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					                       Connecticut State Department of Education
                              Norwalk Cambridge Review
                      Presented to the Norwalk Board of Education
                                    February 26, 2008
Review Process:
        Bill No. 8003, Sec. 32. Section 10-223e & Sec. 33 passed in July 2007 gives the
State Board of Education (SBE) authority to require schools and districts in need of
improvement, under Connecticut Law and require corrective action under No Child Left
Behind, to participate in an operations and instructional audit to identify strengths and
weaknesses in the schools and districts. In September 2007, the district and school
reviews were conducted by the review team which included Connecticut State
Department of Education (CSDE) consultants and Cambridge Education associates. Both
the district review and each school review was lead by the Cambridge Education
associates. The district review was four days and each school review was two days. The
following four schools: Silvermine Elementary School, Nathan Hale Middle School and
Richard C. Briggs High School were required to participate in the review process. In
addition to above the listed schools, the superintendent decided to have the remaining
schools in the district participate in the review process. (The findings for those reviews
are not included in the reports that CSDE sent to the district). School and district
team members had daily debriefing session to discuss the review findings and the
evidence to support those findings were collected and triangulated to ensure that claims
were only made when there were several sources of information that could substantiate
judgments. The draft report was shared with the review team members, superintendent
and participating principals for a fact check to ensure that information and figures were
accurate prior to the report being published.
The purpose of the district assessment is to answer the following questions:
     How well is the District doing now?
     What is the evidence that all components of the District’s improvement plan and,
        where relevant, the District’s restructuring plan, have been implemented?
     What is the impact of the restructuring and improvement plans, and what
        evidence is there that the actions have resulted in improved student learning?
     What does the District need to do in order to continue to improve?
The district review focused on five domains and they are as follows:
     Attainment, Learning, Teaching, Curriculum and Assessment
     Leadership, Culture and Accountability
     Management of Human and Fiscal Resources
     Operational Systems
     Stakeholder Engagement and Satisfaction
The following scale is used to rate a districts performance in each of the domains,
the rating includes the district’s achievement level and (overall judgments):
     Below Basic Level (in need of substantial improvement)
     Basic (in need of improvement)
     Proficient (meets requirements or seen as meeting the basic or minimum level)
     Goal (exceeds minimum requirements)
     Advanced (excellent)


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   Norwalk Domain Ratings:
    Attainment, Learning, Teaching, Curriculum, and Assessment: Below basic and
      needs substantial improvement
    Leadership, Culture and Accountability: Below basic and needs substantial
      improvement
    Management of Human and Fiscal Resources: Below basic and needs substantial
      improvement
    Operational Systems: Basic and needs improvement
    Stakeholder Engagement and Satisfaction: Below basic and needs substantial
      improvement

What the district does well:
   Instructional specialists provide good support to kindergarten through grade 12
      school programs, particularly in mathematics, language arts and science.
      Instructional specialists are highly regarded by schools, and are frequently
      mentioned as the strength of the district.
   There has been some progress in raising levels of achievement in recent years,
      although not for all students in all grades. In order to meet the requirements of No
      Child Left Behind (NCLB), improvement needs to be faster, particularly for
      socio-economically disadvantaged students.
   The district has a good department of Information and Instructional Technology
      with a positive culture, instructional focus and well-constructed, phased program
      to schools. This department is doing its best, with limited resources, to improve
      the level of technology to support student learning in schools.
   There is a well-managed and efficient school transportation system, focused on
      student achievement and welfare, which makes effective use of its resources.
   In recent years, there has been a high level of investment in school buildings,
      facilities and resources, resulting in an attractive physical learning environment in
      most schools.
   The district has recently started to provide high quality student assessment data to
      schools to enable them to evaluate issues and identify priorities more effectively.
   There is a high quality teacher evaluation process which is rigorous and focused
      on student achievement.




