The improvement at schools such as Bristol Central High School was particularly
significant because it came in a year when officials raised the benchmark for
meeting the law's requirements.
"Getting off the list is a lot
more difficult than getting on the list," said Dennis Siegmann,
principal at Bristol Central, where officials eliminated low-level
classes, revamped the curriculum to align with state standards
and provided extra help for struggling students.
After being on the warning list in
2003 and 2004, Bristol Central made sufficient progress this year,
as did more than 70 percent of the state's 181 public high schools.
But 51 schools - about 28 percent
- failed to have enough students reach the proficiency level on
the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, an annual test of high
school sophomores. Last year, 42 high schools were cited.
No Child Left Behind, the centerpiece
of President Bush's school reform agenda, calls for a shake-up
of schools that don't make adequate progress. A school or a district
can be cited if even one group of students - such as members of
a minority group, special education students or non-English-speaking
children - fails to meet standards.
Tuesday's report by the state Department
of Education also said:
Although some of the 51 high schools
were listed because specific groups, such as special education
students, failed to meet standards, 32 schools were cited because
too many students overall fell short on reading, mathematics or
Six high schools were listed as needing
improvement for the third consecutive year - a designation that
requires strong steps such as a revamping curriculums or replacing
teachers or administrators at schools that receive federal Title
I money. The six schools are Bassick and Harding in Bridgeport,
Weaver and Prince Technical in Hartford, Goodwin Technical in New
Britain and Wright Technical in Stamford. Bassick and Harding do
not receive Title I funds.
Twenty-six schools, cited as needing
improvement for the second consecutive year, will be required to
offer free tutoring services to students.
State education officials also identified
30 of the state's 171 school districts as failing to make adequate
progress under No Child Left Behind. That was an improvement over
last year, when 43 school systems were cited. The list consists
chiefly of the state's urban districts, which have struggled for
years with high poverty rates and low overall test scores. A district
can be cited when its high schools, along with elementary or middle
schools, fail to make adequate progress.
Officials predict that the warning
list will grow dramatically over the next several years as standards
for No Child Left Behind grow tougher. By 2014, the law will require
100 percent of students to score at proficient levels in reading
and math on state tests. This year, the standard was set at about
"If the rules don't change ...
then I expect there will be more schools on the list," said
state Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg, who contends that
the law's requirements - especially regarding special education
students and children who speak little or no English - are unfair.
"In the end, the amount of energy
and time we're spending to pump out these lists really does concern
me," she said.
Last month, Connecticut became the
first state to file a lawsuit challenging the law, contending that
it will cost state and local taxpayers hundreds of millions of
The U.S. Department of Education disputes
that claim and says the law has put pressure on schools to raise
At Bristol Central, test scores rose
after officials dropped the low-track classes and challenged students
and teachers to focus on academic skills, said Siegmann, the principal.
"Athletically, we've won state
championships, league championships," said Siegmann, a former
wrestling coach. "Why can't we do it academically?"
He said some of the students who would
have been assigned to low-track classes "have 3.0 [grade point]
averages and are certainly going to go on to college."
Even among schools that remained on
the warning list, some showed marked improvement on the Connecticut
Academic Performance Test.
"We went up in everything," said
Hector Sanchez, principal at Bridgeport's Harding High, where 45
percent of 10th-graders were judged proficient in math, for example
- up from 30 percent a year ago.
"It still doesn't cut the mustard,
but the [upward] trend is there," he said.
The school has hired dozens of new
teachers and administrators, started Saturday classes to help students
brush up for the state exam and enforced a strong code of discipline
and respect, he said.
"We should be producing a better
product and should be held accountable," Sanchez said. But,
he added, "The social ills we deal with are not created in
school. They are city issues. ... I have no control over people
not having jobs, or parents having to work three or four jobs.
The gangs I can take care of in the [school] building, but I can't
take care of what happens over the weekend."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at