The town's public schools have all received a passing grade under the state's new method of assessing academic performance -- the School Performance Index -- although three schools have a specific state-set goal for improvement in this school year.
The new SPI numbers take all the scores of students taking the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test, adds them together and divides that figure by the number of students. In addition to an SPI for each school for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 academic years, it also provides a three-year average and an target for the current year.
But Superintendent of Schools David Title said local administrators are only beginning to familiarize themselves with this new school ranking system. "It's a new measurement, and we all really have to spend more time with it," he said. "It may be the benefits will be greater."
In Fairfield's case, most schools have a target goal of "maintain" the current level of performance for this academic year, while Jennings, which had an average of 85.7, has a goal of boosting its SPI to 85.9. At McKinley School, the average is 76.5 with a goal of 77.4, and at Fairfield Warde High School the SPI average is 85.9, with a goal of 86.1.
The highest three-year average among Fairfield's public schools was achieved at Dwight School, with an SPI score of 94.4
The new system replaces the previous rankings that included "failing," "in need of improvement" or "in safe harbor," and in that respect, Title said, it is an improvement over the former system.
"Let's put it this way, it's better than they way they were doing it under No Child Left Behind," he said. "You made AYP (adequate yearly progress) or you didn't. At least in the new system, you get credit for kids who achieve a goal. It's a little more robust than the old system."
According to the state Department of Education, an 88 SPI average means most students at a school are scoring at goal range, while a 67 means most students are at proficiency.
Title said what is not really known yet is what a difference between a score of 86 and a score of 88 means. "I don't know it well enough to translate that," he said.
What the new system doesn't provide, Title said, is any more information to the school district. "We already have this information," he said. "We already know how we're doing. ... We have the test scores."
The SPI, he said, may make it easier for the general public to understand the performance assessments.
Title also said he thinks the state set a "low bar" with the 88 score, and said even for Fairfield schools that meet or exceed that grade, "We're trying to do more than maintain; we're trying to get all our schools to improve."
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SCHOOL PERFORMANCE INDEX
Fairfield public schools' three-year averages in new state Department of Education assessment system. The SPI has a 0-100 scale.
- Elementary schools
Holland Hill 91.1
Mill Hill 89.7
North Stratfield 89.5
Osborn Hill 90.5
- Middle schools
Fairfield Woods 92.4
Roger Ludlowe 91.1
- High schools
Fairfield Ludlowe 88.2
Faifield Warde 85.9