Plan In Place To Boost Science Scores
New Haven public-school students continue to lag behind the state in science, but some brights spots have appeared on the horizon.
That — and a plan for catching up — were the thrust of a presentation at Monday night’s Board of Ed meeting by Richard Therrien, the school system’s K-12 science supervisor.
Therrien (pictured) committed himself to raising CMT scores eight to ten points a year across all grades.
Click here to view his PowerPoint presentation.
Last year, the first in which CMTs (Connecticut Mastery Tests) in science were administered, New Haven fifth-graders scored 53.8 percent at proficiency and only 21.3 percent at goal. That was far below the state average scores of 81.1 at proficiency and 55.2 at goal.
“Proficiency” and “At Goal” are respectively the third and fourth levels of attainment in the CMT grading scheme, bounded by “Below Basic,” “Basic,” and “Advanced.”
In the 2008 tests, there were similar deficiencies in eighth-grade CMT scores: New Haven’s young scientists tallied 45.4 at proficiency and 25.2 on goal, as opposed to 75.2 and 58.9 for the state scores.
“Certainly,” Therrien said, “there is a lot of work to do.”
He was at pains to point out that New Haven is a large system, with 12 high schools and 38 K-8 schools. Some schools, notably Jepson, Mauro, Daniels, and Edgewood, reported scores much higher than the district averages. More high-school students than ever are taking advanced science and math courses.
Board members, such as M. Ann Levett, and Michael Nast, askedif New Haven’s many English Language Learners and special ed kids are required to take the tests. Did their participation contribute to the scores?
Therrien’s answer: indeed, new arrivals take the test. Even if their math and science knowledge is good, their academic vocabulary may be insufficient to understand the terms in English. “Some of the kids,” Therrien said, “are allowed to use a dictionary. But, yes, they take the test.”
He also told board members that compared to other cities in the state, New Haven’s CMT scores were leading the way. This was especially the case in the scoring related to science inquiry — that is, experimentation.
Likewise, on the CAPTs )Connecticut Academic Performance Tests) in science for ninth and tenth-graders, New Haven’s scores, while marginally better than the other major cities in the state, were nevertheless low. They have remained essentially unchanged for the last ten years.
What Is To Be Done
In the upper grades, Therrien said, all high school kids are now take three years of science, with chemistry required; the data showed a particular weakness in chemistry.
The system’s approach, he said, is also becoming increasingly inquiry focused. That means that seeking to excite kids about science at the earliest grades. So the approach, he said, is for students to look into the microscope one week and get fascinated, and then in the next week worry about learning terminology for cell parts.
“We’re going to dispel the notion that science is hard,” he said. “To the contrary, it’s a subject that appeals to all the senses.”
The chief challenge: recruiting, training, and re-training top flight certified teachers. “That’s really tough to do,” he said, “with five separate certifications in the various sciences at different levels.”
Currently Therrien has 142 science teachers, all qualified in their fields, a full complement for the first time in years. “But it’s a challenge to retain,” he said. There is also a particular need, he added, for coaching and training of teachers, especially to reach early adolescent, special ed, and the English Language Learners.
For inquiry-based teaching to become the norm in the system, some teachers will need to be brought along to change instructional styles, he said. “In inquiry-based learning of science, the teachers don’t have to know all the answers. They need to help the kids ask the right questions.”
For this to happen, he said, there needs to be more intensive professional development.
On the plus side are the extensive science fairs ] that promote science inquiry. Another arrow in Therrien’s quiver is the rich and continuing work with community partners, notably Yale and the other universities that offer dozens of science enrichment programs for the system’s students.
Yes, there is a lot of work to be done. Scores on the recently taken CMTs, including science, will not be available until July.
New Science and Engineering Magnet Coming to Town
In a related development at the board meeting, approval was given to the move of the evolving Engineering and Science Magnet School from its present rented quarters in West Haven to the spaces now occupied by Hooker Middle School at St. Stanilaus Roman Catholic Church on Eld Street. (The Hooker kids will be relocating to their new Whitney Avenue building).
