New London students top state-set test targets

The New London school system surpassed state goals for achievement on the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test last school year, but the city's schools still lag behind state expectations, according to a district performance report released Thursday by the state.

"The staff, students and parents of the New London Public Schools deserve great credit for the progress we are making in creating a tradition of academic excellence," Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said in a statement. "That the enrollment of the New London Public Schools has grown by more than 330 students over the past two years shows that we are building a community of believers … people who believe that New London is a great place to go to school."

But in Norwich, districtwide performance numbers slipped slightly compared to the previous year's results. Superintendent Abby Dolliver said results were mixed in student sub-groups in various schools, with improvements in several areas. The John B. Stanton School, one of four Network Schools in the governor's school reform efforts, improved overall and in all sub-groups except students with disabilities.

On the CMTs, New London surpassed its state-established District Performance Index target of 60.5, scoring a 61.4, according to the report. It also surpassed its DPI target of 49.9 on the CAPT, scoring 51.4.

A school system's DPI can range from zero to 100 and is based on student performance in all subjects covered in the two tests. The purpose of the rating system is to help the state and school districts identify schools that need more support.

Norwich's DPI slipped from 63.6 to 61.2, short of its target score of 65.7.

The state's ultimate target for DPI is 88 because "in a district with a DPI of 88 or above, students will have performed at or above the 'goal' level on the majority of tests," according to the report.

In addition to the districtwide reports, the state also released performance index scores for each individual school and classified them in six categories: excelling, progressing, transitioning, review, focus and turnaround.

New London's Winthrop Elementary Magnet School was one of 13 schools to exit the "focus" category, its previous classification. Winthrop moved to the "review" category because the school has shown sustained improvement in the performance of its Hispanic and Latino students over the last two years, the district said.

New London High School, however, was classified as a "turnaround" school, one of the 20 "lowest performing schools statewide," the report said. Science and Technology Magnet High School test results are included in the high school's performance score.

"Our accountability system is designed both to recognize the progress our schools are making and to reveal the challenges where they exist," state Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a statement. "These reports demonstrate that there are bright spots and best practices as well as areas in need of review and improvement in districts and schools across the state."

In New London, Nathan Hale Magnet Elementary School for Performing and Visual Arts was classified as "transitioning," Jennings Elementary School as a "focus" school, and Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School as a "review" school.

The report also revealed that the district had a graduation rate of 61.9 percent for the 2011-12 school year, short of the state-set target of 65.2 percent and lower than the previous year. The district's target graduation rate increases each year, and will reach 70.4 percent in the 2013-14 school year.

With its improvements, the Stanton School in Norwich also left behind its former "focus" status. The school's target score was 57.4, and it achieved a score of 58.1. Stanton is now a "review" school.

The Samuel Huntington School scored the highest overall among Norwich schools at 75.2, a 1-point drop from last year, but the school met its targets in all subgroups. The Thomas Mahan School in Norwich was categorized as a school of distinction because of the progress the school has made, jumping from a score of 64 in 2011-12 to 70.1 this year.

Dolliver said the improvements at Stanton show that state Network School funding has been well-spent. The school extended its instructional hours, added classroom interventionists, small group instruction, a social worker and second administrator to focus on attendance and a parent engagement specialist to work with families.

Some of those efforts are being expanded to other city schools as funding allows, she said.

c.young@theday.com

c.bessette@theday.com

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