West Hartford Forums

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Posts Tagged ‘WHPS’

New Superintendent by February

Posted by whforums on January 14, 2009

Vanessa de la Torre (who does a great job covering West Hartford for The Courant) reports that we’re down to six candidates for superintendent and that that list of six will be cut to three in time for January 24th interviews with “selected parents, district employees and community and board members.” Karen List, who has spent years working for WHPS, remains in the running. Read the full story here.

If you’d like to give your input about the type of person who should be hired (you really should have said something by now, yes?), you can contact Bruce Putterman (he chairs the search committee) through the BOE website:




Rick Green has a post on his blog urging the town to release the names of all 6 candidates.  You can read it here.

Posted in West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

They’re Talking about the ACLU Report in New York and Chicago …

Posted by whforums on January 9, 2009

As you probably know, a few weeks ago (way back in 2008 ) the ACLU released a report that cited alarming arrest rates in West Hartford, Hartford and East Hartford schools. The ACLU’s essential concern was that, in our schools, “the trend is toward criminalizing students, not educating them.” The “them” in that sentence, however, is the real problem — the ACLU found that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in school-based arrests. You can read my “close-reading” of the ACLU report as it relates to West Hartford directly in the post West Hartford and the ACLU’s “Hard Lessons” Report. The report is linked for download in that post as well.

What’s surprised me, in a period that’s been fairly lively for this blog, has been the lack of local conversation about the ACLU report. I mean, maybe there’s nothing to say — maybe we implicitly (or explicitly) accept discrimination and this report fails to elicit dialog because it confirms an implicit belief. Yet when it comes to protecting and developing an equal quality of life (and, more basically, equal treatment for all people), there’s little more poisonous than complacency.

With out without us, the web is becoming less and less complacent about the report. Around the web …:

➫ Shortly after the release of the report, “a public defender” (a Connecitcut legal blog) wrote a post that echoed the ACLU’s sentiment about the “school to prison pipeline” and, in the comments section, connected the finding to the racial and ethnic disparity in the American prison population.

➫ On January 4th, the New York Times wrote an editorial citing the report, arguing that “Connecticut and other states also need to issue public reports of school-based arrests and take steps to ensure that they are not racially motivated.” While the NYT recognizes that the problems cited in West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford are not just local problems, we can’t ignore that the word “Connecticut” at the start of that sentence is at least in part a pronoun for “West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford.”

➫ On Monday, Small Talk, an education blog in Chicago, picked up the story, using the report (and the arrest disparities in West Hartford/East Hartford specifically) as a way to argue against what it perceives to be “barbaric school district policies.”

The short of it? Conversation about the report is happening, and Greater Hartford is the proxy (or worse, the example) for that conversation. While West Hartford, East Hartford and Hartford may only be ways for many communities to beging to talk about a larger, national problem, that does nothing to change the fact that the report is screaming at our communities “the problem may be ours, but we can prove it’s yours.” Which leaves me with the question I started with one month ago — what steps do we take, both big and small, in light of the ACLU’s report?

Posted in Hartford, Institutionalized Discrimination, Local Democracy, Media, National News, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

“The Impossible Will Take a Little While”

Posted by whforums on December 17, 2008

That’s what Billie Holiday said, anyway.

Heard on WTIC today about two young students at Sedgwick who had the courage to turn to a school counselor about abuse at home. Get the gist of the story here.

I don’t want to talk about the specifics of the case because I think doing so does a disservice to the children and to the family, who have enough to work out without comment from the blogosphere.

