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Achievement Gap at Fitch High School ‘Disgraceful’, School Board Member Says

High School Principal says scores won't improve unless more administrators are hired to oversee teaching.

Few than 25 percent of black students at Fitch High School scored at the state’s goal in any academic subject on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test in 2012, in some cases scoring more than 20 percentage points below overall student performance.

Low-income students, or those receiving free or reduced meals, scored slightly better than black students, but also well below their peers.

“This is truly a disgrace to those kids at that high school,” School Board Member Beverly Washington said Monday, after hearing a summary from High School Principal Joseph Arcarese.

Washington asked what he planned to do about it.

Evaluating teachers

Arcarese said he doesn't have enough administrators to go into classrooms, and scores will never improve unless he has department heads or deans to enter classrooms and assess teaching.

“So you’re telling me that the teachers that we have now . . .  are you saying they’re not doing as well as they should be doing because there’s no one in that classroom evaluating them?” Washington asked.

Arcarese said yes, that was what he meant.

“The doors are shut, things happen, they do what they want to do,” he said. Arcarese said Fitch High School has many great teachers, but like in all schools, there are some that need extra supervision and help.

The CAPT is a standardized test given statewide to tenth graders to assess their performance in math, reading, writing and science.

Results showed that Fitch improved in every subject over its three-year average prior to 2012, but that it remains below the state average in every subject except math.

Weak performance

Black students showed the weakest performance.

For example, 17.4 percent of black students scored at goal or better in math, 15.4 percent scored at goal or better in reading, and 13.8 percent scored at goal or better in science.

By comparison, 43.6 percent of students overall scored at goal or better in math, 39.4 percent scored at goal or better in reading and 41.4 percent scored at goal or better in science.

Students receiving free and reduced lunch also scored well below their peers. Scores showed 21.7 percent of low-income students scored at goal or better in math, 20.1 percent scored at goal or better in reading, and 20 percent scored at goal or better in science.

Students scored better across the board in writing, but still well below the state average.

