New Haven announces tiering of all city schools

   The city graded 43 schools into Tier I, II or III as part of an ongoing school reform drive that focuses on accountability. The grades are based on absolute performance on scores, growth on tests, and school climate surveys—click here and here for more on that. Based on the ranking, schools will eventually get more autonomy, more resources, or they may be completely restructured. Download this PDF for an explanation of the rankings, or scroll to the bottom of this story, to see the list of schools.
Not all schools face immediate changes. Seven schools have already begun implementing changes. Eleven more schools were tapped Monday to follow suit. More will join them in the coming years.
The select group of 11 schools will undergo changes next fall, as the district phases in the reforms. Principals at the three top-performing Tier I schools—Sound School, Nathan Hale and Worthington Hooker—will be given more autonomy to run their schools. Columbus School, Conte-West Hills and Metropolitan Business Academy all scored in the middle-performing Tier II; they’ll get more resources in their areas of weakness.
Five schools scored in the bottom-performing Tier III: Wilbur Cross High, James Hillhouse High, Hill Central Music Academy (K-8), Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy (K-8), and Wexler/Grant Elementary School (K-8). Of those, some may be chosen as “turnaround” schools, meaning they would be dramatically restructured, and possibly turned into charter schools.
The district has not yet decided how many schools will be “turnarounds,” according to schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo.
The batch of 11 follow an initial batch of seven schools that implemented changes at the beginning of this school year. Those in the top-performing Tier I, Davis 21st Century Magnet School and Edgewood Magnet School, added arts enrichment and a joint summer program. Those in the middle tier, John C. Daniels and King/Robinson, are getting more support for areas of weakness. Those in Tier III, Barnard Environmental Magnet School, Brennan/Rogers, and Domus Academy, experienced more serious overhauls, including longer school days and staff changes.
High Schools
Last year, the district didn’t grade any high schools, because the process for doing so was more complicated. Just last month, the district came up with a new way for grading high schools, called a “graduation trajectory”—click here to read how that works.
Sound School out-performed all high schools along that metric: 78 percent of its students are on track to graduate within four years, officials calculated.


By contrast, less than 50 percent of students at Cross, and about a third at Hillhouse, are on track to graduate, according to the school district. Cross and Hillhouse are already being restructured into smaller learning communities as part of a federal School Improvement Grant. Both have new principals and have already got a head start on changing the way the schools are run, said Mayo.
Pynn (pictured at the top of this story), the Sound School principal of 13 years, said one reason his school is doing so well is that the school has a rigorous tracking system for watching whether kids are falling behind on tests, competing homework, or grades in school. Those who slip behind get an action plan for getting back on track, and meet with an advisor to monitor their progress, he said.
“Students are getting very regular feedback on their performance,” Pynn said.
The other factor in improving students’ progress, Pynn said, is “time.” Three days per week, he extends school hours to 5 p.m., so that students can stay after for extra homework help. The session is optional, except for kids who are on academic probation, Pynn said.
The Tier I ranking gives Pynn more leeway in how to run his school. He already has a few ideas of how to take advantage of his newfound liberty. He said he has long sought to do away with letter grades of A to F, because they aren’t very helpful. He said he’d also like more power in making kids stay after school for extra help if they’re slipping behind.
When school reform czar Garth Harries shook his hand to congratulate him, Pynn broke into a broad smile and said he’d be reporting back shortly with new ideas for his school.
“When you throw one over my plate, I’m going to hit it,” he said.
The Report Card
Here are the rankings for 43 schools across the district:
Elementary/Middle Schools:

Tier I:
Betsy Ross Arts
Davis Street
Nathan Hale
Worthington Hooker
Tier II:
Benjamin Jepson
Bishop Woods
Clinton Avenue
Conte-West Hills
East Rock
Engineering & Science (ESUMS)
Fair Haven
John C. Daniels
Lincoln Bassett
Ross Woodward

Tier III:

Augusta Lewis Troup
Domus Academy
Hill Central
John S. Martinez
High Schools

Tier I:
Sound School
Tier II:
Hill Regional Career
High School in the Community
Hyde Leadership
Metropolitan Business
New Haven Academy
Riverside Academy

Tier III:

Dixwell New Light
James Hillhouse
New Horizons
Polly T. McCabe
Wilbur Cross

by Melissa Bailey
New Haven Independent
Video and story at New Haven Register