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As New London works to turn around its struggling schools and undertakes the exciting process of creating the state's first all-magnet-schools district, it is easy to overlook an ongoing educational success story in the city - ISAAC.
Now in its 16th year, the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication was recently named a "school of distinction" by the State Board of Education. The charter school, serving students in grades six through eight, earned the distinction due to improving Connecticut Mastery Test scores. Students scored a 70 on the state's School Performance Index (SPI), based on a formula that assesses student performance in all subjects covered in the CMT.
That score fell just shy of the state target for the school of 70.9.
The state also acknowledged the charter school's success in the biggest challenge facing state educators - closing the education performance gap. The state credited ISAAC with having less than 10 point differences between its overall score and the scores among historically underperforming subgroups - students from low-income households, African-Americans and Hispanics.
ISAAC draws about 60 percent of its students from the city, 40 percent from outside school districts. ISAAC allots enrollments by lottery. There were 185 students during the CMT testing last school year, while the school now has 246 students, resulting from a state authorized expansion in student size.
The special designation serves as proof that charter schools can continue to play an important role in improving public education. The administration, staff and students deserve credit for the achievement as they pursue the school's goal of inspiring "excellence through the arts and project-based learning in a collaborative, multicultural community."
Exciting opportunities could lie ahead. While preliminary, there have been discussions of ISAAC playing a role along with the Garde Arts Center in the creation of a visual and performing arts pathway as part of New London's magnet school plan. Given ISAAC's experience incorporating art into education and the Garde's history, such a partnership holds out interesting possibilities.