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What the district needs to improve:
   Improve communication with schools, parents and the wider community. This
      should include more opportunities for: listening to the views of stakeholders,
      encouraging participation in decision making, and ensuring the district’s values
      and policies are clearly and consistently communicated to, and embraced by, all
      stakeholders.
   Improve the district culture and climate which is regarded by many people in
      schools, central office, and the community (including parents) as lacking in
      openness and authenticity. Many staff and parents feel undervalued,
      disempowered, and isolated. District senior leaders need to take action to improve
      the district’s culture, in part by improving communication as noted above.
   Focus greater attention on closing the achievement gaps between socially and
      economically disadvantaged students, including African-American, Hispanic and
      ELL students, and more advantaged students. This focus should include more
      differentiated programs to meet the specific needs of those students.
   Ensure that the pace, range and implementation of curriculum and instructional
      change meets the requirements of all students and schools.
   Commission a full program and fiscal audit of the pupil services department
      conducted by an appropriate external agency to determine key priorities for
      improvement. This will assist the newly appointed director of pupil personnel
      services in operating more effectively and equitably in supporting pupils with
      special educational needs. It will also bring benefits to schools and improve the
      quality of advice available to the district’s senior leaders.
   The board of education and the superintendent should develop more effective and
      transparent processes for evaluating and making senior district staff more
      accountable for district performance. This relates both to student performance and
      the annual budget process.




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      Areas in Need of Improvement                           Current Strategies                           Questions to Consider for Plan Revision
Improve communication with schools,          The District’s improvement plan has established as
parents and the wider community. This        a goal, “Improve partnerships with parents and
should include more opportunities for:       community stakeholders to increase the academic        How can the district establish a protocol for
listening to the views of stakeholders,      performance of all students.                          formalizing the input of these various groups? Does
encouraging participation in decision                                                              the protocol insure representation to reflect the
making, and ensuring the district’s values   1. District’s close alliance with the Norwalk Early   demographics of the district’s student/family
and policies are clearly and consistently    Childhood Council                                     population?
communicated to, and embraced by, all        2. School-Community Early Childhood Action
stakeholders.                                Plan (recognized as model by State)                   Has the district considered a comprehensive effort to
                                             3. AfterSchool Alliance                               reach out to all stakeholders in a formal way to elicit
                                             4. Norwalk ACTS                                       feedback and input relative to priority goals and
                                             5. School-to-Career with Chamber of Commerce          values held by the community relative to the product
                                             6. Partnerships with Maritime Aquarium; Norwalk       of the school district?
                                             Community College
                                             7. Norwalk Children’s Foundation                      Is there a process in place for receiving input from
                                             8. Norwalk Reads                                      these various groups relative to budget decision
                                             9. Norwalk Education Foundation                       making?




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Improve the district culture and climate     1. Senior Central Office administrators have          When Central Office staff visit buildings, is there a
which is regarded by many people in          increased their presence in buildings                 defined purpose for these visits? Is there a log of
schools, central office, and the community   2. District Improvement Goal focuses on               visits to be used in measuring levels of contact?
(including parents) as lacking in openness   improving parental involvement and
and authenticity. Many staff and parents     communication – in process                            Are building level administrators and teachers
feel undervalued, disempowered, and          3. Public Relations Advisory Committee                regularly involved in district policy and operations
isolated. District senior leaders need to    established                                           meetings? How is this input gathered?
take action to improve the district’s        4. Structures that are in place, i.e., regularly
culture, in part by improving                scheduled meetings with Central office
communication as noted above.                administration and building principals will be used   Is there a plan to gather baseline data relative to
                                             to enhance communication and create a greater         perceptions within the district as to issues raised in
                                             sense of involvement?                                 this section? This and a later repeat gathering of the
                                             5. Newly developed protocol to ensure                 data could serve as a pre and post measure of efforts
                                             involvement of stakeholders in all District           for improvement in this area.
                                             initiatives
                                             6. Senior operations administrators conducting
                                             needs assessments in all schools through
                                             observations and interviews with principals
                                             7. Staff and administrative committees regularly
                                             review teacher and administrator evaluations,
                                             elementary progress reports




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Ensure that the pace, range and             1. Central Office and building level data teams       How is differentiated instruction supported
implementation of curriculum and            being formed to identify indicators of progress and   throughout the district?
instructional change meets the              determine cycle of data collection
requirements of all students and schools.   2. Pacing guides and district assessments are         When are the building level data teams to be formed
                                            developed or in process of development in all major   and operational? What training is planned to insure
                                            subject areas                                         the effective and efficient operation of these teams?
                                            3. Common final exams in most high school major
                                            subjects                                              How does the curriculum address the needs of all
                                            4. Clearly articulated common curriculum based on     learners within the school district?
                                            state frameworks and standards exist in all areas
                                            5. Training scheduled in February and March for
                                            Central Office Data Team on “Unwrapping
                                            Curriculum Standards” – will provide greater focus
                                            for schools
                                            6. Implementation of a standards-based math
                                            program in K-5
                                            7. Secondary math professional development
                                            focuses on hands-on activities and writing in the
                                            math classroom.




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Focus greater attention on closing the     1. District Improvement Plan and School Growth         Is there a protocol in place to determine what
achievement gaps between socially and      Plans address specific objectives and strategies for   teachers are in need of additional help?
economically disadvantaged students,       all subgroups
including African-American, Hispanic       2. District initiated ELL Program Review resulted      What is the purpose of Dr. Ferguson presentation?
and ELL students, and more advantaged      in K-12 recommendations, many already                  What type of follow-up will the district do after Dr.
students. This focus should include more   implemented                                            Ferguson presentation?
differentiated programs to meet the        3. The District has accessed the expertise of noted
specific needs of those students.          researchers to address issues related to closing the   What is the purpose of the ELL Saturday Academy?
                                           achievement gap, For example, Dr. Ann Levett           When does the academy start? Has a location for the
                                           from the Yale university Child Study Center            academy been identified? Have you consider
                                           relative to reducing student suspensions. Dr. Ron      possible transportation issue?
                                           Ferguson, specialist on Black-White inequities and
                                           author of Toward Excellence with Equity: An            Have any other content specialists meet with the ELL
                                           Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement            administrator to identify strategies to increase
                                           Group, to address middle and high school               minority participation in AP courses?
                                           administrators and teachers in March.
                                           4. K-5 literacy coaches and specialists work with      What types of initiatives have the Emerging Scholars
                                           teachers and students in need of additional help       developed to increase minority participation in upper
                                           5. K-8 numeracy coaches work with teachers and         level high school classes? Also, what types of
                                           students in need of additional help                    conversations are being had if any at all at the
                                           6. ELL Saturday Academy for parents of ELL             elementary and middle school level to prepare
                                           students                                               students to take upper level high school classes?
                                           7. ELL administrator provides professional
                                           development with Language Arts and Science
                                           specialists for all teachers
                                           8. Science specialist and ELL administrator met
                                           with secondary teachers to explore enhancing
                                           greater opportunities for minority participation in
                                           AP class
                                           9. Emerging Scholars recruits and supports
                                           minorities for participation in upper level high
                                           school classes




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Commission a full program and fiscal            1. The District has prepared a Request for               What steps is the district willing to take prior to the
audit of the pupil services department          Proposals to conduct an in-depth and                     completion of the audit to building capacity for an
conducted by an appropriate external            comprehensive review of our Pupil Personnel              effective delivery of instruction for all students
agency to determine key priorities for          Department. This will be reviewed by the State           utilizing differentiated instruction?
improvement. This will assist the newly         Education Department to determine if they can
appointed director of pupil personnel           conduct this assessment. Alternatively, proposals
services in operating more effectively and      will be sought from qualified assessors.
equitably in supporting pupils with special
educational needs. It will also bring
benefits to schools and improve the
quality of advice available to the district’s
senior leaders.

The board of education and the                  1. The superintendent is evaluated annually by the       How often does senior district staff meet with
superintendent should develop more              Board of Education which uses a comprehensive            curriculum leaders and building level administrators
effective and transparent processes for         set of rubrics. The superintendent uses the same as      to review progress of curriculum implementation,
evaluating and making senior district staff     a guide in his evaluation of senior staff.               related PD, and the impact of these on student
more accountable for district performance.      2. The district’s annual budget is reviewed              achievement?
This relates both to student performance        internally with all groups and with the Board and
and the annual budget process.                  public over a series of evening meetings                 What data is used to measure progress?
                                                3. Annual Board-Superintendent goal-setting for
                                                district and instructional plan provides a context for   Are there bench marks predetermined for measuring
                                                senior administrative accountability                     progress?




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