Numbers don’t paint the rosy picture of town schools that they seem to

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickLast December the Connecticut Department of Education released preliminary data based upon the new “school performance index” (SPI) that showed that six Greenwich schools had been named “schools of distinction.”

Greenwich High School and Eastern Middle School were named schools of distinction for the academic performance of English language learners within those schools. Eastern Middle School, International School at Dundee, North Street School, Old Greenwich School, and Riverside School were named “schools of distinction” for having met the target score of 88 SPI points, and also scoring in the top 10% of schools in the state.

Calling it “truly exciting news,” Greenwich’s superintendent of schools, William McKersie, noted that “any town would yearn for such an achievement.” Dr. McKersie termed the school performance index “a much more sophisticated handling of data and analysis that is rightly featuring Greenwich’s successes.”

As the Department of Education website points out, the school performance index is calculated using CMT and CAPT test scores for all tested grade levels, incorporating all tested students. It is also calculated for sub-groups — English language learners, students with disabilities, blacks, Hispanics, and students qualifying for free or reduced price lunches.

The DOE website states that “the state’s ultimate target for schools is 88 SPI points on the 0-100 School Performance Index (SPI) scale. This target was established because at this value students will have performed at the ‘goal’ level on the majority of tests they take (e.g., if students in a given school take three tests, on average they will have performed at the ‘goal’ level on two of the three tests and at the ‘proficient’ level on one).”

Yet the release of all of the school performance index data painted a somewhat different portrait. Of the 28 public high schools in Connecticut’s affluent suburban DRG (demographic reference group) A and B school districts, just five failed to meet the desired score of 88, and Greenwich High School was one of them. Only Conard High School in West Hartford recorded a lower school performance index than GHS.

Indeed, GHS’s SPI ranked 40th among all public high schools in the state, trailing a number in lower DRGs.

Department of Education SPI data revealed that 20 elementary schools in DRG A and B school districts failed to meet the threshold SPI score of 88. Included among them were five elementary schools in Greenwich: Cos Cob, Julian Curtiss, Glenville, New Lebanon, and Hamilton Avenue. Hamilton Avenue School’s school performance index was the lowest in that group.

According to the state data, I counted 29 middle schools in DRG A and B school districts. Of those just two failed to meet the SPI threshold of 88. One was West Hartford’s Sedgwick Middle School. The other was Western Middle School in Greenwich. Western’s SPI ranked lowest among all middle schools in those two DRGs and had declined the past two years. Central Middle School’s SPI, while reaching the 88 threshold, ranked just above Sedgwick Middle School.

So the picture presented by the new school performance indices is decidedly more mixed than originally perceived. On the one hand, six Greenwich schools were singled out for excellence, a figure matched only by Ridgefield. On the other hand, however, nearly half of Greenwich’s elementary schools failed to meet the 88 SPI goal. The lowest performing middle school and elementary school in DRG A and B were both in Greenwich, while Greenwich High School also failed to meet the desired score set by the state.

There are certainly results there to be proud of. But one must also acknowledge the need for academic improvement in a number of our schools.


Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected]

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