Therrien said the current labs at Hooker would be just fine for the young school, which, when it moves in next September, will have only a sixth grade and seventh grade.
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Posted by: Alphonse Credenza | March 24, 2009 5:06 PM
Make the tests easier!
1) If you disconnect your video game from the wall outlet, it will
b) shut off
c) not be connected to the internet
d) maybe one of the above
47) The earth orbits the sun every 365
c) Avogadro's Number
d) possibly one of the above
362) Our bodies use fat to
a) insulate and hibernate
b) insulate and refrigerate
c) insulate and pasteurize
d) maybe not one of the above
Posted by: NHPS Teacher | March 24, 2009 6:15 PM
The CAPT is taken in the second half of the tenth grade year. Chemistry is taken during the 11th grade year. While I believe that the students should take chemistry, it shouldn't affect their CAPT scores.
Posted by: Nathan Hale parent | March 24, 2009 8:03 PM
We are fortunate to have Mr. Therrien in our school system. He has a commitment and vision for all our children. Let's hope he has the full support of NHPS administration and parents.
Posted by: RichTherrn | March 24, 2009 9:15 PM
NHPS Teacher, Sorry that was unclear. Data show that some NHPS students do weak now on the chemistry strands that we teach in ninth grade that are tested 10th grade CAPT. This is a major reason we re-emphasize those in 11th grade chemistry, especially for those retaking CAPT.
-Mr. Credenza, you are welcome to try some of the CAPT/CMT questions
Science Released Items
Posted by: kamb | March 24, 2009 11:04 PM
You mean that after dumping almost 1 billion dollars into the schools, the kids still are not learning?!?!
Posted by: Steve Ross, Student of Things | March 25, 2009 11:15 AM
Once again New Haven thanks for your blogging whimsy and intellectual uprightness.
Posted by: HSmith | March 25, 2009 11:29 AM
As a former student of Mr. Therrien, I'd like to say that he will surely continue to make a positive difference in NHPS. More than numbers driven, he truly cared about the futures of all his students and was a real inspiration to learning (I'm currently going to grad school to become a teacher myself as one of countless examples of his former students). Its great to see that he can help so many students at once now. Keep up the great work!
Posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS | March 25, 2009 1:15 PM
Outstanding goals, Mr. Therrien! You are leading the charge for radical improvement in NHPS. And if you hit your numbers, don't be surprised if all sorts of other districts throughout the state (including the charters!) come knocking down your door asking NHPS for help in replicating your success. Good luck.
Posted by: Hood Rebel | March 25, 2009 2:07 PM
Thanks for posting these CAPT released items. This really gives us parents a good idea of what students must know well BEFORE 10th grade.
We cannot expect to start preparing students for this level of science understanding in 7th, 8th or 9th grade. Based on the 2006 released items, clearly we need serious (developmentally appropriate) science instruction taking place through-out students' K-8 experience.
Posted by: Alphonse Credenza | March 25, 2009 3:30 PM
If you have not yet answered Part A, GO TO Section 6 on Page 32. If your booklet is marked ZZ12009 OR XT99635 (internal left margin only), DO NOT proceed to Part C of this question after answering Part B, unless you are right-handed. Armless students may continue from the point, but only if accompanied by a parent.
Sightless students should begin reading HERE.
If you have turned the page, you are ready to BEGIN.
37) The Large Hadron Collider successfully circulated proton beams in its main ring, but its operation was suddenly stopped because
a) they ran out of Cheetos
b) a condom got stuck onto a Higgs boson
d) a serious fault between two superconducting bending magnets, or something like that, and this one is the right answer.
Posted by: Another NHPS Teacher | March 25, 2009 5:37 PM
Oh boy, When do we get trained to use the
School-Net. It cost 1.5 million in money that was redirected from the classroom.
Posted by: RichTherrn | March 25, 2009 6:28 PM
I think the article points out that our students ARE learning, and the higher inquiry skills are due in part to the labs and facilities that school construction has provided.
