Good Things ARE Happening in Norwalk
Note: This list will be updated periodically as information is gathered or received.
With all of the central office administration, Board of Education and budget challenges facing education these days, particularly in urban school districts such as ours, bad news is routine. While we still have a ways to go, REd APPLES thought it important to share with Norwalkers some of the positive initiatives that have been underway in our Norwalk Public Schools and those brought to us under the leadership of our new superintendent. In time, many of these efforts should begin to bear fruit in terms of student achievement. We’ve taken the liberty of categorizing the items into the following 6 areas, which should be near and dear to parents and taxpayers hearts. It certainly is ours:
- Increasing academics, rigor and raising the bar
- Community Team Building & Collaboration
- Closing the Achievement Gap Through the Use of Data & Early Intervention
- Reducing Operating Expenses
- Addressing Adult Accountability and Operational Issues Across District
- Increasing Staff Professional Development through the Grant Application Process
Below is a grocery list of initiatives underway. It is by no means complete and it is important to note that some efforts like the District Data Management Team has been underway for several years now.
Increasing Academics, Rigor and Raising The Bar
- CMT scores rose overall in math reading and writing for the 2010-11 school calendar year with 1 in 3 elementary children attained the top level of ADVANCED in math and 1 in 4 middle school children attained the top level of ADVANCED in math
- Plans are underway to weigh high school Honors courses with an additional (.5) credit anticipated to begin this Fall following BoE approval.
- Received proposal for a curriculum review and pursuing outside funding (NOTE: Stamford PS performed similar curriculum review, and found 150 literacy programs used across 12 elementary schools.)
- Changed School Calendar to increase school learning days/time in the Fall, increasing academic instruction time prior to March CMT/CAPT testing; resulting in earlier summer dismissal and cost savings
- Participated on national panel on STEM education to drive future Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum into district
- Introduced Let’s Get Ready non-profit funded ($10K)–program that provides free tutors for SAT prep and college admission counseling
- Identified outside funding to provide PSAT administration for all high school sophomores and juniors free of charge in October 2011
- Piloting new schedule at BMHS in 2011/12 to implement higher level courses and increase options for teacher collaboration
- Working on Wireless Generation Application for K-5 (who produces state-of-the-art digital formative assessments—State of CT will pilot/fund Wireless Generation tools in 5 Connecticut priority districts.
Community Team Building & Collaboration
- Implemented Parent and Staff surveys for discussion in the Fall.
- Engaged in extensive community outreach: NCC, NHA, PTOC’s, Chamber of Commerce, BET, local churches, NAACP, Rotary, Carver Center
- Engaged in collaborative (if not painful) budget planning/cutting exercise with unions, BoE and Community
- Engaged with non-profit foundation who has offered to fund a forum for labor/management collaboration
- Professional outreach—Superintendents Network (brings superintendents together to discuss ways to improve student achievement/participation paid for by grant), Ct Assoc of Urban Superintendents, Ct Assoc of Public School Superintendents, So Fairfield County Superintendents Assoc.
- Advocacy outreach–Ct Coalition for Justice in Education Funding; Think Tank for Drop Out Prevention (participants in statewide venture were invited & funded by United Way), Briggs grant collaboration (with NCC/City/NPS), College Board
- Updated school profiles listed on the State of CT Strategic School Profiles site (Note: Some hadn’t been updated in years)
Closing the Achievement Gap Through the Use of Data & Early Intervention
- Deployed 2011 K-5 Summer School initiative in collaboration with Literacy How, directed at professional development & reading research, funded through Title 1
- Submitted a Federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to pilot a K-5 reading ‘lab school’ in Norwalk in collaboration with Literacy How/Haskins Lab that would address district- wide reading professional development and provide research- based intensive interventions for students at risk of reading failure.
- Oversaw teachers and building principals use of data integration with CMT Reports that provides roster reports which include the teachers that instructed students in Math and Language Arts prior to March testing
- Testing coordinator worked with Questar to give Middle Schools the Fall/Winter Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) ranges to tier students used for Response to Intervention (SRBI)
- Researched data technology solutions (Performance Matters; Children’s Progress, LinkIt) to make student data available to teachers/principals and is working on a timeline with funder
- Outside funding identified for ACCUPLACER at high schools to track kids who need help BEFORE they graduate (worked with NCC on this)
- Wi-Mentor to train mentors & support students via the Internet at the High School level—non-profit funding $100,000 for 2 years
- Worked with Norwalk Children’s Foundation to bring Peer2Peer mentoring and tutoring program which links academic achieving high school students to elementary students who need assistance. BMHS and Norwalk high school students to target Jefferson and Silvermine students.
- Collaborated with Stepping Stones to support K-5 in 7 Norwalk Title 1 schools–covers costs to Stepping Stones Museum, Healthy Children, Healthy Communities (HC2), field trips, workshops, and exhibits—3 year grant by non-profit
Reducing Operating Expenses
- Implemented an independent insurance audit
- Implemented an independent energy efficiency audit
- Implementing a centralized purchasing unit that will oversee office supplies for district/reduce costs
Addressing Adult Accountability and Operational Issues Across the District
- Ongoing District Data Driven Management Team (DDDMT) and CALI (Connecticut Accountability for Learning Initiative) process by which all 19 schools are visited, School Growth Plans are reviewed and adult actions identified and monitored as part of a collaborative effort between the district, schools, instructional leaders, union leaders and the community in a concerted effort to drive up student achievement in Literacy and Numeracy.
- Identified differences between and among schools, regarding approach to educating students, differences in expectations and standards and homework
- Central Office and DDDMT identified method of categorizing schools based on CMT/CAPT test results and District Improvement Plan goals—tier structure determines level of support and intervention that schools will receive
- Central Office and principals working to have Pre-school and Kindergarten orientation and registration more consistent among schools (ads for this were supported by non-profit funding)
- Working on a position management process that links employees to locations and a funding source
Increasing Staff Professional Development through the Grant Application Process
- Collaborated with high school staff in ‘Building a Collaborative Culture’ grant at the high school level—$750,000 non-profit funded over 3 years
- Deployed 3rd grade literacy initiative for one elementary–$40,000 non-profit funded
- Increased NPS non-profit outreach bringing a whole new level for outreach and potential funding dollars for professional development of staff directed at increasing rigor and closing the achievement gap. (Note: Non-profit funding noted above equals more than $1,000,000 for this year.)
- Attended non-profit funded seminar ‘Foundation to the Brighter Futures Summer Conference’ in Orlando to discuss the Common Core State Standards that 46 states (including Connecticut, have adopted. The CCSS will be implemented by all 46 states by 2014-15.