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NCLB Outrages

Scores Show Low-Performing Schools Improve

In a curious twist, several of Hartford's top performing elementary schools - including the federally recognized Simpson-Waverly - dropped dramatically in their Connecticut Mastery Test results in 2004, while some of the lowest-performing schools in the city showed impressive improvement.

Overall, in fourth-grade reading, the percentage of Hartford students reaching the state goal dipped from 20 percent to 15 percent. The most troublesome figure, though, is the percentage of students reading at the lowest level, called "below basic," meaning they aren't reading anywhere near grade level.

Throughout the district, 56 percent of fourth-graders scored below basic. At Barnard-Brown Elementary School, 78 percent of the students are reading below the basic level and so are 73 percent of Milner Elementary School's children. In all, 10 of 28 schools have at least 60 percent of their fourth-graders scoring at this level. The figures include students learning English as a second language and special education students.

Silvia Winn, principal of Barnard-Brown since August, said her results are a reflection in part of the school's transitory population and a high percentage of students who speak English as a second language. Last year, she said, more than 100 new students transferred into the school and just eight of them were reading on grade level. Next year, Winn said, test results should improve, because the school received a substantial grant this year to pay for intensive literacy instruction training for teachers.

"Reading needs to be the focus for Hartford," Winn said. "Reading has an effect on math and writing. It's very sad. Our students can do better. Our students need to do better...We have to instill in them a love of reading."

Since the tests are administered in the first weeks of school, results reflect last year's teaching and learning rather than current instruction. That will change next year when the test is administered in the spring for the first time.

The good news is the improvement that historically low-achieving schools made this year. Some, such as McDonough Elementary, more than doubled the percentage of fourth-graders reading at the state goal, with 10 percent hitting the mark last year and 23 percent reaching it this year.

Continuing its upward trend, Dwight Elementary School placed first in the district among fourth-graders in reading, writing and math with the highest percentage of students reaching the state goal in all subjects.

Just four years ago, the school was second from the bottom in the city, with 11 percent of the students reaching the goal in reading. This year, 39 percent reached that goal, representing a drop from the 45 percent who reached the goal last year.

— Rachel Gottlieb
Hartford Courant


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