42 Percent Of State Public Schools Below Standards

Forty-two percent of Connecticut public schools failed to meet performance standards required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to figures released by the state Department of Education today.

That list includes about 100 more schools than last year, reflecting heightened standards for schools.

The benchmarks are based on the percent of students who achieve proficiency or above on state standardized tests, and schools are considered to fall below the standards if the whole student population or any one of several subgroups — including race, low-income or students with disabilities — fail to meet the benchmarks.

In all, 349 of the state’s 805 elementary and middle schools failed to make “adequate yearly progress,” as did 59 of the state’s 182 high schools.

Also, 44 of the state’s 171 school districts — as a whole — failed to make adequate yearly progress, 12 more than last year.

State Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said in a written statement that this year’s scores underscored the need to teach reading in elementary and middle schools, since the majority of those schools that did not meet the standards missed the mark in either reading, or reading and math.

By high school, he added, math is a greater issue, noting that one third of high schools listed as not making adequate yearly progress missed it because of math scores.

McQuillan urged officials to restore the Early Reading Success grants, which fund reading programs in the state’s neediest school districts. The $19.7 million program was not funded in this year’s state budget.

McQuillan also noted that the high school reform measures education officials will propose later this year will place a greater emphasis on high school math and science.

This year’s standards for elementary and middle schools required that at least 82 percent of students score at or above proficient in math and 79 percent at or above proficient in reading, up from 74 percent in math and 68 percent in reading the year before. For high schools, the standards rose to 80 percent of students proficient or above in math and 81 percent in reading, up from 69 percent in math and 72 percent in reading.

Of the elementary and middle schools that failed to make adequate progress, 171 missed the mark in both reading and math. Seventy-nine missed in just reading, while just five missed in math alone.

The remaining 94 schools missed the benchmarks because of the performance of certain subgroups. Subgroup performances are only measured for a school if there are more than 40 students in a particular group.

Among high schools, 28 failed to meet state benchmarks in both math and reading. Fourteen missed the standard in math and four fell below the mark in reading. Thirteen more schools missed the benchmarks because of performance by specific subgroups.

Schools are labeled “in need of improvement” if any school or group of students fail to meet the state standards for two or more consecutive years. Schools and districts face varying levels of sanctions the more years they are considered in need of improvement.

Under a 2007 accountability law, the state Department of Education now works directly with some districts deemed in need of improvement. The districts undergo audits from an outside firm and must submit improvement plans to the state and work with the department on implementing them, a much larger state oversight role than has traditionally taken place in Connecticut’s home-rule education system.

Twelve districts — Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, East Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New London, Norwich, Waterbury, Windham, Norwalk and Middletown — began the work last year. Three more will begin the process this year.

There were bright spots. Six elementary and middle schools and the Groton and Stratford districts made enough progress that they were removed from in need of improvement status, though no high schools did. Five other “in need of improvement” districts — including Manchester and Middletown — made enough progress that they could get off the list next year if they continue to make progress.

The standards will increase again over the coming years until 2013-2014, when, as required by federal law, schools will only be considered passing if 100 percent of the students achieve proficiency or above.

It is not clear whether a new presidential administration would make changes to the law.

12:18 PM EDT, September 10, 2008

Source: Courant

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