I guess what I do want to do is use this particular instance to discuss the education that happens between people rather than on Scantron sheets. Nadezhda Mandelstam said that out of great hopelessness comes hope, and this case calls to attention not only the complexities of public education, but the necessity of humanizing that education. We’re pushing for achievement, we’re pushing for test scores — and don’t get me wrong — we should. But what happened between Sedgwick’s walls today underscores a less quantifiable– but more necessarily human — education. These students spoke up at least in part because they knew they had someone in their school to whom they could speak. Someone (and likely many someones) approached their classroom and their school not as a set of potential test scores (don’t get me started on “merit based pay”), but as mutual human beings in need — through and in spite of their mutual flaws. Whether we think they should, our schools carry the imperative of both developing and protecting their students, and they do this best by building relationships with those students. In the hopelessness of abuse (which is a day to day reality for many in WHPS, I’m sure), there is the great hope of our schools — not only the equal access to education they provide, but in the very human attention of our teachers, counselors, staff and administrators. It’s those who are working (too often thanklessly or invisibly) for the good of these kids — and for the good of our present West Hartford and the future West Hartford toward which we peer — who allow us to realize that, as our neighbors suffer, there is also a vigilance against that suffering. Too often we want our schools to be fortresses against our social problems — if not ivory towers, at least ivory ground floors — when we should be attentive to a more basic grounding: in spite of our mutual sufferings, in our schools, we’re not cut off from each other.

Oh. And they’re doing a pretty good job with those test scores, too.

Posted in Abstract Babble, Do I Contradict Myself ...?, gratitude, Test Scores, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

West Hartford and the ACLU’s “Hard Lessons” Report

Posted by whforums on December 12, 2008

So, just as forewarning, this is going to be a long post. I fear, not having written it yet, that it’s likely you’re going to have to scroll while reading it.

After reading the ACLU report “Hard Lessons,” I went through and grabbed all the narrative and statistical claims the report made about West Hartford. The real goal of this post is to give those claims a common space (separate from the claims about Hartford and East Hartford) so that we can discuss what the report has to say about our own bubble. The data is both telling and almost surreal in turn, and I have to admit that a secondary reason for separating/compiling this data is to further one of the goals of the ACLU as stated in the report: “this aims … to be the start of a conversation.”

I’ve broken down the information I’ve gleaned from the report into three parts: General Information (including the ACLU’s conclusions and suggestions), Narrative Claims about West Hartford, and Statistical Claims about West Hartford. I’ve numbered each item to facilitate conversation, and I’ve added my own commentary in italics (only where I had something to say).

General Information

1. The ACLU’s reason for filing this report is that “the trend is toward criminalizing students, not educating them.” The ACLU grants that the racial and ethnic disparities they found in greater Hartford are not localized to greater Hartford, but are real, national problems. It’s unclear to me why our area was chosen for this report.

2. The ACLU is not entirely convinced they have received accurate data from the State Department of Education. If anything, they believe the SDE may be (unintentionally) understating the number of arrests.

3. To solve the problem of school based arrest, the ACLU believes schools and SROs should engage in more ticketing, more preventative work, and should more often attack root causes of problems (issues with mental health, substance abuse, interpersonal issues needing mediation, etc.). Arrest should only occur as an absolute last resort, when school safety is genuinely threatened.

  • It seems to me that West Hartford already does a good deal of preventative work, and yet our arrest rates remain the highest among the three towns studied. Are we too quick to arrest, or do we have greater in-school problems than other districts?


Narrative Claims about West Hartford

4. SROs in West Hartford, from 2005-2007, were not subject to written policies that describe their duties.

  • This is ridiculous, almost to the point of not seeming believable. I mean, shouldn’t everyone we hire be hired on a contract that specifically outlines their duties, even if there’s the “Other duties as assigned” line tacked onto the end? Without duties, how do we assess outcomes?

5. SROs in West Hartford do not receive mandatory training as SROs, though some do pursue or receive training. One West Hartford SRO reported receiving more than 100 hours of relevant training.

  • Given the time and money spent on professional development in WHPS, I’m pretty sure our SROs are well trained.

6. Neither WHPS nor the WHPD maintains school based arrest data in an accessible form. When the ACLU asked the WHPD for this data, they responded that the request did not “coincide with the categories in which we store the information”. The WHPD had staffers seek and gather the data from their records for the ACLU report. Schools shred all arrest reports at the end of the year.

