Some highlights from last night’s meeting of the Wilton Board of Education.

Using PSAT Instead of MAP as Standardized Assessment for Grades 8-10

In the 2017-2018 school year, Wilton Schools will no longer use the MAP test to assess students in grades 8-10. Instead students in those grades will be assessed in the fall and the spring using the PSAT. This move follows on the heels of the change a few years ago of following CT State’s practice of assessing 11th graders with the SAT.

Part of the reason assistant superintendent Dr. Chuck Smith decided to make the switch from MAP to PSAT is the level of detail the test can provide teachers about their students.

“I was unbelievably impressed with the level of detail that teachers can get on SAT performance for students. You can use the information to not only identify students who are struggling, but set goals and improve the performance for all of the students,” Smith said.

Midyear interim benchmark assessments help the schools monitor student growth and achievement over time, and make sure that resources are targeted to where it’s needed. They also helps parents see and understand their children’s progress better.

Making the switch from MAP to PSAT will shave off a little time devoted to testing:  8th and 9th graders will gain back just over an hour, while 10th graders save about 30 minutes. There is a difference in cost, with MAP costing the district $13,846 ($14/student), while PSAT administration costs the district $19,780 ($20/student).

BOE member Laura Schwemm commended the administrators for not being afraid to consider other alternatives to MAP testing, even after having introduced it not long ago. “Nothing is set in stone. It’s really hard to say, ‘Oh, this is better.’ Instead of saying, ‘I’ve already invested in MAP, and did all this stuff to convince you MAP was the best.’ The time they spent studying this [new] program is really positive.”

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith acknowledged that this may be seen as “yet another” initiative change–something that has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks following complaints from some teachers and the writer of an anonymous letter critical of both Drs. Smith. He said that in light of conversations he’s had in the last week with staff about better communication, administrators would need to “take all of our staff and parents through a process, probably repeatedly, as we’re talking about this.”

Toward that effort, Chuck Smith said he would be going to the Middlebrook and high school PTAs to present this change, as well as to speak with teaching staff about it.

WHS a “School of Distinction”–One of Only Five in CT

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith announced that he learned earlier in the day that Wilton High School had been named as a “School of Distinction” by the CT State Dept. of Education. The school was one of only five schools in the state recognized as a high performing school according to the state’s “next generation accountability index.” Smith said the hadn’t yet gone through the report fully, but promised a detailed presentation at a future meeting once he has been able to review it.

DMC Recommendations for General Education

Assistant superintendent Dr. Chuck Smith spoke with the board members about recommendations that District Management Consultants made about general education.

Their recommendations, he said, centered around SRBI–scientific research-based interventions, and an effort to bring in check the high number of student referrals for special education intervention.

“We want to make sure that we are supporting students as much as we can in general education before we make a referral for special education. This is one of the strategies to make sure that we are only referring kids who truly demonstrate learning disability, and not a curriculum disability,” Smith said.

He noted that to start to implement the program they’ve been ensuring that all the right elements are in place–hat the correct staff, policies, practices and procedures, staff training and resources are available and in use.

“We are at a stage where we want to be able to set expectations for how the SRBI process will be integrated and routine part of our practice,” Smith said.

Smith detailed some of the steps and resources that have been developed to adopt the SRBI approach to interventions. “We are on track and have completed almost all of the action steps,” he told board members, adding that it represents “a huge change” for the district’s interventionists.