At last night’s Board of Education meeting, assistant superintendent Dr. Chuck Smith made a presentation to the board members with “achievement data,” a longitudinal review comparing how Wilton students of today are faring compared to students from 20 years ago. He did so to answer complaints from some critics in the community who have asserted that schools budgets were increasing while the performance of students was declining.
What Smith found, he said, was that the data showed the opposite–student performance has increased “significantly” in the past 20 years.
“That data summary was prepared at the request of the Board of Finance in 2013-14, while we were preparing the budget for FY ’14-’15. At the time there were a number of members of the community who were making claims that the efficiency and effectiveness of the Wilton Public Schools had declined significantly over the past 20 years.”
Smith compared data between 1993 and 2013, looking at student achievement data, AP performance, enrollment, graduation rates and college attendance.
“During that 20-year period of time, Wilton students made significant gains in all measures of academic success, including advanced placement. At same time enrollment increased significantly and there was no change in the graduation rate, and actually a modest increase in college attendance,” Smith said.
Smith distributed materials which pointed out that enrollment increased 53-percent over the 20 year period. In addition, data collected over the last five years (2009-2013) indicates that, “Student performance has been consistently high and relatively stable.”
Accordingly, Smith’s data was used to rebuff any critics.
“Overall the data did not bear out those claims. I sent this off to the Board of Finance and we never heard a word since. I have noticed the claims have decreased,” he added.
He noted that some of the achievement tests used to assess student performance–specifically the CMTs–will no longer be available to use as a marker. Smith encouraged the school officials to consider broadening what they typically look at as indications of success.
“We need to start discussing what are our measures of success. Certainly academic achievement is one of them, but as you know I have a bias toward measuring things that we value as a community above and beyond academic achievement. At some point we want to engage in a discussion of what we value and what measures do we want to see to measure that,” Smith said.
Board member Lory Rothstein asked about how to look at the large difference in test scores. “We were good school system 20 years ago, a strong school system, so how do we go from numbers in the 50s to numbers in the 80s in 20 years?”
Smith had an answer for her: “We are comparing scores across different generations of tests; however, the tests have gotten harder, not easier. And the magnitude of these differences is statistically significant and meaningful. It speaks to the fact that we have been increasing the rigor of the instructional frameworks that we apply here and the content. It’s evident that whatever we’re doing is bringing about some great results.”