NORWALK, Conn. – In an effort to improve reading scores of elementary school students and to address inconsistencies in the district's language arts programs, Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manuel Rivera is putting forth a plan to improve literacy in the city’s elementary schools.
“It will take all of us, working together, fulfilling our respective responsibilities, and doing whatever it takes,” Rivera said in a presentation to the school board’s curriculum committee last week. “There must be a culture of ‘no excuses.’ All of our students and staff can and will achieve and meet high expectations.”
Recent years’ test scores have shown improvement at grades 4 and 5, but Norwalk’s third-grade reading scores are still falling behind state averages, he said.
The city also still has a marked achievement gap between white students and their African-American and Hispanic peers. Rivera and the Board of Education have committed to closing the gap by 2020.
Among the issues is that language arts programs are inconsistent across the city’s 11 elementary schools. One factor is the switchover the new Common Core State Standards curriculum, with schools at “varied stages” of implementing the curriculum.
But schools vary in their instructional methods, resources for teachers and classroom materials, Rivera says. Professional development for teachers also differs between buildings, and even shows little common training between regular classrooms, special education and English Language Learner instructors.
In his presentation, Rivera laid out a 10-point plan for improving literacy at the grade K-5 level. Many of the points address the inconsistency issue, such as calling for a “clearly articulated vision, beliefs and approach,” laying out a clear professional development plan for all school staff, and establishing a “roadmap” for each school to follow. The plan also calls for using the same assessments at all schools, and developing a way for teachers to share their best practices.
The plan also calls for more community outreach, specifically coordinating with the Norwalk Public Libraries and other community groups such as the Raising Readers Parents Club for help. Schools and the central office will need to develop “an unprecedented level of parent support and engagement” to help carry out the new program, Rivera said.
“It is our collective responsibility to nurture and advance the growth, knowledge and skills of our students,” Rivera said in the presentation.
The full presentation is available at the Norwalk Public Schools website.