has done, it’s expected they’ll have a fatalistic view of how to measure growth, or what qualifies someone for the Board of Education. I find Mary Ellen’s enthusiasm and reasoning contagious, and since I have two granddaughters slated for Norwalk Public Schools, her projection about the SBAC scores in August sounds promising.

    Lifting students up, as Mary Ellen says, means being open to results that don’t underscore a dated assumption. Let’s carry on with that.

  4. Patrick Cooper

    @Nora King – not exactly. “District E” didn’t select her, the District E “DTC” did, you know – the “balanced slate” that included the mayors wife and personal consiglieri – among others. An astute observer such as yourself certainly knows – they chose her for exactly this “what universe are you living in” level propaganda. Apparently, like Tom Cruise “You can’t handle the truth”. So, you get this.

    In fact, had any of the voting R’s thought past their myopic blood oath – they might have helped Jody Sattler win a seat last November, among other qualified candidates. But no – the complicit R’s handed Harry a 100% insider BOE lead by the single most incompetent chair in my 25+ years in Norwalk. And lo and behold – the results speak volumes. Mike is turning over in his grave.

    I’m sure our mayor – between gouging on banquets and bucket sized cocktails in Reno this week, will thank Mary-Ellen for a snow-job well done.

  5. John O’Neill

    @Nora – Some may think you’re pragmatic views are not rosy enough for Norwalk’s political machine. I personally think they are spot on. Please keep us informed. Reality has a way of getting in the way of fluff
    That was brought home to me as I spent $100 filling my Honda today.
    Again, thank you for your insight

  6. Seve

    How growth is measured. Is incomprehensible. If I understand this chart, almost half the kids in grades 3-8 (46.3%) are “low achievers.” Almost 20% are doing okay vis a vis the other 46.3% low achievers but they’re not improving. Only a little more than 1/3 are accelerating. This is nothing to be touting—proving once again—and this is not directed at Diane Filardo or Robert Pennington, “figures lie and liars figure,” or “if you massage the data enough, it can reveal anything.”

  7. DrewT

    We have officially learned and accepted mediocrity from our students and schools! SAD JUST VERY SAD! We all see how the everyone gets a trophy thing is working out…It’s not pretty! But typical Norwalk.

  8. Nora King

    @priscilla – perhaps since you don’t have kids and have not experienced what is taking place in NPS you should remain quiet. People like you think you know everything but have absolutely no experience and knowledge. Good luck with those grandkids based on what is taking place right now. It is a disaster, especially at the MS and HS level. Let’s hope your grandkids don’t get their heads bashed into a wall based on the daily fights or molested in the schools. Let’s also hope they don’t get involved in vaping which is at epidemic levels in the middle schools. It isn’t bad enough that the academic expectations and performance are sub-par but the amount of violence taking place with the BOE and administrators turning a blind eye is truly disturbing and scary for a parent and the child. Good luck with those grandkids. My best advice is RUN don’t walk out of our school system but RUN! The only hope for Norwalk is to fire the BOE and hire competent people and get rid of 1/2 of the administrators and put the money back into teachers that teach academics.

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