There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

Mark Twain


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The Skating Rink

In the last few years, The Connecticut State Department of Education created a new system of accountability for the state’s schools. This system includes measurement of academic performance for each school in the state. Their intention appeared to be an expansion of simple measures of student achievement to a broader set of indices to include student growth. However, the change to using SAT scores at the high school level appears to have defeated part of that purpose; individual students are harder to track. Still, if high school test results are combined with the entrance of graduates into post-secondary education, the results are informative. Housatonic Valley Regional High School appears to be in the lower third when compared to other area schools. And the academic performance at Housatonic is getting worse.

This chart of accountability includes relative measurements of student achievement plus their matriculation into places of post-secondary education only. The schools included are those in the Berkshire league plus any adjacent school. Note that these results are not a measure of the high schools alone, but a summation of all education in the districts including the various elementary schools.

The full accountability index, as given by the state, consists not only of academic performance but also school measurements like chronic absenteeism and performance of special education relative to the rest of the school. However, many of the indices are estimated or clearly unstable, which indicates flawed reporting from the school districts.

The actual academic performance for high schools must come from the tests mandated by the state: SAT tests in English and math, CAPT tests in Science. The growth was meant to come from the tracking of individual students from eighth grade through junior year in high school, but the change to SATs for juniors made that impossible. As a result, individual schools may no longer be held accountable. The price of ignorance is mediocrity.

The only other stable index is the entrance of students into postsecondary education. Here, Housatonic ranks down near the bottom against its peers at 56.3%. The state average is 71.9%. And this conflicts dramatically from the report given to the Region 1 Board of Education last fall, so actual results are difficult to assess.

Historically, for nearly twenty years, Housatonic has been skating on the excellent education given by the elementary schools in Region 1. Now the ice appears to be melting; the elementary schools are starting to fail in places. None of the schools in Region 1 were listed in the state’s Schools of Distinction.


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