As part of New Haven Public Schools’ ongoing School Change Initiative, the school district unveiled the latest iteration of school rankings at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
Schools in New Haven are ranked in one of three tiers based on academic achievement, test score improvements and learning climate. Six schools in the district improved their ranking, and five schools were ranked lower than before. Although the results were mixed, school officials contend that the movement reflects the slow but rising standards of the district and the complexity of school change.
“The multiple variables that we track and the full picture of school performance remind us of the need to be persistent in our school reform efforts, ensuring that every school continues to improve,” Assistant Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries said.
Brennan-Rogers School, an elementary school that followed the federal “turnaround” model, whereby schools can implement certain reform measures in exchange for federal funding, improved from a tier 3 school to a tier 2 school. Beecher School, East Rock Magnet, Mauro-Sheridan, ESUUMS and Hill Regional Career High School also improved in the tiering system while Davis Street School, King-Robinson, Fair Haven, the Sound School and Lincoln-Bassett slipped to lower tiers.
School administrators said the tiering system differs for elementary schools and high schools. Elementary and middle schools are judged based on three-year student growth, achievement on Connecticut’s state tests and a survey measuring the quality of the school learning environment. High schools are ranked based on the high school graduation trajectory, the learning environment survey and a college persistence rate, which gauges the percentage of a school’s students that stay enrolled in colleges. The tiering system helps to decide which schools may become turnaround schools and also allows schools in higher tiers more flexibility to try to improve student performance, Abbe Smith, New Haven Public Schools spokeswoman, said.
The Sound School was the only high school that moved back a tier, falling from tier 1 to tier 2. The Sound School presents an interesting case because while the school has extremely high achievement, the college persistence rate is low. The college persistence rate was a larger part of the calculation than when schools were ranked before, said Harries. This sparked a conversation among board members about the best way to measure achievement.
Board of Education member Alex Johnston said that there is a low percentage of students staying in college when compared to the larger number of students labeled as being on an academic trajectory to pursue higher education. Given this gap of students graduating with college-ready credentials but not completing a college education, Johnston added that the board should keep looking for measurements of the “ultimate success,” which should reach beyond high school. He added that it is important to figure out how to prepare students to stay in college while they are still in high school.
Another concern came from Board of Education member Michael Nast, who wanted to ensure that tier 3 schools, and those that slipped in the tiering system, are not neglected or stigmatized for their poor achievement. Harries assured the board that he meets with schools individually, and most schools are ready to work toward improvement.
New Haven Public Schools posted a 70.5 percent graduation rate in 2012.