I would suggest looking at the 2007 or 2008 released CAPT science items for a better idea of what our students face now, they are different in content than 2006 and before.
I can also refer you to some sample items similar to our elementary and middle school science CMTs in the CMT Handbook, starting pg26. CMT Science Assessment Handbook , and we are focused on doing the work to prepare our K-8 students for this. Our District Improvement Plan includes goals and strategies to address all subjects.
the science education community is pretty collaborative, and we share often with other school districts and charters, including CMT practice tests. ElemSci, MiddleSci
-Mr. Credenza and others,
you are certainly welcome to sign up as a judge for the Science Fair... or even think about being a science teacher!
-Haldan, to you and all the students over the years, thanks!
-NHPS Science Supervisor
Posted by: Tom Burns | March 25, 2009 11:11 PM
I guess all the students are supposed to get straight A's in all their subjects---Is it then that we have accomplished our goal? Has anyone heard of the bell curve? Our public schools are doing better than ever--and New Haven leads the way in urban education to be emulated by others---Mr. Therrien (Science) Mr. Mathews (Math) and Ms. Canelli are superstars as are 95% of our teachers---of course we have not reached perfection but I can guarantee you that under Dr. Mayo's leadership and a much improved administration we will attempt to get there---Tom Burns
Posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS | March 26, 2009 7:57 AM
Good Ol' Tom Burns, tamping down those student expectations again. But I guess thats what you union leaders are paid to do.
So 95% of your teachers are "superstars"? I guess the bell curve doesn't apply to your union members, right Tom?
Posted by: Thomas Holmes | March 26, 2009 10:57 AM
Richard Therrien's collaboration with the University of New Haven, New Haven Public Schools and West Haven Public Schools In the TQP grant programs exemplifies his integrity in supporting science teachers at all grade levels. For the last two summers teachers have met to work in collaboration in covering critical Inquiry Based Science Units of Study. Richard works closely with all the teachers and UNH professors in the Inquire Based Science Program. He is more than an administrator looking in at the program, He is a hands on teacher and supporter of the educators involved. He is actively engaged to assure each teacher receives adequate materials to support the work that needs to be done in the classroom. Thanks Richard for your personal support and encouragement in the sciences.
Posted by: Hood Rebel | March 26, 2009 11:07 AM
To Tom Burns.
Too many New Haven teachers do not personalize instruction to meet the needs of urban student they teach. A whole body of research backs up this approach. Yet every day and, I am sure today, our kids are coming home with homework that they can't do or, the work is so basic that the child is bored within 3 minutes of getting started. You should be very concerned about this and you should be ACTIVELY involved in correcting it.
And please don't insult parents and kids by suggesting that all industries have problems. We are talking about children's live here. If teaching new techniques are impossible, then get to hell out the profession.
And to Slick Fix:
The honest alternatives will not be Charter School districts as long as Charters continue to transfer struggling students back to public schools in the middle of the school year. That practice is despicable too!
Posted by: Alphonse Credenza | March 26, 2009 12:59 PM
Mr. Therrien has been a gentleman throughout, even though I persist in pulling the proverbial leg. It is easy to criticize without putting anything in place -- but the private and magnet schools are there, performing the functions the public school can and does not: rigorous, challenging education that compels great diligence and application, expecting as much in the classroom as the coach expects on the football field.
By the way, I believe I understand the nature of the challenge, if only because a parent was engaged as a public school science teacher at every academic level for many decades, and I heard first-hand of the goals, the successes and the frustrations.
What I substantially disagree with is 1) the notion that the public education factory continues to be the success it once was and 2) the belief in the value of standardized testing as a measure of factory output.
Part of the problem lies in the children themselves and their families -- generally ignorant and uninterested in intellectual improvement. Native born and most immigrant groups, with few exceptions. In addition, especially in urban centers, dual language teaching and the resistance of ethnic groups to be fully assimilated generates excessive anti-education forces within and outside of the classroom. Perhaps you may win some over, but the trend is unflaggingly bleak.
The schools are gigantic bureaucratic sieves, held together by union glue and generally teaching down to the lowest ability in the classroom. How many F's have you given out?
As to tests. One can teach kids to take tests well and make tests more conducive to "adequate" performance. But the students know comparatively less now than they did 50 years ago. A modern university degree is the equivalent of the high school degree of the 1940s.
We're turning out plastic replicas in the schools, and they just don't last, when what we need is the real thing.
UConn scientist Robert Thorson wrote this March 26 Courant column, "Science Isn't Facts -- It's Learning to Understand"
"transmitting knowledge is only one of four critical goals needed for a good science education, according to a committee of science educators convened recently by the U.S. National Academies. The three under-emphasized goals in its final report are teaching students how to generate and interpret evidence and explanations; how to understand the nature of scientific knowledge and how it develops; and how to participate in the discourse and practice of science."
Aiming to support NHPS educators in science and math as in other subjects, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute -- as a partnership with the school district -- this year is offering three of its seminars on related topics, in response to teachers' requests:
"Science and Engineering in the Kitchen," led by Eric R. Dufresne, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, of Chemical Engineering, and of Physics
"How We Learn about the Brain," led by William B. Stewart, Associate Professor of Anatomy (Surgery)
"Evolutionary Medicine," led by Paul E. Turner, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Participating as Fellows in the seminars are not only teachers of strictly science and/or math but also teachers of all subjects in the elementary grades. These seminars are consistent with the "inquiry-based learning of science" that Richard Therrien rightly seeks to make more thoroughly embraced. Many of the teachers are excited about this approach and eager to employ it for their students, if they haven't done so already.
Once the Fellows have developed their new curriculum units, they will be available with units from previous years here:
Posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS | March 26, 2009 4:11 PM
Hoodie, well how 'bout that? We agree again! Since AF charters most certainly do not send students to another school in mid year, or at any point, then I guess we're on the same page!
(But between us friends, you really ought to try to keep a lid on your obsession with charters.)
Posted by: Hood Rebel | March 26, 2009 5:36 PM
Between us friends, I figure that bottom line is some sort of threat.. typical reaction from your elitist power position?
You can only get away with repeating your boldface falsities about not transferring kids back because the kids you send back come are from low income disadvantaged families.
And yet you direct ME to "keep a lid" on this?
Posted by: Hood Rebel | March 26, 2009 7:46 PM
BTW, my "obsession" is NOT with charters. But deeply dissatisfied with those that transfer disadvantaged struggling minority students back to the public school district in the middle of the school year.
Posted by: Yes We Can | March 27, 2009 7:52 AM
Thanks Hood for calling out the false claims (yet again) of our Charter friend.
Thanks Richard. I am so happy to have you, Ken, Trish, Jose and Imma on the front line of urban education setting a path for success for New Haven and its students.
With the data driven approach that New Haven had the foesight to invest in you are now able to target areas of need and focus your curriculum to not only make improvements but to see them through data. This also more clearly reveals the challenges and will hopefully begin to move us away from the nonsensical debates that have no basis in fact.
Cuts in education at the state and local level are exactly the opposite of what is needed. The President has it right. We must invest in education and I am happy to put my money on and with Richard, Ken, Trish, Jose, Imma and the rest of the curriculum team. Let's look at the data, see what is working well (and there is plenty that is) and fund it.
Yes We Can achieve in New Haven!!
Posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS | March 27, 2009 2:57 PM
Tom Burns, Hoodie, and YES WE CAN
The triple team of the status quo. How the three of you can constantly defend the status quo from your various perches is unbelievable. Not only that, but in different ways you all want even MORE resources plowed into the same failed education model.
The policies that you support have resulted in the mis-education of thousands of children over many many years.
Below is an article which describes your legacy of failure. Thank goodness we are on the precipice of a radical change.
Connecticut Shocked At Scores On ACT College Admission Test
By GRACE E. MERRITT | The Hartford Courant
March 27, 2009
Results from the 2008 ACT college admission test show that many Connecticut high school seniors are "appallingly" unprepared for college-level work, according to a state report.
Of the 8,159 students who took the test, 35 percent of white seniors, 18 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of African Americans were ready for college-level work.
"It's an appalling figure to look at," said Frank W. Ridley, chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education. "Basically it says that, at the very best, only one-third of our students are succeeding." Ridley said he was disgusted by the low numbers, which were included in a state report about racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. He said the disparity in the scores of whites and minorities underscores the state's struggle to close the stubborn "achievement gap."
And, he said, the poor scores by all groups show that too many students are arriving on campus poorly prepared and must enroll in remedial classes to catch up.
"One of my concerns is that we're spending far too much time and energy on remedial efforts in the college setting," Ridley said.
In an effort to address the issue, the board of trustees for the Connecticut State University System voted earlier this month to raise academic admission standards.
The ACT, a lesser-known counterpart to the SAT, is a more curriculum-based college entrance exam. It essentially tests what students have learned in high school, as opposed to the SAT, which measures students' aptitude for learning.
Among the Connecticut students who took the test in 2008 in all four subjects -- English, mathematics, reading and science -- the numbers were better for individual subjects, such as English, and worse for others, such as science. In English, for example, the numbers of students ready for college-level work ranged from 87 percent to 49 percent; in science, the range was 41 to 11 percent.
The ACT is more popular in the Midwest, but is gradually becoming better known in Connecticut, where 19 percent of students took it last year. The SAT still dominates, however; last year 36,085 Connecticut students took the SAT.
Asked about the dismal ACT test results, Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the State Board of Education, agreed that the numbers sounded appalling, but pointed out that relatively few students take the ACT. He said Connecticut students continue to score well on the SAT, but agreed with Ridley that the state must raise its academic standards.
The Department of Education has developed a proposal now before the legislature that would require high school students to take four years of math and three years of laboratory science and conduct an independent project.
Posted by: Tom Burns | March 31, 2009 8:39 PM
Fix--the colleges are remediating---why accept these students in the first place??? guess why $$$$---we used to have standards, they are gone and now we have only phonies in their place(charters and privates) so that they can make money too, while leaving the less enfranchised at the curb---
I am all for CHANGE---if it doesn't work--fix it---but vouchers and charters are what they are and only that--Big business in sheeps clothing
Posted by: Tom Burns | March 31, 2009 8:44 PM
I just read your thought to me----I know your thoughts and action are in the right place as I have read your blogs before, so if I said something you don't agree with I should definitely check myself------If you have moved me, I will act on your thoughts--believe me I am a man of action--with love, pusuit of excellence,family/community and justice as my guides. Tom
Posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS | April 1, 2009 8:34 AM
Burns, You always reference that charters are in it for the money? What in the world are you talking about? Who makes money in CT. running a charter school? Are you aware that CT. has one of the weakest charter school funding systems in the entire country? Charters only get about 75% of what traditional districts receive per pupil. Far less than in DC or New York. And charters receive $0 in local money and a paltry sum for facility financing, even though they educate and remediate thousands of students from the local district.
You have to have your head examined to want to start and then finance a charter school in CT. That's the reason why there are still only 18 charters in CT. after the law was written 15 years ago. Do the math. Follow the money. There isn't any.
Posted by: Tom Burns | April 1, 2009 9:27 PM
What are they paying you or are you on the board or an administrator?---I'm 50 years old so I know so-called NON-PROFITS administrators make a large amount of money(there are no non-profits) do the leaders, administrators and teachers work for nothing(if so I'm all for it) but they don't----grow up and tell the truth--either you are 23 and very naive or you gain something from your ridiclous rants---I guarantee you have never taught in the classroom based on your posts ---check out the teacher salaries at the schools you admire--paultry huh? I can't believe you got me to respond again---I'm done with you fix, cause you don't have a clue--Tom
Posted by: RichTherrn | April 2, 2009 3:23 PM
Well, before this discussion devolved in another charter arguement, I appreciate the interest those have taken in our student's science learning. I hope it continues to be a factor in our discussion of education reform and student achievement.
-NHPS Science Supervisor
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