Norwich receives $1 million in state school Alliance District funding

The city school system will receive an additional $1 million in state funding with the approval announced Tuesday of the city’s Alliance District school reform plan that will focus on literacy, parental involvement and direct intervention in classrooms to help struggling students.

The state Department of Education announced approvals of Norwich and Middletown Alliance District plans Tuesday.

Norwich will focus on two schools initially, the John M. Moriarty and Veterans’ Memorial School, with some programs to be initiated in the five other elementary schools and the city’s two middle schools, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said.

Norwich was one of 30 Alliance Districts announced by the state earlier this year that were slated to compete for additional funding based on reform plans written by the local district and approved by the state. To date, 28 reform plans have been approved, including New London’s, state officials said.

“For too long, the formula for turning around struggling schools followed one guiding principle -- increased funding,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said with Tuesday’s announcement. “While there are many schools throughout the state that would benefit with increased resources, we can’t simply continue to throw good money after bad. Thanks to the creation of Alliance Districts, increases in funding must now come with a plan for turning around schools and increasing student performance.”

Dolliver said she was thrilled with the state’s approval of the city’s third version of the Alliance District application. She said officials were working for the past few months revising the plan with state officials before being satisfied with the final version.

“We have a great plan,” Dolliver said. “We were getting more focused and now we can get started.”

Dolliver said she will post new positions soon in accordance with the plan, which calls for classroom interventionists to work directly with students, a parental liaison to improve parental involvement in the school system and other positions focused on improving student achievement.

In partnership with the University of Connecticut, the district plans to increase parent involvement by hiring a parent literacy liaison to develop school improvement goals with parent feedback. School officials will reach out to parents of students identified as in need of additional academic support to participate in their children’s learning.

Norwich will develop a teacher evaluation and support system modeled on the state’s System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) that uses student performance data, observations, and coaching to evaluate teachers.

Dolliver said school officials will work with the national nonprofit educational research group McREL to find a new reading curriculum for the district that would address student achievement shortfalls. For example, past test scores have shown that black students at the two focus schools have performed poorly.

“We’re going to use their research division to make sure our reading program matches our students and meets the state requirements,” Dolliver said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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