A plan to improve the academic achievement of New London Public Schools is beginning to take shape, with the Board of Education’s schedule calling for a first draft to be ready by February.
The board has been working with Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master appointed to the district by the Connecticut Department of Education, to develop a three-year plan to bring New London’s standardized test scores and other performance indexes up to state averages. The plan will also provide guidelines for district operations including plans for facilities, budget preparation, and the evaluation of the superintendent.
Adamowski said the board will adopt a vision, theory of action, measures, goals, and strategies for the plan at its December meetings. He said these will be developed in January to be included in the February draft.
“This is hard work,” said Adamowski. “It’s going to require an administrative team working with [Superintendent Nicholas] Fischer and myself at times to build this out.”
In January, the board will also begin attending training sessions mandated by the staff. Adamowski said these should be completed by autumn. When Secretary Jason Catala pointed out that elections in November could replace much of the board, since all seven members were elected to two-year terms in 2011, Adamowski said the city might consider changing the board to a staggered system with longer terms to ensure that trained members will always be part of the board.
“I think most boards in the state would have four-year rotating boards,” he said. “That’s pretty much the norm in Connecticut and throughout the nation”
The suggested vision statements, developed from board input for a general overview of where the district should be in the future, emphasize a need to improve literacy, prepare students for college or careers after graduation, increase parental and community involvement, and reflect the city’s diversity. One vision incorporates Adamowski’s suggestion that the district work toward becoming a centralized system of regional integrated magnet schools.
Adamowski said the district has a magnet high school and two magnet elementary schools, one of which is being developed, but does not connect them through the middle school grades. He said the district could have some elementary schools extend their classes through eighth grade or develop the middle school on a magnet model.
Kate Ericson, the district’s chief academic officer, said progress will be measured in areas such as graduation rates , college attendance rates, standardized test scores, PSAT college readiness benchmarks, and district performance and school performance indexes. She said the current four-year high school graduation rate is 64 percent and the goal will be to improve that by three percent each year over the next five years to meet the state average.
Fischer said the effort to increase graduation rates will have to be made in tandem with the effort to improve academic achievement to ensure that students are not leaving high school unprepared.
“What we need to be concerned about is whether students have the skills they need to succeed when they leave school and not just that they leave school,” he said.
Fischer also said the calendar being developed for the 2013-2014 year moves some data management sessions currently held on half days into the school day, eliminating the need for the reduced instructional time. Adamowski previously criticized the number of half days in the district's calendar, saying only 15 out of 36 school weeks contained five full days and the result was a calendar with 168 actual days of instruction rather than 180.
“This calendar would add the equivalent of about 10 more days of instruction,” said Adamowski.