HARTFORD - For the second year in a row, city school officials are celebrating student gains on state standardized tests.
Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Monday that he was encouraged by the results, pointing out that some of the sharpest gains came from traditionally lower-performing schools, including Annie Fisher, Clark, M.L. King, Wish and Simpson-Waverly elementary schools and Quirk Middle School.
Adamowski — who discussed the city's test scores in advance of the statewide release of the scores planned for Wednesday — also said that reading scores increased at every grade level and that Dwight Elementary School became the city's first non-magnet neighborhood school to advance to the "goal" range. It also had the highest reading scores in the district.
Adamowski said that districtwide Connecticut Mastery Test scores improved by 2.7 percent, which outpaced the state average of 0.6 percent.
Regardless of the significant gains on the CMT in the district in recent years, the city's scores still lag far behind state averages for the percentage of students at or above state goals. City students are making more progress toward reaching "proficiency," which is required for high school graduation.
City students' achievement had improved on the CMT in every grade level for almost every subject in 2007-08, according to test scores provided by the state Department of Education. The exceptions were fifth- and seventh-grade writing, where achievement declined.
Overall, the district was the fastest-improving in the state, with a jump of 2.3 percent. But even though Hartford students are improving faster than state averages, only 33.5 percent of the city's third-graders reached proficient levels in reading in 2007-08; 68.4 percent throughout the state reached that level.
The local increases in students performing at or above proficiency on the CMT included 4.2 percent in third-grade reading, 3.9 percent in fourth-grade math, 7.1 percent in fifth-grade writing and 7.5 percent in seventh-grade math.
The only setbacks came in sixth-grade CMT writing scores, which dipped after significant gains last year, and 10th-grade Connecticut Academic Performance Test scores in science and writing.
The increases will help the district achieve its goal of reaching the state average within the next eight years, Adamowski said, but he added that there is more work to be done.
"Despite two years of improvement ... we have miles to go," he said.
Adamowski said the continuing job of reforming Hartford's schools will become even more difficult next year as the district faces an expected $12 million deficit. This year, 250 district employees, including 99 classroom teachers, were let go to address a similar deficit.
Adamowski and the district will now have the critical support of Achieve Hartford!, a local education fund recently launched to focus on sustained school reform in the city and helping more children achieve at higher levels.
Executive Director James Starr said that his organization will monitor and assess city schools, provide an independent voice for the community and be a "critical friend of the district."
On the subject of the test scores released Monday, Starr said that two years of increases might show an emerging trend and that the organization is encouraged by the reading scores, but added that more research is necessary to understand the reasons behind the 10th-grade declines.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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