BOE studies achievement gap issues

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By Kim Becker

The Board of Education heard from new Director of Teaching and Talent Development Christopher Tranberg regarding new achievement gap data. The data was viewed by program: regular education students and special education students and by residence (Granby, Hartford, and Hartland). Because the 2014-15 report was given in the spring and the 2015-16 data was compiled early, little improvement was seen in the numbers. However, four areas bucked that trend are graduation rate, college course success, activity participation, and discipline.
Significant disparity exists in most of the indicators studied. The indicators closely align with the Connecticut Next Generation Accountability System and include areas such as attendance; literacy, math, and science proficiency rates, and college entrance exams.
Students from Hartford saw the most improvement, though as a group their achievement lags behind students from Granby and Hartland. Students from Hartford saw a 32 percent increase in graduation rates between the 14-15 and 15-16 school years. Similarly, their success in college courses (AP, ECE, or Pathways) rose 13 percent. The rate of participation in school activities or sports increased 22 percent.
Students with special needs have significant deficits when compared to regular education students across all the indicators. There were bright spots, however. A 13 percent increase in college course proficiency and a 15 percent increase in science proficiency in grades 3, 8, and 10 will be built upon in the coming year. Activity participation also saw a slight increase.
Professional Learning
Dr. Patricia Law, director of curriculum, presented on professional development opportunities in the district. On Nov. 8, the district hosted an internal conference with 44 workshops across disparate curriculum areas. District teachers presented most of the workshops, with only eight outside instructors.
 Teachers and staff could learn about using the Socratic method in the classroom, create with MakerSpace, develop Eureka instruction techniques, or make history inquiry kits. Special education issues and instructional techniques received much attention, particularly in the areas of dyslexia and behavioral de-escalation.
Teachers are also offered book and writing clubs, summer institutes, Teacher Leadership Academy, and CCSU Teacher Leadership Fellowship to further develop their craft and leadership skills. It also provides teachers an opportunity to read and discuss books that the administration uses to set policy. These books include Mindset and Why Do Students Not Like School?