School grade list will be out on Monday

HARTFORD — In the careful what you wish for department, the state is preparing to release a list on Monday that reduces student achievement across all grades and core subject areas to a single number. That was the deal it struck with the federal government that for a decade forced some schools to wear the title of “failing,” “in need of improvement,” or my personal favorite, in “safe harbor.” The last meant progress was being shown but not quite enough.

Under the old system, all schools were marching towards 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Every year the finish line moved up a bit, causing more and more schools to not make “adequate yearly progress.”
Forget AYP. Now we have SPI or school performance index. Every school has one. School principals reportedly know what they are. Monday the public finds out.

The new number takes all scores of students taking the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test, adds them together and divides by the number of students. Not for one year. For the last three years in an attempt to account for year to year scoring fluctuations. In coming years, these scores will tell us if schools are doing better, or not. This year’s scores are a baseline.

Last week, the state started handing out its mathematical work piecemeal by sharing which schools were on top, and which were on the bottom based on its still unreleased scale. Paying homage to the “safe harbor” moniker, there was also a category for low performing schools that were catching up. One was Classical Studies Academy in Bridgeport.

It is unclear, however, what the numbers mean in the state’s eyes. The state Department of Education haven’t yet said what an “88” means except to say most students at a school with that index is scoring at the goal range. At 67, most students are at proficiency.

The new system is better, according to state officials, because it won’t just measure students who manage to clear the goal and proficiency hurdles but also will capture progress of other students who are in the less desirable basic or below basic categories, and those in the advanced range.

Linda Lambeck