Connecticut State Department of Education
Norwalk Cambridge Review
Presented to the Norwalk Board of Education
February 26, 2008
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
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)
Norwalk Domain Ratings:
Attainment, Learning, Teaching, Curriculum, and Assessment: Below basic and
needs substantial improvement
Leadership, Culture and Accountability: Below basic and needs substantial
Management of Human and Fiscal Resources: Below basic and needs substantial
Operational Systems: Basic and needs improvement
Stakeholder Engagement and Satisfaction: Below basic and needs substantial
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
9. Emerging Scholars recruits and supports
minorities for participation in upper level high
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
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?