NORWALK, Conn. The Norwalk school system isn't making the grade earning mostly C's and D's from an education advocacy group that ranks schools and school districts across Connecticut.
While the school district hasn't improved much from a year ago, there are some notable exceptions on the report cards. Norwalk's Roton Middle School is ranked No. 1 among middle schools statewide in the category of improvement, while Jefferson Science Magnet School is rated No. 1 for performance among African-American students.
"We are very, very proud to be ranked No. 1 in the state in the area of improvement. That is a tremendous accomplishment for our 450 students and 43 teachers," said Joseph Vellucci, who has been Roton Middle School's principal for 19 years. "Our staff works hard to provide individual instruction to our students and spends extra time getting to know and understand their particular educational needs."
The report card grades and rankings, released this week by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN, are based on standardized state test results from the previous school year.
Although the Norwalk school district is ranked 91st out of 163 elementary school systems, 114th out of 173 middle school districts, and 90th out of 134 high school systems, Roton and Jefferson are highly praised. The nonprofit New Haven group states that both schools are "success stories" and among a few schools "beating the odds."
Vellucci credits teachers, students and parents for "working hard together" in helping to steadily bring student test scores up in each of the past three years. The new rankings showed a nearly 12 percentage point increase in students who met or exceeded the state goal in reading, math, writing and science proficiency compared with the previous year.
"Of course, the students have been the ones who have worked the hardest of all, and that is reflected in the improvement," he said. "The key is that we devote extra time and effort to really get to know our kids, and then focus on their individual strengths and weaknesses." The school also ranked fifth in the state for performance among African-American students and eighth for overall performance gains.
Rowayton and Silvermine elementary schools both ranked in the Top 10 for Hispanic student performance.
Norwalk High School, with a D+, and Brien McMahon High School, with a D, earned the lowest rankings among Norwalk's schools.
Patrick Riccards, CEO?of the advocacy group, said the Norwalk schools can build on and emulate the success of Roton and Jefferson. "That's the whole idea behind the annual reports cards, to let schools and school districts know where they are having success and where they need to improve," said Riccards.
"When a school like Roton Middle School is showing this kind of dramatic improvement, we hope the district would take a close look at what that school is doing differently," said Riccards. "It can serve as a model."
Full results and rankings are available at ConnCAN's website at www.conncan.org .
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