Hart, Springdale earn big honor

If you grabbed a copy of the Advocate this morning, you’ll see a story about the state’s new formula for rating schools, which reveals rapid gains in student achievement at Hart and Springdale elementary schools.

Today’s story, which appeared on the front page of the paper, spends more time focusing on Hart’s achievement than Springdale’s.

In spring 2009, a little more than one in eight third-grade students at Hart tested in the “below basic” level on the CMT. But after years of steady improvement, the share of Hart third-graders falling into the bottom quintile fell to about one in 40 in this year’s round of tests, a factor that has helped the magnet school on Adams Avenue in Stamford increase its index so quickly.

“It was always a challenge for us under No Child Left Behind because progress monitoring doesn’t just mean who is proficient and who is not. It should mean, `When a child steps through the doors at Hart School, how much does that child progress in that year once he enters here?’ And if we look at progress in those terms, then we can make tremendous strides,” Darling said. “Starting at below basic and moving to basic — that’s a lot of hard work to move that child to that category.”

To describe just how much work it takes to increase an index score, Stamford Public Schools Director of Research Judith Singer offered up one equation: 10 percent of students tested would have to raise their scores by one performance level in order to add 1 point to the index scores, Singer said Monday.

Why focus more on Hart than Springdale? Well,  I thought I would share the reasoning here.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Springdale has been honored for quick and consistent improvement in student achievement. At the end of November, the school won the grand prize in the sixth annual Fairfield County Academic Gain Award, winning $500 checks for every full-time employee at the school. At that time, the Advocate reported on some of the significant gains shown at the school:

The percentage of Springdale students who met state goals on standardized tests in 2012 was significantly higher than in previous years, according to state data. For example, 91.7 percent of third-grade students reached proficiency in math in 2012, up from 80 percent the year before. At the same time, the percentage of third graders reaching proficiency in reading increased from 58.8 percent to 77.8 percent, while the percentage reaching the target in writing climbed from 65.2 percent to 81.3 percent. But it’s not just the scores that led to the school’s recognition.

It was those same data point that were used for the School of Distinction designation; so rather than repeat facts that have already been plastered on the paper’s front page in recent weeks, I decided to highlight Hart, while also mentioning Springdale in a more secondary role.

But — if you want to know more about Springdale’s path to excellence, don’t worry. I’m spending a school day there next week to help wrap my mind around what exactly the educators are doing over there to help children advance so steadily. So I guess when it comes down to it, the story of Springdale being honored as a School of Distinction by the state is a “To Be Continued…”

Maggie Gordon