March 2, 2016
New Haven, CT – New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) Superintendent Garth Harries today embraced the new public school performance results provided by the State Department of Education (SDE). Harries said this new profile of NHPS provides useful information and summary information about where the District is making measureable strides and where more work is required, both at the school and district level.
The state accountability report also confirms New Haven’s school by school approach to improvement, with Hill Central Music Academy successfully exiting turnaround status and several New Haven schools showing particularly high performance for hard to serve students. Other schools remain in turnaround status, under the state designation, and will continue to develop and implement their improvement plans.
Harries said, “We are extremely proud of the turnaround efforts that were put in place at Hill Central and thrilled to see the progress our students have made. Our Reform Committee happened to visit the school last week – it was clear to me that the district values of collaboration, equity, and growth are driving learning for students each and every day at Hill Central. Clearly, the work at this school is a model for the district.”
This comprehensive SDE report card for individual schools and districts used Connecticut’s Next Generation Accountability Model for the first time, developed using feedback gathered over two years from local school officials, state and national experts, and many others. New Haven staff, including, Superintendent Harries and Deputy Superintendent Imma Canelli, were active participants in those discussions, and aspects of the State model reflect the priorities of New Haven’s School Change effort.
While the new model includes significant weight to the Smarter Balanced results released for the first time in the fall of 2015, it is designed to provide a more holistic view of students as it incorporates many indicators beyond test scores. Whereas standardized assessments provide a snapshot in time of student performance, this new model also values academic growth and trajectory of the same students over time and subgroup performance as well.
“In New Haven we’ve been working hard to prepare students for college and careers and in these areas we see the biggest gains and the most success,” Harries said. “New Haven’s highest scores are in the areas of ‘on track to high school graduation’ (90.1%) and ‘post-secondary entrance rate for all students’ (88.4%).”
“This is most gratifying for all of us – administrators and faculty – because we recognize that some type of post-secondary education is virtually essential before joining today’s workforce,” Harries added.
At the other end of the spectrum, Harries said chronic absenteeism in New Haven remains the area of greatest concern because in both categories measured, ‘all students’ (25.6%) and ‘high needs students’ (30.0%), New Haven’s scores are among the very lowest in the state. “We have been saying for some time that if students aren’t in school, we can’t hope to teach them and they can’t hope to learn,” Harries observed.
At the start of this school year, the Superintendent created the Office of Youth, Family, and Community Engagement to focus on issues of engagement, and chronic absenteeism is at the core of the Office’s work. The district has prioritized student attendance tracking and has refocused the work of our dropout prevention specialists. In addition, this fall, the District launched the Attendance Matters campaign to work with schools, community organizations, clergy, and many others to underscore the importance of daily attendance for our students. Our internal monitoring shows improved attendance so far this year, and we will continue those efforts throughout the year.
Harries said today’s results clearly point out another area where NHPS shows mixed results and room for improvement. In terms of Advanced Placement and Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, New Haven has more students with access to these options (72.6%), but only 21.2% of those enrolled are passing the exams. “We know that access is only the first part of the equation – ultimately, performance matters as well,” Harries said.
Harries acknowledged the risk of placing too much faith in this first-year performance indicators. For instance, he noted both New Haven and state wide educators have had questions about the validity of the data for the physical education measure, on which a majority of New Haven schools did not score well. The ability to measure growth was limited this year, particularly on the standardized assessments. Any new scorecard or measurement system takes time to be fully accurate and meaningful. But he complimented the state for broadening the measures, including physical health and education and growth.
“The takeaway from this new, more comprehensive scorecard, beyond specific areas where we’re succeeding and where we must bear down, is validation of efforts in New Haven to support the whole child, in the context of how the student is developing in all areas of his or her life,” Harries concluded. “These performance indicators will help us going forward tailor the New Haven Public Schools experience to the best advantage of each student enrolled.”