Professional development, curriculum changes, and a focus on improving literacy are some of the strategies the New London Public Schools are planning to improve , the Board of Education was told on Thursday.
“For a lot of the kids it’s core literacy,” Superintendent Nicholas Fischer of said. “They can tell you what the words are, but they can’t necessarily tell you what they mean.”
Assistant Superintendent Christine Carver said the CAPT does not offer a discrete skill analysis, so administrators have been talking with staff and looking at lower level tests to determine where students are having difficulties. In the math portion, Carver said students struggle with “the application of higher order problems,” including showing their work to arrive at a solution.
“We see some pretty steady improvement until about sixth grade,” she said. “And right about sixth grade, it drops off.”
Fischer said the students may understand the concept but have difficulty translating it to word problems and application. He said teachers are being asked to identify all skills that are expected of incoming students, analyze the results of tests and classwork in these areas to more closely to identify difficulties students are having, and incorporate CAPT problems into the curriculum.
Tommy Thompson, principal of the , said many tenth graders start the year by taking an introductory algebra class and advance to a geometry course later in the year. As a result, the students have only had about a month and a half of geometry instruction when it is presented on the CAPT test in March. Thompson said the curriculum will be adjusted to expose students to the subjects prior to the test.
Thompson said changes will also be made to the curriculum to improve vocabulary, comprehension skills, and supporting arguments in written answers for the reading and writing tests. A strong focus will be placed on literacy, which is now a , through means such as literacy programs and a double period of literacy courses for students who have not met eighth or ninth grade literacy prior to taking the test.
“We are committed to not investing in programs, but investing in people,” said Thompson.
Thompson said professional and administrative development will focus on improving literacy development, with literacy staffer also contributing to the goal. He said the effort to improve writing scores will follow a similar course, with a focus on improving critical thinking skills. Fischer said teachers should not be blamed for the test scores, but must commit to improving student skills by requiring classroom participation and written activities. He said other methods can also be used, such as class trips to improve student experiences that can be related to assignments and requiring students to give answers in complete sentences.
“I think we have a good team now who really understand the needs of English language learners,” said Carver.
Board member Barbara Major questioned if there were sufficient funds to implement some of the initiatives.
“We don’t put any money aside for trips,” she said. “We don’t put any money aside, really, for books.”
Major suggested that a grant coordinator could be hired to bring more funds into the district. She said classes may also be able to visit local historic sites such as the .
The CAPT scores, released last month, showed a significant decline in scores among sophomore students at New London High School. The number of students meeting reading proficiency declined to 37.4 percent from 55 percent in 2010, while proficiency in writing dropped from 67 percent to 52.5 percent. In math and science, students meeting proficiency dropped from 50.5 percent to 43.4 percent and from 53.8 percent to 45.9 percent, respectively.
Students meeting the goal level dropped from 19 percent to 15.5 percent for math, 21.8 percent to 15.9 percent for science, 15.7 percent to 8.9 percent for reading, and 26.1 percent to 15.4 percent for writing. The percentage scoring below basic level were 28 percent for reading, 22.6 percent for writing, 34.1 percent for math, and 30 percent for science.
The percentages are well behind the state average. This year, 80.3 percent of sophomores were at or above proficiency for math, while 49.6 percent were at or above goal; 81.7 percent met proficiency and 47.2 percent goal; in reading, 81.9 percent met proficiency and 44.8 percent goal; and in writing, 88.6 percent met proficiency and 61.3 percent goal.