New Accountability System Will Rank Every Public School
By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
November 30, 2012
Is your child's school among the best or worst in the state?
Parents will be able to see for themselves next week when the Department of Education publishes a statewide ranking of every public school in Connecticut, from the 97 best to the 28 most in need of improvement.
On Friday, in a preview of more to come, state education officials released a partial list showing schools in the highest and lowest of five ranking categories. They said they expect to launch a complete set of some 1,200 school-by-school scores sometime next week, which can be found on this website.
"Every school has got a school performance index," Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told reporters in a conference call Friday afternoon.
The rankings are determined by how well students performed on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and science. They replace the Bush-era accountability system Connecticut used under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The new rating system still uses student performance on standardized tests as its benchmark for rating each school, but instead of simply requiring students to reach proficiency in each discipline, the ratings will give credit for continued growth of student performance beyond the proficiency level.
Last school year almost half of the schools in Connecticut failed to reach the federal benchmarks.
This new accountability system, first approved in the state last spring by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, places each public school in one of the five categories. From highest to lowest, they are "excelling," "progressing," "transitioning," "review/focus" and "turnaround."
Some 1,200 public schools around the state will be rated, as will Connecticut magnet and charter schools.
Of the 264 schools identified Friday in the preview, there are 97 classified as schools of "distinction". This is a separate label from the five-tier rating system and is dedicated for schools that have either the highest-achieving subgroups, have the best overall student performance or have made the most progress from one year to the next.
The 28 lowest-ranked or "turnaround" schools will be guaranteed state or district intervention and will be required to have plans to improve student performance. Almost all those schools listed for 2012-13 are located in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain and New Haven -- cities with the largest concentrations of poor and minority families.
The department also released the names of 139 schools labeled as "focus" or "review" schools. These rankings are given because of low performance among certain student populations such as special education, students from low-income families, and black or Hispanic students.
Patrick Riccards, the leader of a New Haven-based education advocacy group, said he was troubled by how many schools are struggling.
"We should all be alarmed that so many of Connecticut's public schools must be put on a watch list due to poor performance and an inability to provide all of their students with a high-quality public education," he said in a statement, noting the schools serve at least 48,500 students.
Pryor told reporters that the new accountability rankings are critical to enable parents and his department to be properly informed. However, they are not meant to be punitive, he said.
"The intent is to recognize them and celebrate them," he said of the high-achieving and improving schools. For the other schools, the state will help with planning and implementing improvement plans. "We think this is important."