  • I get the privacy concerns here, and I understand the desire to shred this data. But shouldn’t WHPS be maintaining some sort of generic, anonymous data of the arrests that occur within its purview? How do we measure this important outcome (even if it’s an outcome we don’t desire) if we shred the outcome? It’s as though there’s a will to forget where we’ve failed (to burn the archive, yes?), rather than to study that very thing.

7. From 2005-2007, West Hartford arrested a little more than 30 students between the grades of K-8. This includes the arrest of two Hispanic fourth graders for “insubordination.” Actual percentages are unclear, but the ACLU says African-Americans and Hispanics in grades K-8 were arrested “more” than Whites.


Statistical Claims about West Hartford

8. In 06-07, there were 5 arrests per 1000 students. 5% of all incidents resulted in arrest (compared to 3 in East Hartford and .5 percent in Hartford).

  • It’s important to note that that number of arrests was much higher in West Hartford in 05-06, suggesting improvement, aberration, or something generally funky in the 06-07 numbers.

9. In 06-07, African American and Hispanic students constituted 24% of the WHPS population but experienced 63% of the arrests.

  • This is unreal to me, and it’s one of the numbers that got a lot of press because it’s so outrageous. Sample sizes are of course small, but show consistency across the two years of the study. If I may adapt the lingo of this, our Internet … W.T.F.?

10. In 05-07, African American students were twice as likely to be arrested as white students for committing the same infraction (“physical altercations”). From 2005-2007, physical altercations in West Hartford were likely to lead to arrests rates of 23% for African Americans, but only 11% for Whites.

  • Chief Strillaci responded directly to this information the day the report was released, arguing that all fights are not made equal. And that, undoubtedly, is true. But this disparity suggests, at best, an unconscious social prejudice that happens to emerge in the place someone went looking for it — the schools.

11. From 05-06 to 06-07, arrests in West Hartford fell sharply, from 121-52. However, the ratio of incident reports to arrests in WH remained higher than in the other districts. West Hartford’s suspension rate was much lower than the other two districts.

  • This I don’t entirely get — if we arrest a student, wouldn’t the school issue its own punishment — a suspension, on top of that arrest? Are we quick to arrest, but slow to suspend? Is suspension considered as much of a last resort as arrest? That seems unlikely, and leaves me confused about the meaning of this number.

12. In 05-06 and 06-07, African-Americans, Hispanics and Whites were arrested in approximately equal numbers in West Hartford, despite the fact that there were far more Whites in the school system. In 05-06 in West Hartford, there were 30 arrests per 1000 Hispanic students, 43 arrests per 1000 African American students, and 5 arrests per 1000 White students. Similar disparities prevailed in 06-07, despite the lower arrest rate as a whole.

13. For drug/alcohol/tobacco incidents in West Hartford, African Americans were likely to be arrested 27% of the time, Hispanic students were likely to be arrested 31% of the time, and Whites were arrested 10% of the time. The ACLU grants that these numbers may be impacted by small sample size.

  • This category seems very broad, and the numbers may also be impacted by the types of offense. It’s one thing for a 16 year old to have a pack of cigarettes on them — and another to have a baggie. The ACLU admits as much in the report.


So, Why the Disparities?

14. If school based arrests are occurring in numbers that are out of whack, the ACLU asks the following practical question: “What concrete steps can we (that we is “West Hartford” in this case) take to determine the cause and to reduce those disparities?”

15. The report provides one potential reason for the disparities, arguing they are likely the cause of “conscious and unconscious decision making.” They further state that perception of an in-school transgression is largely subjective, claiming that “…research suggests that educators view certain behaviors more harshly when observed in students of color than when observed in white students (e.g., a white student who talks back may be cited for ‘insubordination,’ while an African American student engaging in the same conduct is found to have engaged in ‘threatening.’)”

So, I turn the ACLU’s question over to you. Based on the ACLU’s argument that not all students in West Hartford are being treated the same way (or perhaps you reject the argument or a component of it?):

“What concrete steps can we take to determine the cause and to reduce those disparities?”

Posted in Institutionalized Discrimination, West Hartford, WHPD, WHPS | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

ACLU Cites Higher Arrest Rates for Minority Students in West Hartford

Posted by whforums on November 18, 2008

The ACLU yesterday released a report about minority student arrest rates in Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford that revealed some startling data. Some of the “highlights,” from the ACLU press release:

  • In 2006-2007, black and hispanic students represented 24 percent of the student population, but 63 percent of all arrests.
  • Black students in West Hartford were twice as likely to be arrested after a fight than were white students.
  • and … “students of color committing minor disciplinary infractions were more likely to get arrested than white students committing the very same offenses.”

In The Courant, Police Chief Strillacci responded skeptically, arguing that not all fights are made equal, that arrests can be a socially positive force and defending the School Resource Officers at Hall and Conard.

You can read the ACLU’s entire 50 page report here. For me, it’s weekend reading.

My quick .02, based on the highly publicized data — I think West Hartford’s SROs rock, and I think our teachers rock. But I find the data extremely disturbing. There’s a long pipeline of people between the incident that occurs, the documentation of that incident, the witnesses to that incident, the intervention of administration, the intervention of the SRO and the intervention of other officers. And all along that pathway there are opportunities for latent, unexamined and perhaps even unconsidered prejudice to accumulate and inflect the equal rights of all students. This is not an accusation of racism — this is an argument that we all hold unexamined prejudices that shape and impact our day to day experience and actions in ways we likely don’t notice. It’s also an argument that, because of that prejudice, school may be a very different place for a student depending on the tone of their skin. For a district as concerned with the achievement gap as West Hartford, that’s something that should make everyone stand up and take notice.

Given these numbers (and it’s the third bullet that really gets me), and whatever we think of the ACLU report, it seems that at the least it presents each of us with the opportunity to take a step back, examine our prejudices and our parenting. West Hartford, if there’s even a semblance of validity in these numbers, then somewhere, we (that’s you, me and our town as a whole) have a problem.

Another looming concern here — the potential scapegoating of the School Resource Officers, who, in this context make an easy target. Blaming the SROs seems not only irresponsible, but an easy way to “deal” with a problem without making it go away. School Resource Officers have difficult and dangerous jobs, and to lay a town’s problems at the feet of one public servant who enacts policy but does not influence it seems at best misguided …

Posted in Hartford, Uncategorized, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

For Your Monday Morning Consideration

Posted by whforums on October 26, 2008

Walking through the Center this weekend, I was heartbroken to see Lane and Lenge was gone (I was on the other side of the street and saw an empty store front. I pondered — and then said to my wife “Isn’t that where Lane and Lenge was?”). We had our wedding flowers done by them (and, by the way, they rocked and I highly recommend them to any local couple in the “market”), so I walked over to the storefront to read the signs posted to the door. Turns out they’ve left the Center and moved to Park Road. While this sucks, it’s still much better than having lost them! So go to Park Road and buy your significant other (maybe your husband, because we like getting gifts, too) some flowers from Lane and Lenge and help offset their moving costs …

Connecticut Magazine has ranked the top 35 high schools in the state. Hall came in 13th (that’s 90th percentile) and Conard came in 22nd. Not too shabby out of 135 high schools, huh? While you’re over at Lane and Lenge, buy flowers for our teachers, too …

To the person who keeps landing on this site via the search term “Is 1690 a good SAT score?” The answer is, sure. It’s good. I mean, it’s not super-great, but it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a bad score. It will get you into a good college. But, really, most colleges are good. So, stop worrying about your score, and start worrying about how you’ll make the most of your time in college. Start by declaring a philosophy major.

To NeefBremo and SpooryDroopy, my two most prodigious spammers, who send me 20-30 posts a day about viagra, tramadol and direct-print coupons — enough. I love you both, but I’m going to have to put you in spam time-out if you don’t chill out a little bit …

Speaking of “being put in time-out” — no word from Visconti, Larson or Fournier per West Hartford Forums’ invitation to write guest posts before election day. Maybe I’ll write in old Noah …

Posted in 2008 Election, Local Democracy, Quick Hits, SAT Scores, Uncategorized, West Hartford, West Hartford Center, WHPS | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

CAPT and CMT Roundup

Posted by whforums on July 21, 2008

Over the past week, the focus of the West Hartford “blogosphere” has been on the release of 2008 CAPT and CMT scores. And despite the many disagreements about the scores and how they can/should be interpreted, one things seems pretty clear: the town of West Hartford is significantly invested in the question of education.

In the spirit of conversation (and in the spirit of that investment), here’s a centralized resource for the many conversations about West Hartford’s 2008 CAPT and CMT scores.

A * indicates a newish post.

CAPT Scores

West Hartford Forums has two posts on CAPT scores — an initial score report and a closer look at West Hartford CAPT score trends over the past 8 years.

* West Hartford Forums took one last shot at CAPT scores, drawing a correlation between a district’s percentage of free/reduced lunch eligibility and their 2008 CAPT performance.

The commenters on WH Dad have a pretty interesting ongoing conversation about the implications of this year’s CAPT scores.

Talk of West Hartford has a consolidated post that discusses both CMT and CAPT scores, arguing that although West Hartford has good scores, the scores aren’t good enough

CMT Scores

West Hartford Forums has a post on the initial release of CMT scores, as well as a post that argues that measuring West Hartford’s CMT scores against other members of its District Reference Group may be misleading.

Talk of West Hartford has a post on CMT/DRG that argues that West Hartford’s poor performance in its DRG is a result of curricular failures.

* Talk of West Hartford has pulled together some interesting data that seeks to establish a relationship between CMT scores and per-pupil expenditures.

A good place to start if you’re looking to understand the definition of DRG …

Other Posts

Fatmixx has an interesting post about the quality of our conversations around CAPT/CMT, asking the important question: Are we talking to each other, or are we just making noise?

*Fatmixx also has a fracking great post that attempts to synthesize several of the ongoing conversations about the budget and test scores.  If there’s one post to read in all of our conversations, this is the one.

The Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog has an excellent post (and a fracking cool graph) about the relationship between CMT scores and the value of your home.

I’ll do the best I can to keep this updated — if I’ve missed a link, please email to whforums@gmail.com

Posted in CAPT Scores, CMT Results, Test Scores, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Closer Look at West Hartford’s 2008 CMT Results: The Problem with DRG

Posted by whforums on July 18, 2008

Well, West Hartford, the news on the 2008 CMT scores is not only mixed, but there’s so much data available that the news is really spinnable. So I’m going to present you with two different scenarios by which to measure West Hartford’s CMT results and you can make up your own mind about what the results themselves mean.

Sorting by DRG

DRG stands for “District Reference Groups,” and it’s a way for the state to compare school districts that are roughly equal in terms of things like “Parents’ education” and “Home Langauge” and “Median Family Income.” There are 9 DRGs in Connecticut, ranging from A-I (“A” being wicked affluent, “I” being wicked poor). West Hartford is grouped in DRG B with the K-12 districts of Avon, Brookfield, Chester, Fairfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Greenwich, Guilford, Madison, Monroe, New Fairfield, Newtown, Simsbury, South Windsor and Trumbull.

The bad news? West Hartford did not fare well against its state-assigned DRG colleagues in the CMTs this year. Across every section of every CMT test, West Hartford students failed to meet DRG average (although it’s important to keep in mind that they still blew away state average). The table below shows the percentage of West Hartford students who met “Goal” (the highest level of achievement) on each section of the exam, followed by the percentage of students in DRG B who met “Goal” on that section. The numbers that follow show West Hartford’s rank on each section of the exam (out of the 17 districts).

For example, the score 71%/81% 15/17 would mean that 71% of West Hartford students met “Goal,” 81% of DRG B students met “Goal,” and West Hartford’s rank out of the 17 DRG B districts was 15th. Make sense?

Some Concerns about Measuring by DRG

Clearly, these numbers don’t look good, despite the fact that each of our “Goal” percentage numbers is well above state average. But I would also argue that these percentages and rankings are extremely misleading for two reasons.

First, of these 17 K-12 districts, West Hartford is the second largest (behind Fairfield), and, frankly, no one else is really close. Almost 700 West Hartford 8th graders took the CMTs (almost 730 in Fairfield). Compare this to Avon (305 testers), Brookfield (255 testers) and Guilford (307 testers). Several other towns had fewer than half the number of students taking the CMTs than did West Hartford.

Second, since average income is a significant factor in grouping these districts, you would expect free and reduced lunch, a traditional way to measure the affluence of a given district, to be roughly equivalent between the districts. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), there is simply no comparison between West Hartford and these other towns. In fact, of the 17 districts, only one district in the 2006-2007 school year (the most recent stats I could find) had even half of the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch that West Hartford did.

Measuring by Free/Reduced Lunch Percentages

So, finally then, what happens if you compare West Hartford against those districts that are closest to it in terms of the % of students eligible for free and reduced lunch? I’ve taken the 8 towns closest to West Hartford in terms of that % (the four closest with a higher % and the four closest with a lower %) and averaged all of their 07-08 CMT scores (each exam at each grade level) to create one “Average % at Goal” score.

The result? When measured not by income, but rather by the percentage of children who can’t afford lunch (and thus by the percentage of families at a specifically low-income level), West Hartford finishes only behind the town of Wolcott (who, incidentally, tested only 35% of the 8th graders West Hartford tested).

My horrifically superficial read? There are two West Hartfords, and to measure West Hartford against towns which are almost exclusively affluent will of course cast our test scores in a negative light. Which brings me back to the drum I’ve been banging … Who are we? Who have we been? Who are we becoming?

Note: I’m providing these statistics to spark conversation, and because I think they’re interesting. There’s every chance I’ve messed something up, or done something remarkably “statistics stupid,” so please don’t treat them as fact or truth. I welcome ways to make these numbers work “better.”
Free/Reduced Lunch Source: http://www.csde.state.ct.us/public/cedar/profiles/index.htm#g
CMT Score Source: http://solutions1.emetric.net/cmtpublic/Index.aspx

Posted in CMT Results, Test Scores, West Hartford, WHPS | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Bristol, Whispering Sweet Nothings in Your Ear

Posted by whforums on July 6, 2008

Ah, Bristol.

When I think of Bristol, I think of Muzzy Field, ESPN and Lake Compounce. Apparently, though, Bristol doesn’t think so romantically when it thinks about West Hartford. When Bristol thinks about us, it thinks competitively.

According to the Bristol Blog, a subsidiary blog of the Bristol Press, the town of Bristol is using West Hartford elementary schools as a measuring stick for its own test scores (rather than its usual stablemates of Ansonia, Middletown, Stamford, East Hartford and Norwich). And so far “they’re finding that Bristol is doing pretty well.”

Gauging Stafford School, one of Bristol’s higher achieving elementary schools, against all 11 West Hartford elementary schools, Bristol found that “Only three of West Hartford’s 11 primary schools beat Stafford on the tests for each subject.” Chippen Hill Middle School, also gauged against West Hartford’s public schools, “lagged behind.” Apparently, “the initial data doesn’t cover Bristol’s lowest-performing schools.”

Not bad being the standard against which others measure themselves, right?

ps – If you’re a Bristol Red Sox fan, you can get some quasi-cool, old school gear here. I’m a buyer if somebody can produce a hat like the one above …

Posted in Test Scores, WHPS | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »