Orange students are showing growth in learning, according to a recently released Next Generation Accountability Report. The report was presented by Director of Curriculum/Instruction & Personnel Evelyn Russo to the Board of Education at its March meeting.
“We have much better metrics now,” Russo said. “Before we only looked at performance level, but now we have an opportunity to look at improvement within our performance levels. Being able to track academic growth of the same student over time is valuable. In the past, we only looked at academic test scores.”
Four indicators are included in the index: academic achievement, academic growth, chronic absenteeism and physical fitness.
Academic achievement looks at ELA performance, math and science (only grade five) in all students and for high needs students. “For the 2016/17 year, Race Brook had 59 high needs students, Peck Place 34 and Turkey Hill 33,” Russo explained. High needs students are averaged into all report indices.
Based on the index, schools are placed in one of three categories. A school with a score of 77.57 or higher is in Category 1, below 64 in Category 3, and those between are in Category 2. The percentage of all possible points earned on all available indicators is the accountability index. “That’s different from the past when we had a DPI or just a district performance indicator or a school performance indicator that only focused on academic performance,” Russo said.
The district received an 81% for the 2016/17 school year, up from 77% the prior year. “This approach is comparing different students from different years – it’s a starting point for understanding change,” Russo said.
Comparing the same students from one year to the next is what Russo calls “the gold standard for growth and for understanding curricular and instructional effectiveness. When you dig deep and look at our growth, we went up in all of these areas,” Russo said.
ELA for all students increased 2.5%, ELA for high needs increased 3.2%, math for all students was up 9% and math for high needs learners was up 6.3%. Chronic absenteeism fell and the physical fitness score rose by 14%.
“When you look at things in isolation, you get a picture, but when you look at them with others, you get a context. When state averages are going down, we’re holding our own and we’re really proud of this,” Russo said.
Orange ranked first in growth in ELA in its DRG last year. Two years ago, it was fifth. In math, Orange increased from 10th in the DRG two years ago to first this past school year.
Based on the report’s findings, the Connecticut Department of Education recognized 124 schools of distinction, schools that are in the top 10% in certain criteria. Peck Place School, because of its demonstration of highest growth with the ‘all students’ group was awarded this distinction.
“Evelyn, I just wanted to say that it’s really impressive when we look at these numbers that we know that kids are working hard and teachers are doing a great job, but to see this growth, it’s just amazing,” said board member Susan Riccio.
“Really, growth is where it’s at,” said Russo. “You can start a certain way – it’s not how you begin, but how you end.”
“Our philosophy ‘together we will make a difference’ plays a big part in this,” said Superintendent of Schools Vince Scarpetti. “Our biggest investment are our teachers. I think that professional learning plays a huge role in this. Race Brook School was at a level 3. They’re at a level 1 now.”
Orange’s DRG includes Greenwich, New Fairfield, Brookfield, Middlebury, Southbury, Newtown, Monroe, Trumbull, Fairfield, Granby, Simsbury, Avon, West Hartford, Farmington, South Windsor, Glastonbury, Madison, Guilford, Cheshire and Woodbridge.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent