It came as somewhat of a shock to many when Windsor was identified as a partner district by the Connecticut Department of Education in the November 2010. What followed was an all-hands-on-deck effort on behalf of district administrators and faculty to build upon existing efforts to improve academic performance and utilize resources provided by the state to get the district on track to meeting, and surpassing, state and federal performance standards.
At the October 5 meeting of the Connecticut Department of Education, Windsor, having developed a district improvement plan as mandated by the state under federal No Child Left Behind legislation, presented the ways in which it intends on raising performance in Windsor's public schools to meet or surpass Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) — the figure by which district performance is measured, as determined by scores received on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.
In 2011-12, AYP standards call for 89 percent and 91 percent of students to perform at or above levels of proficiency in reading and math respectively on the CMT. By 2012, AYP standards will call for 100 percent of students to perform at or above levels of proficiency.
Windsor Public Schools, according to Assistant Superintendent Robin Sorensen, are going beyond what the state and federal education officials are calling for. Instead of reaching for proficiency, Windsor's schools are looking to reach the highest level of academic performance on standardized tests: "goal."
The district's aggressive approach to performance improvement includes having 100 percent of third-grade students performing at or above goal standards by 2014.
At the October 5 meeting, the district's plan was vetted and approved by the State Board of Education, Sorensen said. But it's still a long road to comprehensive improvement in town.
To ensure improvement, the district has identified three areas that serve as the foundation of academic performance, and must be addressed:
- The connection between curriculum, instruction and assessment
- Extensive data collection and reporting
- School culture
All three areas are driven by No Child Left Behind legislation, Sorensen said.
Curriculum, instruction and assessment, according to Sorensen, are at the core of academic performance. Analyzing and improving what is taught and how it is taught is certainly important, but, Sorensen said, it's only a piece of what needs to be done.
Data collection is the tool that allows the district to understand which practices are working, which practices need modification and how the district's improvement plan, if at all, must be altered.
Data collection is conducted by several data teams, which are mandated by the state.
Data teams have been formed at the instructional level (among teachers in the same discipline), the school level and the district level.
Instructional data teams share best practices and analyze performance in individual classrooms.
School or building data teams enforce, regulate and adjust building improvement plans.
School data teams analyzes whether or not the school it improvement plan to see if they're on tack.
The school data team then reports to the district data team, which is made up of 25 people, including teachers, administrators and community representatives.
Efforts to improve each school's culture may be some of the district's most abstract, yet important work.
Based on objectives determined by the board of education, this element of the improvement plan includes, conducting student and parent surveys on aspirations and attitudes toward school, as well as the identification of tools to measure parent satisfaction with the school, and fostering increased parent inolvement.
In addition, the district has implemented programs to continue to address student engagement, student attention, disciplinary incidents and trying to reduce dischiplary incidents.