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Two New Canaan schools named 'Schools of Distinction' by state

Published 10:43 am, Thursday, January 10, 2013
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Two New Canaan schools were named "Schools of Distinction" in a report released by the Connecticut Department of Education last month. Saxe Middle School and West Elementary School made the distinguished list of "Highest Overall Performance," designated to schools that place within the top 10 percent of the School Performance Index numbers in the state.

The SPI scores are essentially a grade point average of students' scores on either the Connecticut Mastery Test for younger students, or the Connecticut Academic Performance Test for high school students. Both tests are scored on a one-through-five scale with five representing "goal," and worth 100; a four representing "target," and worth 88 points; a three representing "proficient," at 67 points; a two representing "basic," and worth 33 points; and one representing "below basic," and worth zero. The average of all the students' scores creates the school's SPI number.

West and Saxe received scores of 96.2 and 95.4 out of 100 respectively in 2011-12, the most recent year of test results. The other schools in New Canaan were not far behind however. East scored 94.9, South 94.7 and New Canaan High School scored 93.8. The goal of the state is to have all schools score an 88 or above.

School officials were pleased with the results but down-played the achievement difference between the schools that made the "Schools of Distinction" list and those that did not.

"We appreciate the recognition of our district's strengths and recognize that reported differences between our schools may be due to the newness of the metric and resultant designations than a reflection of any school-to-school differences," said Dr. Mary Elizabeth Wilson, assistant superintendent for New Canaan Public Schools. "At NCPS, student achievement data is studied for groups of students as well as at the level of each individual student. Findings from standardized testing data are examined in the context of other types of student learning data to offer a more comprehensive understanding of student learning."

This is the first year the SPI has been used. The state of Connecticut applied for a waiver to be released from the No Child Left Behind act, in order to have more thorough assessments.

"The new system builds on the NLCB's less flexible approach by incorporating student growth and performance across all levels (rather than merely tracking the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level, an approach that masked school progress with students at other performance levels); integrating science and writing (rather than merely focusing on mathematics and reading); and raising expectations for schools to address achievement gaps between student subgroups," according to the state's press release on the numbers.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews