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State Resets Assessment Status of Three East Haven Schools

Assistant School Superintendent Erica Forti predicts schools would have achieved status upgrade on their own.

Three East Haven schools got a reprieve from the state earlier this month when their No Child Left Behind status was officially "reset."

Assistant School Superintendent Erica Forti said the Dorothy C. Moore Elementary School, the Momauguin Elementary School and the Joseph Melillo Middle School will lose their "safe harbor" status.

Instead, the three schools’ status will be effectively designated as AYP, which stands for "adequate yearly progress," meaning they meet the standards required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"Safe harbor" means that the school or a cohort group of students at the school did not meet the required standards for math and reading test scores, but their scores had improved enough to protect the school and the district from penalties.

Forti said the reset took place because the recent district-wide reorganization changed the school populations substantially, so the three schools’ past scores could not be compared to their future scores.

Instead of K-6 schools, Moore is now kindergarten-grade 2 and Momauguin is now grade 3-5. The middle school was grade 7-8, but it now is grade 6-8.

"This is good news," said Forti, but also "bittersweet," because East Haven educators were looking forward to achieving the same thing due to educational reforms they put in place three years ago. "So we did not get a chance to demonstrate that," she said.

The educational reforms were responsible for upgrading the schools’ status from "in need of improvement" to safe harbor last year. Two years at safe harbor automatically resets the status to AYP, she said.

The reforms responsible for the improvements are the use of data-driven decision-making and targeted instructional blocks.

The first is an improved assessment tool that lets teachers monitor student learning on almost a day-to-day basis, letting them respond to students’ weaknesses as they happen. Previously, it might take until the end of a marking period to determine where students were failing.

Targeted instructional blocks are 30-minute instructional periods when the students in a classroom are regrouped by achievement level and teachers, specialists and aides focus on what each group needs. Students who aren’t at grade level get intervention help, students at the proficiency level at pushed higher, and students that exceed proficiency get extra challenges, Forti said.

She said East Haven teachers and principals were confident these improvements are making a difference.

"We can say we did nothing different except these two things," she said.

Earning a reset by making enough improvement to reach safe harbor status for a second year would have proved it.

The reorganization was implemented at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, which is just ending. Forti said the Board of Education did it partly for financial reasons and partly because it made sense educationally.

Prior to the reorganization, kindergarten and pre-K were housed separately at Hays and Overbrook schools. Deer Run, Ferrara, Moore, Momauguin and Tuttle elementary schools were for grades 1-6. The middle school had grades 7-8.

The reorganization added grade 6 to the middle school, combined pre-K and kindergarten with grades 1-2 and assigned grades 3-5 to other schools. It paired Deer Run (grades pre-K to 2) and Ferrara (grades 3-5), Moore (grades pre-K to 2) and Momauguin (grades 3-5) and Overbrook (grades pre-K to 2) and Tuttle (grades 3-5).

The East Haven Academy, an in-district charter school for grades 3-8, moved onto the middle school campus.

Forti said in early May, Superintendent Anthony Serio received a letter from the state Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Compliance Office announcing the status reset for Moore, Momauguin and the middle school, the three schools that had not yet reached AYP status.

What that means for the two schools is the East Haven district no longer must offer special tutoring help or school choice for students who miss the minimum test score level.

The Connecticut Mastery Test for grades 3-8 is one of the most rigorous standardized tests in the nation. It has three levels of acceptable achievement: Proficiency, Goal and Advanced.

This school year, No Child Left Behind required 81 percent of students to achieve the Proficiency level for reading and 80 percent for math. But next year, the benchmarks rise to 90 percent for reading and 91 percent for math, which will make it harder for schools to meet AYP.

As originally written, the law would require 100 percent of students to score above Proficiency for both reading and math after 2014.

A criticism was that as the law hit higher benchmark levels, some states were making their tests easier so their schools didn’t fail. To address that, Congress changed the law so states would scrap their own tests and use national tests instead.

Forti said Connecticut joined a standardized test consortium, the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, and after 2014 students in Connecticut will take that consortium’s test instead. The CMT will be discontinued.

That will allow parents and political leaders to compare the test scores of different states, which currently use different tests and are not comparable.

"We are on the verge of historic national educational reform," Forti said.

Gene Ruocco May 31, 2011 at 08:54 PM
This article is great news for all of East Haven. This East Haven BOE has achieved great things over the last year and a half. The reconfiguration of classes, the closing of two buildings, the lowering of the budget to operate the system, the new roofs and solar panels, the ending of the lease on Dodge Ave. . This is a big change from the previous 12 years were the budget went from 22 million to 42 million and the test scores basically stayed the same or even dropped. Now if the Board could only make the expenditure of monies accountable, things would really be looking up for this present BOE. Keep trying.
Richard Poulton May 31, 2011 at 11:44 PM
I'm sorry Gene, but I need you to explain your comment much further. You are saying that the B of E current budget of 44.3 million is a direct result of the Maturo administration, and is responsible for the past 12 years of that budget being increased each year. That its Maturo's fault that the B of E budget went from 22 million to 42 million in those years budgets. Explain to us if everything is Maturo's fault, then why did the B of E budget for 2008/2009 go to $43,752,612 and this year is $44.3 million dollars. Using your therey this would be April's fault. Everyone knows this mayor or any other mayor has control of what a B of E spends or how it is spent. Either fully explain or stop blaming others. And don't blame it on bad accounting, which we are all aware of is a big problem. I really think someone should go to jail over what is being spent or how it is being reported as being spent. On another note, hope you had a good holiday weekend
Gene Ruocco June 01, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Richard, please read my comment again. Nowhere did I blame Joe Maturo, I said this BOE has done a good job holding down the growth of the BOE budget by instituting many cost saving measures, and I listed a few. Prier BOE budgets would go up 3 to 4 % each year, without any effort to hold the line. These measures could of and should have happened a long time ago, but it was this board that got it done. That’s what I said. Thank you for asking about my holiday weekend, it was very good and I hope yours was the same.
StavenObserver June 01, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I guess having Malloy in Hartford has its advantages.
Richard Poulton June 01, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Wasn't bad, as you know the weather was great. Good time with family and thats what its all about. Back to what I read into you comment and I will quote: "This is a big change from the previous 12 years where the budget went from 22 million to 42 million and the test scores basically stayed the same or even dropped". I read that as its Maturo's fault or at least a B of E under his administrations fault. Sorry, thats just the way I read it. Work on your tan this week., should be great to be outside.
John Gildersleeve June 02, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Giving credit to the East Haven Board of Ed after they basically shut down the Talented and Gifted Program in East Haven (Academy) by making it open to all is the opposite of what you should be doing. East Haven had one bright spot in its sorry education system and they allowed a bunch of ignorant loud mouth parents pressure them into taking that away.
Rose June 06, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Yes, I must agree how intelligent was this decision. It comes down to the Academy, once a Blue Ribbon School, because of its talented students and teachers, now a 3-8th grade school where the students must where uniforms. Who's bright idea was this. I am glad my children were there when the standards were higher and it meant something to go the East Haven Academy. As I told parents then who were opposed to the school I will say it again now. If the school system incorporated some type of gifted program in there regular schools then these children would not be lost, as my middle son's second grade teacher had once said to me, " One more year won't hurt him, he'll be at the Academy next year". All children will not benefit from the "thematic" style of learning that is at the Academy, so all children should not be there.

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