Welcome to the 2018-19 School Year

Welcome to the 2018-19 School Year
Posted on 08/28/2018

Norwalk Public Schools is…

The most successful city school system in Connecticut.

Norwalk students as a whole exceed state average achievement while high need students have the smallest achievement gap. Students’ needs and interests are met through a wide range of school and program choices that promote diversity and broaden achievement. All students are taught by exemplary educators in nurturing, safe, and attractive schools. Students read on grade level by end of grade 3, leave 8th grade equipped to do rigorous high school work and graduate from high school college and career ready.

This Vision involves the work of everyone in Norwalk – every member of our staff, students, parents and partners. So, we begin every school year by re-focusing on our Vision, the progress we’ve made, and the next steps on the journey to be the most successful city school system in Connecticut.

The seminal achievement of our schools in the past year was the incredible gains documented by the 12 indicators of the Connecticut Next Generation Accountability Plan. Our 56 point gain was the highest growth of any City and second highest of the 167 school districts in our State. Norwalk’s accountability index of 74 is now higher than the State as a whole, closing another important gap for our students.

We have some very promising preliminary results on last April’s Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing in grades 3-8, with Norwalk’s lowest performing schools leading the District with the greatest gains.

In reading/English language arts, the largest gains across all grades occurred at Kendall, Tracey, Brookside and Jefferson.

The largest gains across all grades in math were achieved at Kendall, Roton, West Rocks, Fox Run, Nathan Hale and Jefferson.

In 2017-18, overall the greatest improvement of any school as measured by State testing was made by Kendall Elementary. On average, Kendall logged a gain of 10.4% in Reading and 12.3% in Math. 

At the high school level, SAT scores lagged with a continuing 10 percent achievement gap between the average SAT scores of Norwalk students and their Connecticut peers. This was expected. However, this year marks the unprecedented investment of 20 new high school teaching positions to implement the new High School Program of Study, now organized into pathways to graduation; to eliminate study halls that were instituted in the 1970’s; and to move to a 26 credit graduation requirement beginning with 9th and 10th graders this year. Students who take more classes and higher level classes do better on the SAT, which measures general achievement related to college and career readiness. Given that all students must take the SAT, we can no longer afford to have only some students take a full schedule of rigorous and relevant course work. 

In addition, for the first time beginning this year, all 9th graders are being issued Chromebooks that they will use as a ubiquitous learning tool, both in the classroom and for homework, for the next four years.

Overall, in 2017-18, our high needs students – special education (14%), English Language Learners (15%) and lower income students (51%) -- have continued to grow at a rate higher than their peers. We believe this reflects the success of our staff in providing the Tier II and Tier III interventions they are now receiving.  More students than ever before experienced a learning opportunity this year, as we extended summer learning through grade 5, and added the Springboard Program at Kendall and Jefferson. That summer learning experience will enable students to be more successful in the next school year. However, this also suggests that our next steps for improvement and closing the gaps must be focused on the enhancement and differentiation of “Tier I” instruction, which is the instruction that all students receive.

Within this context, our student data suggests at least three priorities for NPS as we go into the 2018-19 school year:

1.  First and foremost, the student data from the Connecticut Next Generation Accountability Plan signals that science is our lowest area across all grades.Curriculum writing institutes were held this summer to adapt the curriculum to implement the Next Generation Science Standards. Inquiry-based units of instruction will be piloted K-8 this year. We have to use this year, in which the new State science assessment will be piloted for baseline data, as the opportunity to begin to create quality Tier I science instruction across all grades and schools.

2.  We need to expand and invigorate our approach to Tier I reading instruction, particularly as it relates to comprehension in grades 4 through 6 and the reading – writing connection in grades 3 through 8. I am very confident that this can be accomplished at the same level of excellence that has characterized the implementation of CK3LI early literacy instruction by our elementary teachers in grades K-3. Appropriately, our speaker at this year’s Convocation, Dr. Harold Asturias, focused on equity in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, and the connection between language and Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) instruction.

3.  Finally, our redesigned and expanded Gifted and Talented program will provide a greater opportunity to learn for more students and serve as an example of effective differentiation. We look forward to the result of the implementation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SM) at the pilot schools of Tracey Elementary, Cranbury Elementary and Roton Middle School.

While we have a lot yet to do to achieve our Vision, we are blessed by talented, committed teachers at all levels, good school leadership, and active, caring parents and students who rise to new opportunities to learn. At the end of the day, our District, our City, rises or falls on the effectiveness of each of our 19 schools. This summer, an unprecedented 98 positions in Norwalk schools were filled by a group of diverse, top-quality teachers and administrators – 10% of our teaching force.

They include 17 special educators to staff programs that enable students to return from outside placements and attend school in a less restrictive environment; three new teachers of the Gifted and Talented; 12 Teach for America corps members in an alternative route to certification programs; four minority paraeducators who graduated from the RELAY teacher certification program with District support; 20 high school faculty at all subject levels needed to implement the new, rigorous graduation requirements; 6 new elementary specialist teachers for those schools that will be extending their day by 30 minutes; and three new music teachers for schools that will be offering band instrument lessons for the first time in grades 4 and 5. Our new educators are in many cases, not new. They represent the best practice and teaching expertise of nine states and 12 other Connecticut school districts.

With effective teachers at all levels and lots of success from the prior year to build upon, we look forward to 2018-19 school year. I want to thank our Board of Education and City for giving us the necessary tools and support to enable Norwalk’s schools to grow and thrive. I want to thank all of you – staff, parents, and partners - for the capacity and commitment to raise the bar and close the gaps for all of Norwalk’s students. 

Let’s make the 2018-19 school year the best yet for Norwalk’s students.

Steven J. Adamowski, PhD.
Superintendent of Schools