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State Praises Norwalk Schools for Steady Progress

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk schools are improving at a rate that outpaces the rest of Connecticut, according to a state Department of Education report that praises the district for its student progress over the last five years.

Superintendent Susan Marks showed slide after slide of upward trend lines in reading and math test scores from 2006 until 2011 at a Monday afternoon news conference.

“Of all the 18 districts I work with, Norwalk is a top performer,” said Warren Logee of the Department of Education’s Bureau of Accountability and Improvement. He attended the news conference. “There is no other district where the trend line is going above the line of the state.”

At the end of the summer, the state evaluated Norwalk's progress in relation to its District Improvement Plan — a plan mandated by the state for districts that did not meet No Child Left Behind benchmarks. The plan focuses on literacy, numeracy and family/community partnerships to improve student performance.

Marks and Logee credited the District Data Teams, coordinated by Assistant Superintendent Anthony Daddona, for Norwalk’s progress.

“The report says that we are doing an ‘exemplary job' with our District Data Teams,” Marks said of the teams of teachers and administrators who meet continually to look at all student test results to improve teaching. The 10-page state report commends the district for maintaining a “districtwide culture of inquiry that supports the value of date for sound decision making.”

“There is a continual progress check of student performance,” said Silvermine Principal Ivette Ellis, explaining the data teams.

Nathan Hale Principal Bob McCain said Norwalk’s success can be attributed to all of the schools using the same format. The data teams focus their work on what the adults — not only the students — are doing in the classrooms. “They are a way you can hold the adults accountable,” he said.

Making time for teachers to meet and discuss student work has been critical to Norwalk’s progress, says Logee.

Marks highlighted areas where the district has made significant gains:

• From 2006 to 2011, there were double-digit increases in the percentage of students reaching proficiency and goal at all tested grades. In grades 4, 5 and 8, gains were more than double those of state averages.

• In grades 4 and 5, proficiency gains were more than double those of the state.

• In grade 7, the percent of student at goal in reading rose from 5.5 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2011.

• In 2011, a higher percentage of Norwalk’s Hispanic students in all content areas and at all grades reached proficiency compared with their peers statewide.

Marks said work still needs to be done to close Norwalk’s achievement gap and meet the goals of the district’s special education students.

Daddona will present the state’s report to the Board of Education at Tuesday night’s meeting. Marks will also share information on the schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress, according to No Child Left Behind benchmarks.

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