West Haven deemed ‘standout district’ for achievement gap progress
West Haven deemed ‘standout district’ for achievement gap progress
Posted on 11/24/2015
This is the image for the news article titled West Haven deemed ‘standout district’ for achievement gap progress

WEST HAVEN, Nov. 23, 2015 — The West Haven Public School District is making progress in closing the achievement gap among groups of students and is a “standout district” in that area, according to a local education advocacy group.

ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, announced the news this fall in a report on standardized state test results from the 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and 11. West Haven was recognized for narrowing achievement gaps affecting black and Hispanic/Latino students in both English language arts and math.

Achievement gaps are defined as differences in academic performance when results are examined by way of student subgroups, such as race, socioeconomic status and gender.  The ultimate goal for the district is to close the achievement gap and see all student subgroups meeting or exceeding goals.

“Closing the achievement gap has been a high priority for our district for years, and so we’re very pleased to be seeing and to be acknowledged for these advancements we’ve worked so hard to make,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Anne Druzolowski. “Targeted interventions during the school day, family math and literacy events at night, better communication with non-English-speaking families, and numerous resources and support services in our schools are making a difference every day, and we’ve just got to keep building on that momentum.”

West Haven was included in lists of standout districts that all serve higher percentages of black and Latino/Hispanic students and have more students in those subgroups scoring at the two highest test result levels of “meeting” or “exceeding” goal.

Regarding test results for black students in English language arts, 31.1 percent are meeting or exceeding goal, as compared to 30.3 percent statewide. In math, 15.6 percent of West Haven black students are meeting or exceeding goal, as opposed to 13.9 percent statewide.

As for Hispanic/Latino students in West Haven, 36.5 percent are meeting or exceeding goal in English language arts, while the state number is 32.8 percent. In math, that number in West Haven is 17.9 percent, compared to 17.3 percent at the state level.

Statewide results say 55.4 percent of all students tested in grades 3-8 and 11 met or exceeded goal in English language arts, and that 39.1 met or exceeded goal in math.

The district’s multi-pronged approach to closing the achievement gap has been benefitting all students across the city and has redefined roles of schools in the community.

Family nights and “homework diner” events mean youngsters, Mom, Dad, siblings and teachers are coming together after school to share dinner, play educational games and discuss which everyday tasks at home can reinforce math and reading skills. Teachers are incorporating certain academic websites in the classroom that students can continue using when at home.

Technology—through interactive white boards, beefed-up computer labs, mobile laptop carts, specialized computer software and apps— is playing an ever-growing role in city schools so that students who may not have a computer or smart phone at home are still learning 21st century skills required by academia and employers.

Real-world problem-solving scenarios are focal points in classrooms to demonstrate how the day’s lesson is relevant to student lives. And bilingual staff members are working more than ever with families for whom English is a second language to ensure they’re aware of resources available to them, to help them build a relationship with their school, and to encourage their involvement in their children’s education.

“These measures have made an impact on all students in our schools, but of course it’s very meaningful to know they’re breaking down the achievement gap and helping students meet their potential and understand the limitless possibilities for their future,” Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro said.

Druzolowski and Savin Rock Community School Principal Taryn Driend also point to the district’s implementation of all-day kindergarten as a strategy expected to become a leading factor in the narrowing of West Haven’s achievement gap. Savin Rock was the first elementary building in the school system to receive the full-day K schedule last year and has been serving as an important benchmark in this year’s district-wide roll-out of the initiative.

Though the importance of pre-kindergarten has only grown over time, the school district continues seeing large numbers of students who have never attended the programs, or who come from other countries that don’t emphasize or grant easy access to early childhood education. Still other youngsters don’t have access to books, technology or other supplies that would help prepare them for elementary school, and some are also English Language Learners.

“With some of our students, we do have to play catch-up when they come to us for kindergarten. When we still had the half-day schedule, it was challenging to do that while also introducing them to the academic and social skills and lessons normally taught in kindergarten,” Driend said. “Full-day kindergarten has made a dramatic difference in the lives of all of our students. There’s now more time to dive deeper into each instructional activity, and we have additional time for art and music, gym and recess. From students’ confidence in themselves and their abilities, to their social development, we’re seeing gains all around from all-day kindergarten. And those advancements will carry over into first grade and beyond.”