WEST HAVEN, Aug. 30, 2016 —Amid the excitement of the new school year, the West Haven Public School District has a special reason to celebrate. Recently released state test scores show significant improvement across all grades tested last spring in both English language arts and mathematics.
Of the six grades tested on the Smarter Balanced exams—grades three through eight—every single one showed progress in mathematics when compared to results of the year before. Meanwhile, five of them showed growth in the area of ELA, while one maintained the same level as the year before. Most grades significantly outpaced state growth in both subject areas. The results will be presented at a Board of Education meeting Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
“I firmly believe this progress is sustainable,” Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro said. “I think it’s very important we celebrate those achievements. One area we are really impressed with is third grade. That’s evidence of success with our early childhood curriculum changes over the past few years and the support we’ve been providing our teachers through our subject area coordinators.”
The State Department of Education highlighted West Haven’s progress among the state’s 30 Alliance School Districts, noting West Haven exhibited the highest growth of all Alliance School Districts in mathematics by advancing over the previous year’s scores by 10.3 percentage points. It was also one of six Alliance School Districts that improved in ELA by 5 percentage points or higher—West Haven progressed by 5.1 percentage points.
"The results from the 2015-16 Smarter Balanced test demonstrate that Connecticut is moving in the right direction. West Haven is among districts in the state that showed exceptional gains in reading and math, a true testament to the commitment of educators, families and the community working together to deliver on our promise of a great education for all students," said State Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell.
As another state official noted, West Haven also ranked in the top 10 percent in the entire state when it came to amount of growth shown over the previous year’s scores.
In the area of ELA, Alma E. Pagels Elementary School showed the most growth of district schools at 13.4 percent, with Savin Rock Community School coming in at a close second at 11.7 percent. Regarding mathematics, gains were even higher: Washington Elementary School scores were 24.4 percent higher than the previous year, while Pagels’ were up by 21.6 percent.
Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School, named a “School of Distinction” by the state for its 2014-2015 test scores, saw additional success last year. It had the highest percentage in the district of students scoring as “proficient” or “advanced” in both ELA and mathematics, at 75.5 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
Noteworthy improvement was also seen among students whose first language is not English.
The district is seeing the gap between performance in ELA and mathematics shrinking, Assistant Superintendent Anne Druzlowski said. This is critical because it means schools are providing students with a balanced amount of support in both academic areas, she explained.
“Our district has done what it needed to support youngsters. Teachers’ efforts in how they teach reading and math have been phenomenal. We plan on staying the course because what we’re doing is working,” Druzolowski added. “Teachers and school and district leaders have truly teamed up and pulled together to make this happen.”
District administrators attribute the schools’ success to a multitude of factors. Over the past several years, the district went through a curriculum overhaul; expanded support services in everything from the English Language Learner department, to core subjects and special education; implemented math and literacy family nights to better engage parents in their children’s education; facilitated more purposeful and targeted professional development for teachers; transitioned to an all-day kindergarten schedule; and placed more emphasis on early childhood education.
Mayor Edward M. O’Brien said he was also pleased to hear of the district’s progress and individual school accomplishments.
“I am excited and proud to announce that our students have shown a significant increase in their test scores for English language arts and mathematics,” O’Brien said. “The overwhelmingly positive results of this state standardized test reflect the wholehearted devotion of our teachers and school and district leaders to meeting all of our students’ needs in academics and social and emotional areas.”
Schools and grade levels will now use the scores to guide their goals and plans for this year, while taking a close look at what strategies are working and what areas need adjustments and additional resources, said District Mathematics Coordinator Nicole Danishevsky, who also oversees standardized testing in West Haven schools and professional development for teachers.
“We are anticipating the growth trend to continue, especially with our all-day kindergarten and other interventions we’ve added over the past few years,” Danishevsky said. “We have our sights set on leading other area districts in our performance results over the next few years.”