Local schools received largely positive results in a state education report, though a gap between students with high needs and their peers was evident in a presentation of the report to the Board of Education last month.
"Last year's class did very well on that assessment in terms of number of students overall who reached that bar ... we had a difference in terms of how overall students at Berlin High School performed compared to how the high needs subgroup compares," said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Erin McGurk, who gave the presentation at the April 22 Board of Education meeting. This sub-group includes students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, English learners and those with disabilities.
The district scored right around its average for the past four years, since the current iteration of the system was put into place, scoring 1,012 out of 1,250 points, or 81 percent. The statewide average is 74.9 percent.
The system grades school districts on 12 indicators, including academic performance, graduation rates, access to arts courses, physical fitness and college entrance.
The district was identified as being an outlier in the gap between how students identified as being high needs and the rest of the student body in performance on math assessments, although high needs students still performed better in Berlin than the state average in all areas except growth in math.
Willard Elementary School was recognized as being in the top 10 percent of schools in the state in terms of academic growth for high needs students in English assessments.
The other elementary schools also are in line with the statewide performance gap, with the outliers appearing in the middle and high school.
McGee Middle School was an outlier in the gap in math scores, while Berlin High School had a gap in math and English.
Performance on science assessments was not included in this year’s reports since the state is transitioning to a new standardized test for that material.
Berlin High nearly reached the threshold to be designated a “Category 1” school, the highest ranking, which requires earning at least 85 percent of points possible. However, BHS and McGee both dropped to “Category 3” due to the performance gap. Berlin High earned 84 percent, while McGee scored a 72.
Hubbard received 76.9, Griswold had 77.5 and Willard 79 percent of points possible.
McGurk said the accountability system provides valuable data to help the district identify problems such as this.
"Overall when we look at the accountability index reports, we're looking at this as a tool to help give us more information about the state of student achievement across the district and to use this to inform our practices moving forward," she said.
The town scored above the state targets for the number of freshmen on track for graduation, the 4-year graduation rate and college entrance rate.
The number of students meeting the goal for physical fitness and the percent of students taking at least one arts course both are below state targets, but remain above average.
Board of Education Chairperson Matthew Tencza said he’s confident school administration will narrow that gap in the coming years. He noted that Berlin has the highest math SAT scores and fourth highest English scores in its district reference group, a bracket of two dozen towns demographically similar to Berlin.
“I think as long as we can provide them with the resources … they can get there. I think their performance shows that,” Tencza said.
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