Instead of comparing itself to struggling urban school districts across Connecticut, city education officials are beginning to see how Bristol’s schools stack up against stiffer competition.
And perhaps surprisingly, they’re finding that Bristol is doing pretty well.
“We’re doing quite well compare to the suburbans” such as West Hartford and Southington, said School Superintendent Philip Streifer.
For example, Stafford School’s 5th grade test scores last year in reading, writing and math topped two of West Hartford’s elite elementary schools in all three categories.
Only three of West Hartford’s 11 primary schools beat Stafford on the tests for each subject.
Streifer said that educators decided recently that given the “vast improvements across the grade levels” in Bristol’s test scores, it made sense to see how they were doing compared to high-performing schools in the region.
Though the effort is only just getting underway, the initial information is encouraging.
“We were pleasantly surprised” to see Hubbell and Stafford schools – the only two that have been compared so far – were often beating out the test scores of students in more well-off communities.
Hubbell School’s test scores top at least two of Wallingford’s elementary schools and even one of Greenwich’s primary schools.
The only other city school whose test results have been charted against suburban equivalents, Chippens Hill Middle School, lagged behind all of the West Hartford and Region 10 middle schools.
But Chippens Hill muscled aside the test scores from Southington’s Joseph Depaolo Middle School.
Streifer said that it’s a testament to the educational efforts in Bristol that its students are keeping pace richer schools in facing the “very, very challenging standards” of the statewide tests.
Streifer credited the comprehensive strategy adopted during his predecessor Mike Wasta’s tenure for the success Bristol has had.
He said “the Bristol reform movement” leans on assessing how students are doing, adjusting teaching, reassessing and adjusting some more. The goal is to make sure students learn what they’re supposed to know, he said.
The policy has proven itself so successful, Streifer said, that the state is making its use mandatory for the other Connecticut urban school districts – which generally have much lower test scores than Bristol.
The initial data doesn’t cover Bristol’s lowest-performing schools and doesn’t necessarily measure how the school system as a whole is doing compared to suburban districts where residents are often wealthier and more educated than they are in Bristol.
Studies show that tests scores are normally closely aligned with family income and the educational levels of a community.
Bristol is usually compared with an educational reference group that includes Ansonia, Middletown, Stamford, East Hartford and Norwich.
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