State Steps Up Funding For Turnaround Schools

Christopher Peak PhotoIn an unexpected bonus for the city’s cash-strapped public schools, the state offered an extra $340,000 to help two elementaries complete a turnaround.

Fair Haven and Lincoln-Bassett, two neighborhood schools that have struggled against poverty and language barriers, will receive an infusion of cash to help improve their test scores.

“I guess they like us,” said Iline Tracey, an assistant superintendent.

The supplemental School Improvement Grants, funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education, were discussed at Monday night’s Finance & Operations Committee meeting at Central Office.

At Fair Haven, a K-8 school with 820 students, Principal Heriberto Cordero said he wants to put a big chunk of the grant money into supports for English language learners.

He plans to purchase licenses and training for Imagine Learning, a computer program that allows students to work on math and literacy at their own pace; textbooks and other kits in multiple languages; and a comprehensive review of their bilingual programs by Quality Teaching for English Learners, a consultancy that provides programmatic recommendations and on-site coaching.

A year from now, Cordero said, he hopes to see a five-point jump in reading and math in the percentage of high-needs students who are on grade level.

At Lincoln-Bassett, a PreK-6 school with 390 students in Newhallville, Principal Rosalind Garcia said she wants to focus her grant on project-based learning.

She plans to create a “Project-Based Learning Lab” at the school, complete with two part-time tutors and a cart of iPads and Chromebooks; buy a library on project-based instruction for staff and books for kids; and hire a consultant for on-site training, likely Solution Tree.

A year from now, Garcia hopes to see a four-point jump in the percentage of students who are meeting all their growth targets for the year — a sign that they’re making enough year-over-year progress to catch up to grade level.

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posted by: WildwildWestEducator on December 4, 2018  6:22pm

I am confused, I read somewhere that Lincoln Bassett was looking for money for an after school program to pay teachers because their test scores went down, scores were already low, what did they do with the other grant money? With a school that small, why are scores not continually improving with the new resources they had? Is this another set of smoke an mirrors that plagues NHPS? I mean the house of cards that the grants held up for the district has fallen and now there is a significant shortfall and people being laid off.  What is going to happen when the grant money runs out again. Where is the data?

posted by: Christopher Peak on December 4, 2018  8:30pm

This extra money is an add-on to the state support that these two schools already receive.

You’re right that Lincoln-Bassett did recently say it plans to take a different approach to its after-school programs. The funding source for that change is a Commissioner’s Network grant, another state turnaround program, that Lincoln-Bassett has been a part of since 2014-15.

Now in its final year of the grant, with test scores still falling, Lincoln-Bassett appropriated the network funds into stipends for its teachers to tutor kids after-school. We won’t know for some time before if that switch away from more traditional after-school activities pays off.

Over the past three years, Lincoln-Bassett’s test scores have dropped. In reading, the scores have fallen slightly: from 19.6 percent in 2015-16 to 19.4 percent in 2017-18 who are on grade level. In math, there’s been a much more dramatic decline: from 16.4 percent in 2015-16 to 7.8 percent in 2017-18 who are on grade level.

At the same time, the state has pointed out that Lincoln-Bassett is now providing monthly parent-engagement activities and reducing out-of-school suspensions (from 128 in 2013-14 down to 48 in 2017-18).

The board didn’t talk about what will happen when the money runs out. (This year, the Commissioner’s Network pays the salaries for 14 part-time teachers and 6 paraprofessionals at Lincoln-Bassett.) The state says that it deliberately decreases funds for each year a school remains in the Commissioner’s Network “in order to promote financial sustainability of its turnaround over time.”

posted by: Kermit Carolina on December 5, 2018  4:22am

Congratulations Rosalind and Eddy!  As two of New Haven’s most outstanding and caring educators, I have the utmost confidence in your abilities to “turnaround” your schools.  I am equally excited for the teachers and students who should benefit tremendously from these additional state funds.  LET’S GO Lincoln-Bassett and Fair Haven!!!!