NORWALK, Conn. – The achievement gap is closing at Norwalk Public Schools, but there is much work to be done, school officials said Tuesday.
A comparison of test results from 2006 to 2013 showed significant improvements at the elementary school level, Norwalk Public Schools Testing and Evaluation Specialist Diane Filardo said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Manuel Rivera said gains had been made, but there are challenges ahead.
“We have to pay attention to increasing performance,” Rivera said. “Because – I want to look at this – we’re heading in the right direction. It’s not a glass half empty issue here. It is that we’re moving in the right direction, but we also have to recognize that we’re when we have 43 percent of students that are at or above grade level, that means we have 57 percent of a particular subgroup that are not at or above grade level.”
Rivera said he asked Filardo to present key graphs from the “tons” of data to the board to show that Norwalk was closing the gap and exceeding some of the state averages but there are still areas that need improvement.
Filardo began with third- to fifth-graders. In 2006, 47 percent of Norwalk third-graders were at goal level in math, compared to 56 percent statewide. In 2013 it was 62 percent in Norwalk, and 62 percent statewide.
In reading, the improvement was less dramatic, a 5 percent improvement in Norwalk, and 3 percent statewide. In writing, Norwalk’s score was 2 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2006, while the state had dropped a percentage point.
The fourth grade scores were more dramatic. In math, Norwalk students’ score was 25 percent higher in 2013 than in 2006, while the state gained 6 percentage points. In writing, the gain was 15 percent for Norwalk, compared to 5 percent at the state level. In writing, Norwalk improved 16 percent, while the state stayed level.
The fourth-grade reading tests showed that, in 2006, 26 percent of Norwalk’s black students were at grade level, while 30 percent of black students statewide were at grade level. That gap narrowed, and varied only a percentage point from 2009 to 2012. In 2013, 44 percent of Norwalk’s black students were at grade level, compared to 37 percent statewide.
She also compared reading scores over that period, comparing white Norwalk students to black Norwalk students.
In 2006, 26 percent of black students were at goal, as compared to 61 percent of white students. In 2013, 44 percent of blacks were at goal, as compared to 73 percent of whites.
“Are we happy with that? No,” she said, referring to the 2013 44 percent figure. “But you do see decline over time, steady increase for our African American students and somewhat for our white students as well… At least we’re heading in the right direction.”
Fourth-grade Hispanic Norwalkers consistently outperform their peers statewide in reading. The largest difference is in 2013, when 52 percent of Norwalk Hispanic students were at goal level, compared to 38 percent statewide.
In 2006, the ratio was 34 percent Norwalk, 27 percent state.
The sophomore results were not as impressive. In 2007, Norwalk’s reading scores were 36 percent at goal level, while statewide it was 46 percent. In 2013, 37 percent of Norwalk students were at goal level, while 49 percent were at level statewide.
The change in mathematics was 10 percent for Norwalk from 2007 to 2013, while the statewide improvement was 8 percent. In writing, Norwalk improved 12 percent while the state improved 9 percent. In science, Norwalk improved 1 percent, while the state improved 4 percent.
Filardo also highlighted the change in population over the time period. About 4,800 students in grades three through eight took the CMT test in 2013; 49 percent were on free and reduced lunch. In 2006, 35 percent of those students were on free or reduced lunch.
Rivera said it was important to share the study with the board.
“As I talk about us becoming a district of excellence, that means excellence for all children,” Rivera said. “All children regardless of race, ethnic background, economic circumstance. If you raise the bar for every single one of our students, we mean that every single one of our students meets that kind of expectation.”