Archive for March, 2012

EducationWhen I think about Governor Daniel Malloy’s proposed education reform initiatives, I can’t help but think about Mead School which is located in the heart of the Valley in Ansonia,Connecticut. Mead School is a “Success School” that is a diverse K thru 6 elementary school, where approximately 75% of the students receive free or reduced priced lunch. It is nestled in a beautiful section of town bordering the Ansonia Nature Center. Looks can be deceiving because Mead is a Title I urban fringe school that was identified four years ago, as in need of improvement by the No Child Left Behind guidelines. Under the NCLB mandates all students are expected to show that they have mastered skills in Math, Reading and Writing on a standardized test given once a year. NCLB was touted as the “Education Civil Rights Mandate” that would transform education and level the playing field for all children, especially students of color.  Why? Because research has revealed for decades, that students of color are twice as likely to fail school, drop out, score lower on standardized tests and have less opportunities to attend college. I could clearly see and understand the rational, purpose and urgency for implementing the kind of education reform that was enacted.

In reality, for the past six years schools across the nation have struggled to reach the annual incremental benchmark scores that were imposed. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of schools such as Mead and districts across Connecticut and the United States, have failed to meet or surpass the lofty and seemingly arbitrary expectation that was set by the former Busch administration. Missing the mark means that schools are labeled as “In Need of Improvement.” Even schools that had high proficiency rates found that they were identified as failing schools because their minority students were not performing at the same rate as white students. With that said and with the data that has been collected over the years,Connecticut has been identified as having the worst achievement gap in the nation. Students of color continue to lag behind, funding is scarce and in my previous blog, I have identified the underlying problem as an economic gap.

To help reform schools, guidelines for providing interventions and supporting schools were outlined in the NCLB mandate. Districts like Ansonia received extensive technical and monetary support from the state. Under the direction of Superintendent Carol Merlone, Ansonia were transformed, restructured and set to move in the right direction. In fact, the district was touted as a model district for systemic change.

My story, with regards to helping to transform my school began four years ago. I was appointed to lead Mead School as the Principal and found myself with the task of completely restructuring it. It was a monumental task that involved personnel changes, reorganizing schedules, aligning curriculum, refining the evaluation procedure, implementing the Data Team Process, Marzano’s Effective Teaching Strategies and a variety of research based instructional practices. It wasn’t an easy process and it took at least three years to see some of the changes take hold. The teachers continue to work hard to transform the culture of the school and raise the standards.  Teachers, support staff, teacher’s union and Instructional Coaches were integral and empowered to help orchestrate the changes. In order for this to happen my leadership team had to:

  • Develop leadership capacity through shared leadership
  • Create a culture of mutual respect and high expectations for students, teachers and parents
  • Engage and partnership with  parents and the community
  • Identify and monitor struggling students  and create opportunities for success in all domains
  •  Create meaningful on going external and embedded professional development
  • Continuously seek ways to create world class instruction and learning opportunities that prepare students for success.

The school has made some phenomenal changes and gains and I am cognizant that there is always room for improvement. As a  school administrator I know that scores and growth will fluctuate for a number of reasons but budgetary factors can deal a severe death blow to our success.

Regardless of that issue, John C. Mead has been viewed as a model school and is currently an award wining school for academic achievement and closing the achievement gap for students of color. I wish that Governor Malloy would visit public schools and districts that are great models and have made changes. I recommend that he begin to fund them at a higher level and not paint all schools, teachers and districts with a broad stroke for reform.      By: Terri Goldson

Click on the words Mead School In The News below to view a link, I hope it works and you enjoy it.

Mead School in the news
“Celebrating The Mead School Beat In Ansonia”

Terri 1

achievement-gap

The state of Connecticut has the worst achievement gap in the nation. Governor Dan Malloy wants to change that but is he really willing to fully commit to the concept of education reform. If the truth is to be told, the real underlying issue is Connecticut’s economic gap that is causing an education gap. It is clearly evident that socioeconomic status plays an extremely critical role in student achievement here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that meaningful reform will also require increased funding.

Our current national and state deficits along with the sluggish economy, has created a problem with providing the needed funds to adequately improve some of our public schools that need support. For years schools and districts across Connecticut have been underfunded, the cost sharing formula is antiquated and to add insult to injury, within two years litigation may force the Governor to fully fund education. Malloy is hoping to avoid litigation or at least the full effects of it by getting ahead of the problem and introducing his education reform measures. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the suggested reforms fall short of providing the necessary money needed to make a true difference.

For example, this coming school year educational funding and grants for the cash  strapped Ansonia school district will be substantially decreased. This will leave an already fragile system with a 1.2 million dollar deficit. Kindergarten classes have been reduced to half day programs, teachers are facing layoffs and supports for struggling learners will be decimated. Ansonia is identified as a Title I school district with approximately 70 percent of its students receiving free or reduced priced lunch. It is ironic that for the past four years the district has received much-needed state support, restructured the schools, increased student achievement, implemented drastic reforms but was rewarded by a decrease in monetary support from the state. This is clearly a set-up and a recipe for disaster that will reverse the positive gains and result in being identified as a failing school district.

follow the money It is clear that the dilemma in Connecticut is between the haves and the have-nots, funded and unfunded, economically disadvantaged and the advantaged. It is a divide and a gap that can be closed by adequately and equitably providing funds for those schools, districts, towns and cities that serve families and children who are economically challenged and are chronically underserved.

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