Targets Missed In Latest Schools Numbers

Christopher PeakNew Haven Public Schools’s latest batch of testing data proved to be a mixed bag, marked by sustained improvement at two elementary schools and wide disparities in achievement at four high schools.

In a state data dump Friday afternoon, judging schools on a dozen indicators — ranging from test scores and graduation rates to art classes and physical education — New Haven picked up about two-thirds of the Next Generations Accountability Report’s available points, marking only a slight decrease from last year.

Notching 864 points out of a possible 1350, the city came up short compared to the rest of the state, which earned 989 points total.

But that performance generally mirrored the rest of the state, said Will Clark, the district’s chief operating officer. Among poorer, urban districts like Hartford and Bridgeport, Elm City schools beat out the rest of the pack.

Clark noted that New Haven outpaced the state’s gains in several categories, including in the number of students marked chronically absent, high school upperclassmen enrolled in advanced courses and freshmen on track to graduate. “By focusing on attendance, physical and emotional health and by supporting an academic and college-going culture New Haven students are more available to learn and are taking advantage of the academic opportunities available to them,” he said.

He added that administrators are still reviewing the data, and he cautioned against relying exclusively on one number to evaluate a school. “This high-stakes test and data report, while required by the state, is by no means the only measures used to track the academic growth of our students,” he said. “It is merely one of many factors to consider.” He said that a “deeper review of this data” can confirm which areas remain a challenge and which successes should be replicated district-wide.

At individual schools in New Haven, results varied.

Quinnipiac Real World STEM and John S. Martinez, two grade-school magnets, were both among the 16 schools removed from the state’s watch list of schools where high-needs students had previously underperformed their peers. This year marked the first chance for “focus schools” to move off the list. Another 79 schools remain under state scrutiny, including Beecher, Brennan-Rogers, Truman and Wexler-Grant.

The state also flagged achievement gaps at six New Haven schools that were far outside the average. Those warnings were attached to four high schools, Wilbur Cross, Hill Regional Career, High School in the Community and Sound, as well as two elementary schools, Edgewood and King-Robinson Magnet. At Cross, gaps in test scores also translated to a gap in graduation rates, the state noted.

Reggie Mayo, the interim superintendent, said he was “proud” of the results at Martinez and Quinnipiac, earned “through the hard work of the students, school leaders, staff and parents.”

Assessing Academics

Under a revamped system, introduced two years ago, the state measures academic achievement in two ways: Do students meet the cut-off for proficiency in their core subject areas? And are they learning more each year, even if they still can’t pass the test?

Using both indicators gives a more accurate picture of how students are learning each year, said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the state’s top school data chief.

“Different kids start in different places. The expectation isn’t that magically a student performing at the lowest levels will be at the highest levels in one year. We set the growth targets such that students generally get to proficiency in five years,” he told reporters in a phone call. “It’s not about chasing short-term wins, not about testing and how they do. It’s getting back to core instruction, helping teachers make sure they know what standards they’re expecting kids to do.”

By the first indicator, demonstrating strict proficiency, 56.8 percent of New Haven’s students meet basic standards in reading; 49.9 percent, in math; and 44.2 percent in science. Those numbers were about even with last year, with a half-percent gain in math and a half-percent loss in reading.

High-needs students (defined as those who have a learning disability, speak another primary language or come from a low-income family) lagged behind their peers by 14.6 points in reading, 13.5 points in math and 12.4 points in science. As a category with its own points, the state’s model dings New Haven for this gap.

By the second indicator, demonstrating annual growth, 53.0 percent of New Haven’s students hit their targets in reading and 52.9 percent did in math. The city saw a huge drop here, losing more than 10 points in both categories.

(Due to high mobility, 70 city test-takers weren’t in one school for the entire academic year, which officially starts in October; they are not included in the district’s calculations but they do factor into the state’s.)

Could the missed growth targets be an early sign that fewer students will test proficient in upcoming years? “I think it’s too early to go there,” Gopalakrishnan said, “because I’m really hopeful that this cycle we are going to see better numbers and growth results.”

The state also looks at students’ readiness to succeed after high-school graduation. First, they ask about access: Do juniors and seniors have the ability to sign up for advanced coursework or vocational training? In New Haven’s high schools, 61.7 percent of upperclassmen enrolled in at least two college-level courses or took two workplace training courses — a boost of nine points over last school year.

Then, the state examines whether those lessons adequately prepare students for the tests. (They do not currently include any points for students who gain an industry certification) Only 18.1 percent of upperclassmen scored 3 or higher on the Advanced Placement test (out of 5) or 1010 or higher on the new SAT (out of 1600), a slight improvement of 1.4 points over last year.

Getting to Graduation

All those factors lead up to whether students are actually earning a diploma. The state looks at five factors related to exiting the public school system: how many students show up for class, how many are on track to graduate, how many finish after four and six years, and how many pursue higher education.

Experts have found chronic absenteeism is a strong predictor for drop-outs.

Districtwide, 18.3 percent of New Haven’s students miss at least one-tenth of the school year. That marks a drop of 1.6 points from last year’s total, but it’s still nearly twice the state average of 9.9 percent. New Haven’s high-needs students are also less likely to show up for class, with a chronic absenteeism rate at 20.7 percent, a figure that also went down 2.2 points from last year’s total.

By the end of their first year of high school, 87.1 percent of New Haven’s last class of freshmen earned five credits or more and didn’t fail a core subject. The state considers them on track to graduate. That’s five points higher than the last class.

For the last class of seniors, 77.5 percent graduated within four years. For the subset of high-needs students, whom the state gives more time to finish their studies, 80.4 percent graduated within six years. Altogether, 65.3 percent matriculated to post-secondary education within a year of graduation

Those figures compare to a statewide graduation rate of 87.4 percent for all students within four years and 82.0 percent for high-needs students within six years. Statewide, 72.0 percent of seniors go on to college.

Factoring In School Offerings

New Haven racked up points this year on two last indicators that expand a school’s offerings: physical fitness and arts access.

Those categories have been included in an effort to widen the idea of what schools should offer, Gopalakrishnan said. “We’re not just talking about test scores anymore,” he said. “It’s gotten many more people involved, not just the reading and math teacher. It’s about changing that conversation, getting more people around the table to talk about all these things that lead up to whether we make academic improvements.”

Almost all New Haven’s students, 93.2 percent, participated in some physical fitness program last year, marking an 11.7-point increase over last year. With those classes, 40.9 percent were able to pass a four-part test of good health, including muscular strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, marking a 4.3-point increase over last year.

Nearly half of New Haven’s high schoolers, 45.7 percent, participated in at least one dance, theater, music or visual arts course last school year, dropping 2.1 points from last year and trailing a bit behind the state average of 50.5 percent.


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posted by: Noteworthy on February 12, 2018  12:20pm

And the cost of this non-education is more than $18,000 per year per kid. We would be better off closing the public schools - and sending them all to private school. The education is better and it costs less.

posted by: 06511 on February 12, 2018  3:11pm

Noteworthy, you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of why private schools ‘do better,’ - because they are allowed to deny enrollment to whomever they choose, whereas public schools welcome all.

posted by: KNB on February 12, 2018  4:43pm

Noteworthy - you cannot just compare private school performance to public.  First, the student bodies are radically different.  Public schools, especially those in New Haven, have a very different socioeconomic footprint than private schools.  Students are more likely to come from poorer homes, homes with single parents etc in NHPS.  All of these have impacts on performance.  Moreover, public schools must educate all students - this includes students with significant disabilities and students who do not speak english as their primary language.  Private schools do not have to accept, and do not accept, children with either of these issues.  Third, private schools get to choose their students.  This means that they do not choose students that have issues that may lead them to fail.  A large number of studies have been performed that show there is no gain from private schools when one properly controls for the issues above.  This link is to a study that shows either no difference, or that public schools outperformed private schools -  This link is to a news article that discusses the study.  As you can see, when socio-economics, selection etc are taken into account, private schools do no better and actually often do worse than public schools.  Private school support is merely a way to create more inequality and segregation in our society.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 12, 2018  6:55pm

BS Notes:

I’m sick of the excuses. Massachusetts has higher standards, higher results, less costs. You know folks, stop the excuses. Step up.

