The Windsor Public Schools system has had a couple of rocky years. Windsor's designation as one of the state's lowest performing districts, the reorganization of elementary schools, the implementation of full-day kindergarten and three (including an interim) superintendents over the past 24 months have contributed to a tumultuous period during which parents, students, faculty, residents and administrators work toward a point when things begin to move in the right direction.
Despite the many changes that have occurred, the school system, according to the board of education, is still faced with significant challenges — chief among those is "a large and persistent achievement gap."
An effort to close the gap — locally defined as the separation of academic performance between students of color and white students — led the board of education to take its most drastic change yet: .
The board of education recently released a statement addressing the controversial decision, laying bare the state of the local education system and attempting to answer questions that have come up regarding the planned shift toward a multicultural overhaul of educating the town's youth.
One of the issues that led the district to consider the implementation of such a program, a program called an equity and excellence review that will be conducted by Loyola University — Chicago, is Windsor's unique makeup.
While experts have found achievement gaps to be the byproduct of local crime, poverty, language and cultural differences, a lack of quality schools and low expectations placed upon black and poor students, Windsor simply doesn't fit the profile, the board's recent statement details.
Windsor, according to the school board says, is in the top half of Connecticut towns in terms of their ability to financially support a successful school system; at nearly $15,000, the town's spending per pupil exceeds state averages; and the town has its lowest rate of serious crime in 35 years.
Because Windsor is an outlier among district's with significant achievement gaps, the district finds it necessary to go beyond traditional means of addressing academic performance by engaging in the equity and excellence review.
What the equity and excellence review will do, according to the local school board, is go "beyond the traditional assessment data such as the CAPT results" and "answer why and how can we refine our efforts and maximize our resources and assets... to close the gap."
Prior to the board's vote of approval in September, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Villar told board members that some Windsor students will continue to struggle to perform at or above grade level despite current efforts to address their needs.
Loyola's study, which is to be conducted by Dr. Marlon James, will allow administrators and teachers to learn why students continue to struggle and how their needs can be addressed.
The review is scheduled to be conducted over the next three years, with each year costing the district roughly $100,000.