School Scores Weak

I received my daughter’s Connecticut Mastery Test scores a week or so ago and I was appalled by what I read.  She is in the third grade at Seth Haley.  The school’s average results for math, reading, or writing for the third grade do not meet the goals set forth by the state! The West Haven district’s average barely makes the goal in math and writing, but does not do so in reading.

Before sitting down to write an angry rant, I thought I should look at the CMT web site (http://solutions1.emetric.net/cmtpublic/Index.aspx) and the presentation given to the Board of Education members (http://www.whschools.org/page.cfm?p=5383) to see what is going on across the board for grades 3 through 8. I urge you to look at both these sites. Unfortunately, unless you are a statistician, it is not easy reading.

Overall, the schools in West Haven did worse this year than last year! Reviewing the data for grades 3 through 8, the Average Scale Scores for math, reading, and writing have gone down in 12 out of 18 categories. If the majority (65%) of our tax dollars is going toward education, why are our scores not better than this? What is going on?

School officials blame the poor, minority students that do not speak English for dragging down the averages. Of course, they don’t use those exact words. They say these are the “challenges” the school district faces. How about thinking of it as an “opportunity” to teach? If the model isn’t working – and the research shows it isn’t – it is time to look at new ways to teach these students.

I have been told that School Superintendent Neal Cavallaro’s contract has expired and that he has not had a performance review by the Board of Education in two years. He makes $168,000 a year. Why is there no accountability for poor performance?

Our children deserve better. Parents should attend BOE meetings and ask why West Haven schools have failed to make adequate yearly progress. The next BOE meeting is Monday, October 3, at City Hall, Second Floor, Harriet North Room. The public speaking portion begins at 7pm.

I will be attending because I have more questions than I have answers. I hope you will attend, too.

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9 Responses to School Scores Weak

  1. SheilaMc7 says:

    So. One thing to keep in mind, if I may suggest: the CMT measures a STUDENT’S achievement, NOT a TEACHER’s or a SCHOOL’s or a DISTRICT’s achievement. We use the CMT to judge those things, it seems, but that is NOT what the test themselves are designed to measure. Put another way, I am cautioning: would you make the same statements about poor performance if you were directing them at the kids? They are theoneswho failed to achieve, who scored badly on these tests. With that in mind, I can see why the administration and board is focused on understanding the challenges — it is a brave individual who would actually say: should we expect the English Language Learner (ELL) student to score the same — in other words, as high — as the student who has only ever spoken English? Honestly, does that kid’s parents feel disappointed in their child’s learning? Or do they think: well, he’s doing pretty well considering he started out not even knowing this language? So why would the rest of us judge this kid, his teacher, his school, and his school district’s board of ed as “not making adequate yearly progress”? First ask: were our expectations reasonable to begin with? Did we adequately fund the ELL program? Did we measure this kid against himself, or against the kid who sat in his seat in whatever grade last year? Is any of that fair? Well, that’s just where I begin my questions…. There’s so much more, after that…

    • Thank you for your comment Sheila. I believe that a student’s achievement should be directly tied to their school experience. It seems to me that the CMT scores illustrate that there are problems. In my post I didn’t get into West Haven’s scores versus other school districts’ scores. If you look at that data, West Haven does not fair well. Other school districts in our District Reference Group – Ansonia, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, Meriden, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford – often outperformed West Haven. With the exception of East Haven and New Haven, our surrounding towns – Milford, Orange, Branford – blow us out of the water. Why is that? Like you, I have a lot of questions, too.

  2. Margi Maher says:

    Sheila, thank you.
    How could anyone blame our superintendent? Neil and Dr. D have been working constantly to improve our curriculum! They continue to offer teachers more training in order to help our students. Why would he want anything but the best for our kids???? What would be in it for him? More grief? WH teachers have been cited & praised in Larry Ainsworth’s newest book on Curriculum Standards.
    Sadly all people see are the bare results — just numbers. They show the scores of all of the kids who took the test whether they have been in our system since kindergarten or just arrived two days before the test. They are all lumped together. We have a very transient population, unlike Milford, Orange and Branford. There is NOTHING anyone can do about it. Am I making excuses? Absolutely not. It’s just the way things are. The professionals in our system are doing everything they possibly can to give our kids the tools they need to help them succeed.
    I am sick to death of the finger pointing. The professionals in West Haven work very very hard and do their very best to make a difference in the lives of our children.
    If I sound as if I am taking this personally… you bet I am. I have been a very PROUD teacher in WH for 23 years. I work side by side with the most intelligent dedicated people I have ever known. I am a graduate of WHHS. My husband, Sean Maher, has served on the B of E for the past 4 years and has worked tirelessly for our children. Even though he is not running this time, he will continue to work for our kids, to make their lives better because that is the kind of man he is. Thanks for listening.

