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Efforts Pay Off, Work Continues

A year of planning, strategizing, and intensely-targeted instruction paid off for staff and students at Parkville Community School in the form of higher test scores. But the gains still were not enough to move it off the federal schools-in-need-of-improvement list. Included: An outline of school improvement efforts.

Last years Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores did not get Parkville Community School to the Emerald City, but the school is further along on the yellow brick road.

The students made progress -- but not enough so the school met Safe Harbor or adequate yearly progress (AYP) as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. (NCLB) . To make Safe Harbor, a school must reduce the percentage of non-proficient students by 10 percent from the previous year. So now Parkville is in its fourth year as a school in need of improvement under NCLB.

About This Series

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending time this school year at Parkville Community School in Hartford, Connecticut, to report on the challenges an urban school faces and the strategies it employs in its quest to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act.

But based on the amount of student improvement, Hartford Public Schools administrators placed the pre-K- to- grade-6-school into the category of defined autonomy at the district level. This means school administrators have some say in choosing curriculum, scheduling, and hiring. Schools with higher scores are granted greater amounts of autonomy.

Parkvilles gains warranted celebration, and they were reviewed in the context of this years back-to-school theme for the staff, which was On the Yellow Brick Road. Characters and images from The Wizard of Oz. greeted teachers when they arrived at school for the first day of orientation.

We moved one step closer to the Emerald City, which is autonomy, principal Elizabeth Michaelis said. We made progress overall. Parkville also surpassed the district scores in every category. You have to show the sunshine within the testing.

Teachers started the year by looking at data from their classes last year to see how their students did. You have to show the sunshine within the testing. You have to show that hard work pays off, Michaelis said.


Teachers, support staff, and students at Parkville all had the same goal last year -- to raise scores into the Safe Harbor or even AYP range. And they all knew which ones needed raising, down to the specific strand on a math, reading, or writing test.

The disappointment was there, Ms. Poplar, the schools Reading First internal facilitator, said about the results. But we moved past that quickly. We looked at where the emphasis has to be down the road.

Parkville also improved its placement within the district, said literacy facilitator Ms. Maple said. It was most important for me to know how we were doing in the district, she said. Were in the top five, and the number of kids at the lowest levels also decreased. Our job is to move children.


To keep moving kids to higher levels, Parkville started making changes as early as last spring. Michaelis decided to drop the Success for All reading program after more than five years and selected a new literacy program for grades K-5, Literacy by Design. Teachers began learning to use the program the second week in May. The new program includes a lot of non-fiction materials that cover social studies and science topics.

In addition, a CMT block has been designated for grades 1-6 every day. During the 30-minute time period, certified teachers visit classrooms and work with small groups of students on skills needed for the CMTs. Its to allow teachers to target instruction based on individual needs and types of tests, Michaelis said.

Teachers also plan to use a tool designed to assess the reading fluency of primary students with below-level readers in grades 4-6 to see how their needs can be addressed, said Poplar.

Also figuring into this years planning is the states first test of science skills, which will be administered to fifth graders and is designed to assess what students learned in third-through-fifth grades.

Were not looking at this as a lets see year, Michaelis said. Were looking at content and filling in the gaps.

The district reduced the number of report cards from four to three, so that gives instructors more time for teaching and learning, according to Michaelis.

The goal is ensuring high-quality instruction in every class, she said.