A gradual increase of standardized test scores through a number of different improvements to the New London Public Schools was one goal discussed at a Board of Education workshop on Thursday.
The board is working to develop a three-year strategic operating plan focused on closing the achievement gap in the district. The plan will provide a benchmark for student achievement as well as guidelines for a number of different district operations, including evaluation of the superintendent, preparation of budgets, and plans for facilities.
The workshop included a discussion of the personal vision statements drawn up by board members for the areas they want to see improved in the next five years. Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master assigned to the district by the state, said there were a number of common themes including increasing parental and community involvement, improving literacy and math skills as well as standardized test scores, and increasing the number of minority teachers.
“This came up so frequently within board responses,” Adamowski said of the last point. “This is clearly a need which is widely recognized by all of you.”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Adamowski said the district has taken a step toward achieving this goal by establishing a chief talent and human resources officer. He said factors involved in attracting teaching staff include a welcome environment, meaningful work, and development opportunities.
Vice President Elizabeth Garcia-Gonzalez said the recommendation should not be considered as a criticism of non-minority teaching staff in the district.
“Every teacher is valuable here,” she said. “We’re just asking for more representation of our student population.”
Adamowski said one area not identified by the board was financial stability, which he considered crucial for the district’s success. He said funding levels in the district must remain adequate to avoid the loss of staff, including new hires. The district’s workforce went down by 43.5 positions—including 23 teachers, eight teachers’ aides, four secretaries, and three administrative positions—in the 2012-2013 school year.
Kate Ericson, the district’s chief academic officer, said the district must set realistic and achievable goals for academic improvement. She said she hopes the district can improve its proficiency on the Connecticut Mastery Test by four percent each year in math and writing, two percent in reading, and six percent in science over next five to six years to meet the state average. Ericson suggested that a five-year improvement goal for the Connecticut Academic Performance Test should be increasing the number of students reaching proficiency by four percent each year in math, two percent in reading, three percent in writing, and five percent in science.
Ericson also said the district should work on gradual improvements to the percentage of students that graduate high school in four years and are ready for college. She said students who have disabilities or are in English Language Learner programs should be improving at the same rate as their peers.
“We know in order for them to flourish they need to make more than a year’s process,” said Ericson.
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said the improvements should ensure that students and staff are held accountable for student achievement.
“The biggest thing we need to do is not make excuses, which means every student has to have the opportunity to succeed,” said Fischer.
Adamowski said the board should reflect on the suggestions, whether they think they are the most important measures that can be put into place, and whether they align with their vision statements.
“This has to be in place before we can develop strategies and implementation steps,” said Adamowski.