    • Thank you for your comment Margi. I agree that most teachers in West Haven are trying their best. I certainly applaud my daughter’s teachers. However, the test scores show that there is plenty of room for improvement district-wide. The buck stops with Mr. Cavallaro. He is the person in charge of education in our city. I’m sure he does want the best for the children in West Haven. But that does not seem to be happening according to the CMT scores. There are pros and cons for No Child Left Behind and the CMTs. I believe that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or disability, should be expected to meet common standards and the CMT scores do not show that is happening.

      • Margi Maher says:

        Ok so you get rid of Neil and the Board…. then what? It will not change home lives, it will not change the transient society. Neil cares. I know he does. I’ve worked for 5 or 6 Supers – one of whom never knew a teacher’s name –
        We are improving. Every single day. We are all working together, sharing our knowledge and our ideas we are growing as individuals and as a cohesive unit. Neil is the first Superintendent who has asked us to work together to be the best we could be and made the time for us so that we could collaborate. I used to guard my lesson plans — most of us did. We talked about sharing but we rarely did. Now we have organized time every week to work within our buildings and organized time outside of the buildings. These things take time. You can change things over night but it takes time to see the results. Do you that NCLB says that ALL children must be proficient in ALL areas by 2014??? Do you know how ridiculous that is? My brother in law is a doctor and we got into an argument over NCLB. Finally I said “Good. Cure 100% of your patients by 2014!” He said “That’s absurd!” I agreed. I can’t even imagine how our children feel. First they are stressed out because they have to take the tests. Then they hear the scores weren’t good enough. Then they hear their teachers aren’t good enough. Their schools aren’t good enough. When does it end? I just wish people would talk about how to make things better and not place blame.

      • What I am trying to do is create some awareness for a situation that needs to be addressed. I did not say to get rid of anyone. But we can’t just stick our heads in the sand and say oh well, it is what it is. Other towns have our same issues and did better then our city on the CMTs. Can we learn something from what they are doing? As a concerned parent and a taxpayer, I think I am entitled to some answers.

  3. Margi Maher says:

    Hi Westhavenword ( I don’t know who you are!) Please know that I heartily believe that everyone should be aware of everything that affects their children. I also believe that everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. It just seems as though too many people in this wonderful town are angry — all of the time (in print anyway!) You did not say to get rid of everyone … I have been reading comments like that everywhere and the first blog set me off. Things only get worse in election years.
    I only hope that people who come to the next board meeting don’t just yell at the board. That serves no purpose. SInce I don’t know who I am talking to, I don’t know if you have attended B of E meetings recently. People get up and yell at the board “YOU PEOPLE!!!!! blah blah blah” That just doesn’t help. People hear part of a rumor and attack the board (one recent ex:) for canceling the music program completely at Haley!! Not true!!! But some folks are blinded by anger so quickly that they attack without having the facts.
    I know parents are frustrated — they, of course, only want the very best for their children. And they should! But teachers and board members and supers and asst supers do too. That’s why we all got into this business in the first place.
    I just wish people would calm down and discuss. Not attack. Not blame. Just talk and LISTEN. We will all win if that happens.
    Peace.

  4. Paul S says:

    Does WH even have ESL for students that have difficulty speaking english? Ct should follow in NY’s footsteps and pay teachers by perfomance reveiws, along with administrators as well.
    I’m sure the test results would improve drastically. Hopefuul not by realligning the numbers,,but through their responsibility to teach these young children. I agree with Margi, That they do try their best, but right now their best is not getting the job done. Perhaps, B of E and Teachers union along with parents should set up some kind of volunteer learning center in each school, to help tutor these kids to a better education.

  5. SheilaMc7 says:

    So I think it’s a very good idea to increase knowledge out there in the parent community. What I wonder is this: perhaps the other schools that score higher are very simply dealing with less challenging students. Imagine that! What if ALL the test scores really tell us is how we rank, from one city and school to another, on a scale not of “quality of teachers” or even “quality of teaching” but instead, pure and simply, on a scale of household poverty. What if students, teachers, and administrators are all doing their very best, but poverty in the student’s home is THE REAL factor at work here to limit each child’s chances in school. What if? Then what? I wish I knew the answer!

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