posted by: 1644 on February 12, 2018  8:51pm

1. Most private schools, Foote, Hopkins, etc., cost about $30/year.
2. Private schools don’t have to take all the special ed kids.  Yes, they have some, but not the extremely expensive ones, the ones who require on-on-one aides, the severely handicapped, profoundly retarded, etc.  A single placement for some can be over $100K, which really skews the averages.
3. That said, CT Mirror did do a series on Mass. is more ruthless with better results in turning around failing schools.

posted by: new haven ideas on February 12, 2018  8:59pm

noteworthy, what an incredibly patriotic and American idea you have proposed: close public schools.  after all, public education for all children can’t possibly have any inherent philosophical ties to democracy, freedom, justice, and equal opportunity. 

questions: what say you to the evidence provided by KNB (and the preponderance of other research studies not specifically listed)?  will you continue to spout off uninformed arguments based on simple-minded statistics (e.g. $18,000)?  or is your mind open to radical concepts such as research, evidence, and facts?  (don’t come back to us with the sales brochure stuff from private schools with cherry-picked output statistics that do not control for inputs.)

posted by: Noteworthy on February 13, 2018  4:42am

15 Year Notes:

1. For this entire tiime, the NHPS have celebrated low expectations and low accomplishments, microscopic advancement and graduated kids entirely unable to compete in college or life. They need remedial help in basic math, reading and writing.

2. There are many private schools from which to choose - Hopkins et al are the expensive version that most of us can’t afford. But there are Catholic school options which we can and that cost less than a public school education.

3. If NHPS is not going to get serious, if the state is not going to get serious about these test results then why not close them down and privatize the schools? Why can’t we have the same standards as MA? This state’s leadership uses what other states do every time there’s a tax to raise - every time there’s a new tax or fee to impose - every time a new gun law to pass - Why not education?

4. A good solid quality education is a civil right. Laughingly, the mayor et al talk about transportation as a civil right - what good is transportation if it takes you to a dead end low wage job because you can’t compete, because you can’t construct a sentence?

5. This chart is correct? One school surpassed expectations? One?

6. Private schools may choose who they let in - but there is no systematic denial of kids with special needs. Likewise, there are not so many kids with these needs that it brings down the overall ranking of an entire school system.

7. Time to quit making excuses and adopt a no excuses pledge. Quit talking. Quit explaining. Quit blaming. Start doing.

posted by: 1644 on February 13, 2018  7:45am

New Haven Ideas:  FYI, in Canada, the government subsidizes religious schools.  Yes, we have followed the Prussian model that public schools should indoctrinate children to be good citizens, but this is not the only possible model.  Many European nations also use tax dollars to support religious schools, most in a money follows the student model.  Ultimately, its a bit of a lifeboat problem.  If we have lifeboats for some kids, i.e., charters, religious and independent schools, should we save some kids by subsidizes their attendance?  Or, need we all sink or swim together:  if there isn’t room in the lifeboats for all, we all go down with the ship.

posted by: TimeforChangeInNewHaven on February 13, 2018  7:22pm

Ahem.. NHPS has no accountability system in place that is tied to student learning and teacher/administrator development. Once that is in order there will be gains!

District wide handbook for students and families that brings consistency across schools

District wide teaching elements to strengthen capacity of teaching practice with district wide training .. too much autonomy

TEVAL that is not subjective /ADEVAL that is not subjective

Superintendent serves as evaluator to principals

Directors do data collection across schools for meeting target goals

Effective teacher recruitment and distribution across schools

Retaining strong teachers and eliminating high paid teachers who don’t teach and protected by union

Anything else?

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on February 18, 2018  7:48pm

>> “5. This chart is correct? One school surpassed expectations? One?”

No, one school came out “above average” in a very high-performing state.  That’s what average means. In a normal distribution, about half will be below-average.  Plenty of schools in Massachusetts fall below their average.
This is a pretty good resource.  Take a look at the bubble chart of performance vs. income.  New Haven isn’t on it for some reason, but you could estimate our point’s location by saying the annual household income is $38k while our performance on these tests was just a bit better than Waterbury’s.  Standardized test performance correlate with income, just as pants length correlates with height. 

“Expectation” should be where the trendline passes through, about where New London is, and NHPS would surpass that.