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Understanding This Year’s District Scorecards

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Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education released annual scorecards for Connecticut’s schools and districts. These scorecards are part of a new accountability system that is being fully implemented for the first time this year. (It was developed as part of our waiver from No Child Left Behind, and it works in concert with the accountability components of Connecticut’s 2012 landmark education reform bill.)

The School Performance Index (SPI) and District Performance Index (DPI) are numbers that give us a snapshot of the performance of each school and district. Previously, there was no system of monitoring the overall progress of a school or district.

For example, in the past, if you had wanted to find out about the achievement level of a district, you would have had to look at CMT/CAPT results for grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10. And each of those grade-level results was then broken down into tiers of performance (Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Goal, Advanced). As a result, you had specific information in each of those areas, so you were able to say, “X percent of 3rd graders scored at goal in this district.” But you lacked any whole-district assessment to tell you whether the district was performing well or not.

Now, with DPIs, you know how the whole district is doing overall. The new system awards points based upon students’ standardized test scores–100 points for every student scoring at Advanced or Goal levels, 67 points for Proficient scores, 33 points for Basic, and 0 points for Below Basic. Then, all of the points are added together and averaged to assign each district a single number for elementary and middle school performance and a single number for high school performance.

District Targets

The Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) has set a goal for all districts to reach a DPI of 88, but each district has also been given a more attainable target on the way to reaching that ultimate goal. The individual annual targets for each district are set by averaging each district’s past performances and setting goals for growth.

This year, only 4 of the 30 Alliance Districts (Bloomfield, New London, Putnam, and Norwalk) have met their elementary and middle school targets, as well as their high school targets.

Low-Income Targets and the Commissioner’s Network

The SDE has also set targets for the performance of low-income, Black, Hispanic, and students with disabilities within the districts. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Alliance Districts failed to reach their targets for their low-income students.

Only Bloomfield and Stamford managed to meet elementary and high school targets for their low-income populations.

Meanwhile, in the 4 Commissioner’s Network schools, Curiale’s performance remained consistent, and Milner fell slightly behind. But both Stanton School (in Norwich) and High School in the Community (in New Haven) showed greater improvement than their home districts.

Key Takeaways

Although there were some bright spots in this year’s data, most Alliance Districts failed to meet their established goals, which is disappointing. It highlights the long road ahead as Connecticut works to implement the 2012 reforms in its schools and districts.

Creating meaningful and lasting change will require us to transform policy into practice at the district and school levels. That’s why CCER has recently expanded its work to include providing district level supports. We look forward to a time when every child in Connecticut receives an exceptional education, without exception.