Norwich to ask state to make Uncas a Network School

Norwich — After hearing a report on improvements made at the John B. Stanton School under the state Network School reform program, the Board of Education voted unanimously to apply to the state to designate Uncas School as a Network School as well.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver told the Board of Education that officials at the state Department of Education had asked her if Norwich wanted to apply for a second Network School, and she suggested Uncas School. If approved by the state, Norwich would be the third school district in the state to have two Network Schools.

Uncas is the city's lowest-performing school on the Connecticut Mastery Test. In 2012-13, Uncas scored well below the Norwich district average and state targets in all categories. In Uncas' School Performance Index — an average of all mastery test scores — Uncas scored 46.4 out of a possible 100.

Overall, Norwich schools scored 61.2, and the state target is 88. Average scores for the four academic tests, math, reading, writing and science, ranged from 39.9 to 59.8.

"We can't refuse this," board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso said. "For three years, this has been our lowest-performing school, and we have to give them some help."

Dolliver said in this third round of state-designated Network Schools, the three-year funding is likely to be much lower than the $1 million Stanton School received in each of its first two years to implement the school improvement plan. State officials have not provided grant totals, but Dolliver said it could be half that amount.

A turnaround committee will be named for Uncas School to write a proposed improvement plan to present to the State Board of Education at its April meeting. Parts of Stanton's plan can be incorporated into Uncas' proposal, although Uncas is much smaller, at 273 students to Stanton's 394 students.

Stanton used its funding to hire classroom instructional interventionists, extend the school day, add full-day kindergarten and improve parental involvement in the school.

Stanton Principal Billie Shea presented the board an update on the progress Stanton has made as a Network School. Overall in the School Performance Index average of mastery test scores, Stanton scored 58.1, meeting the school's target of 57.4. Students reached the target goal in writing and science, and came within 1 point of meeting the target in math and reading. English Language Learners jumped 10 points in their overall scores, Shea said.

One of the big problems at Stanton is the transient nature of the student population. Since the school year started, 91 students have entered the school, while 88 students have left the school, making it difficult to track student progress.

To improve family involvement, the school has hosted open house events, parent workshops, a pasta dinner and ice cream social, harvest festival and adult English language classes.

The school social worker and school psychologist work with students on behavior, mentoring, attendance, student rewards programs and provide individual counseling.

"I suspect why they asked you is that we have shown some good results," board member Dennis Slopak said of the state's invitation to Norwich to apply again for a Network School.


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