Dave October 24, 2012 at 03:03 AM
If the parents are not held accountable, then the students will not value education.
JustSomeone00 October 24, 2012 at 03:22 AM
A few things to be said: for anyone saying things about Joe Arcarese...he was an excellent teacher, and he has made a great principal. Teachers should be held accountable, and should have to answer to what they are doing. When I was in school this cap testing meant next to nothing, is that still the case? And why must we always fall onto these standardize tests to judge how well our schools are doing? For those of you stating the parents should be more involved - well, that seems like we're just grouping an ethnic group into one huge stereotype. Some of us are middle class women and men who are white raising children on our own. Comments about households with no "father figure" are ridiculous. No one wants to raise a child on their own, let alone see them not meeting standards, because of it. Perhaps a few people are forgetting it takes a village to raise a child. Some parents have to work multiple jobs in this economy. Some parents can't do what others can. That doesn't make them bad parents. It's a down right shame that we have shoved college so far down our children's throats and at such a ridiculous cost.
Mariellen V. French October 24, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Dave, my parents seldom read to me as a child, and never checked my homework... and I got mostly A's on my report cards. I was told, 'get your nose out of that book, and go outside'... and I got good grades. I did read to my own kids from the time they were infants, but I didn't help them with their homework ...and the younger one got good grades, and was reading by herself at 4. (The older child is disabled with neurological/behavioral difficulties, but was an avid reader. Disabled kids are not counted in the testing, because they'll skew the scores.) Both of my adult children are kind, caring and generous people who didn't stop learning when they left school. Poor student performance can be a teacher's fault; I had a teacher at Fitch who spent the class time telling the college prep class that we were all too stupid to learn what he had to teach. I always worked harder for a teacher who expected me to succeed; most children do their best to meet your expectations, so make sure those are positive. But you are right that it is a societal problem involving many aspects that cannot be solved by hiring more administrators.
Marie Tyler Wiley October 24, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Dave...not sure if you have a child up at Fitch...and, as you know...you have to want to learn in order to succeed. In any public high school...crap happens. The public schools HAVE TO PUT UP with disruptive behavior. Private schools simply inform the parents..."I’m sorry...this is not working for us...you can take your child now". Public schools cannot. My children tell me stories observing both sides ...what the students do and what the teachers do. Trust me...the principle has made great strides in bringing about order to a place that was in my estimation...just short of a zoo atmosphere. And trust me...if I had the money...there is no way in hell my kids would be in public school. Maybe the board of ed should spend a couple of days up there observing...or mentoring students who could use it...instead of just blasting someone publicly. The teachers do not have a lot of leverage when it comes to responding to rude disrespectful, dangerous behavior. I cannot believe what these kids get away with these days (with their parents backing them up)...and how utterly crude, rude and at times the physical abuse that erupts. I think before anyone (Johnny Q. Public) slams someone...A. they should walk a mile in the other person's shoes & B. print your full name. Not aiming this at you and it drives me berserk that people publicly crucify someone and then don't sign their full name. Everyone should stand up for what they believe in. Peace!
Laura October 24, 2012 at 01:09 PM
If one conducts real research on the achievement gap (and I think we all should before making blanket accusations on this message board) there are so many factors that add to the problem it could make one's head spin. School size and class size matters. Tracking within the schools matters. Parental involvement and poverty matter. Teaching methods and teacher investment matters. We cannot solve the problems we are facing today unless we are all willing to make the education of our students a true priority. Bickering about whose fault it is will get us no where. Everyone likes to criticize the administrators and teachers and schools---I challenge everyone to do some homework on this issue. Google Scholar has many scholarly, peer reviewed articles about the achievement gap that are easy to read and enlightening. It's worth doing some homework on this issue. Until we all become part of the solution things will never get better.
Rick McDonald October 24, 2012 at 02:01 PM
From the State Dept. of Ed. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/pressroom/cmt_capt_press_release_071912.pdf In March 2012, the CAPT and CMT Modified Assessment System (MAS) were administered for the third time. The MAS is one of two United States Department of Education approved alternate assessments used in Connecticut. It is an alternate test for mathematics and reading only and is available for identified students with disabilities for whom the standard CAPT or CMT is inappropriate. Students are identified to take the MAS through multiple valid measures. They are students who, because of their disabilities, would be unlikely to achieve a Proficient score on the standard test, but who might be better able to demonstrate their capabilities on the modified test. A student with disabilities may qualify for this alternate test in one or both of the reading or math subject areas. These students must also take the standard grade-level writing and science tests. There are three standards that have been established for performance on the MAS: Basic, Proficient, and Goal. If I read this correctly kids with disabilities can only be exempt from the standard test in two areas
Rick McDonald October 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Carol some context; This school already has four assistant administrators. How many do you feel would be enough?
Rick McDonald October 24, 2012 at 02:06 PM
How many assistants is enough Carol?
Rick McDonald October 24, 2012 at 02:12 PM
It may drive you berserk but you should keep in mind that using ones full name opens one up to numerous avenues of retaliation in today's vengeful society. Has it occurred to you that maybe in the past Dave used his full name and suffered retaliation for it?
Groton Friend October 25, 2012 at 01:40 AM
One of the other things coming down the road for the schools due to state mandates is that every teacher is going to need to be observed and evaluated six (yes 6) times per year. With the number of teachers versus administrators, that will be very hard to accomplish with the staff at the high school now. And yet, it is needed. I think it's shameful that a BOE member would say that to Mr. Arcarese... the high school made the most improvements it's ever made and he works amazingly well with teachers and students. As in most of the schools across the state, Groton still has a way to go.
Rick McDonald October 28, 2012 at 03:17 PM
You say six evaluations per year per teacher with the current staff will be very hard to accomplish so lets look a little deeper. How many teachers and administrators does the high school have? Using the Groton schools official website, http://www.groton.k12.ct.us/Page/6953, I counted around ninety teachers with one principal and three assistants, I have heard that they are interviewing for a fourth assistant to replace the one who took over as assistant superintendent for the BOE. Six evaluations per teacher comes out to one evaluation per teacher every one and a half months. Allowing for one evaluation a day by each assistant, assuming there are four, gives us twenty completed evaluations in one week or anywhere from sixty to eighty a month or ninety to one hundred and twenty every month and a half. Throw in some by the principal for good measure and it looks to me like this should not be all that hard to accomplish.
Carol Day October 29, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I see I was not as clear as I could have been. (Like the principals comments?) Each of my evaluations took 4 hours of a principals time (I forgot write up time of the evaluation he/she did). Every 3 years I was observed 3 times - 8 added hours for the principal for 1/3 of the staff each year. Add those hours to the principal & the assistants days that are already full of: disciplining students, congratulating students, encouraging students, PPT's, meeting with parents, overseeing the development of curriculum & courses to be offered, seeing that accreditation standers are meet, meeting with teachers about students &/or extra curricular activities, committee meetings (an administrator is usually on each & every committee), dealing with the administration office, planning for next years students from several middle schools, coordinating/signing off on hundreds of music, drama, art, club, & athletic activities, overseeing the safety of the students & the building, ... Do I need to go on to make my point that there are a lot of activities that we do not think about that are in the principals & the assistants job description. All the things they do are designed to help the classroom teacher so that they can considerate on helping students get excited about learning as well as teaching a subject.
PatchReader61 October 29, 2012 at 12:25 AM
There are 3 APs and they are not hiring a fourth. If that is all they had to do (no discipline, PPTs, bullying investigations, etc.) then maybe it could be done....but not under the current construct. Dave, or John, as his real name might be, is completely illogical.
Rick McDonald October 29, 2012 at 12:35 PM
So PatchReader61 which of the 3 current AP's is leaving, because I know for a fact that they have been interviewing for an AP position.
Rick McDonald October 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM
You can go on all day the point I took is that those conducting your evaluations are not very efficient. I did instructor evaluations while on instructor duty in the Navy and 4 hours for one evaluation, even with the write up is just amazing, wow. With your being a teacher I would expect you to at least proof your comments before posting.
Daniella Ruiz October 29, 2012 at 04:03 PM
malnutrition? have you seen the girth on some of these losers? they don't want for calories, or bling or $250 Nike sneakers! they all have their Xbox's, iPods, permanent earphone glued into their ears, tats and designer Tshirts, roadtrips to 'friends' in NYC, Charlotte, Miami and elswehere . The Malls are flooded with them on weekends and they roam the streets at night like they had night vision eyes. No, these 'differentials' in meeting expected goals of the elite, well paid and administrators is not a result of bad teachers, it's a symptom of a sick society.
Daniella Ruiz October 29, 2012 at 04:17 PM
yes, remote monitoring could be effective. perhaps a system that allowed internet intrusion on a random basis, a community of far flung educators/admins (experts in the observed teachers field), could subscribe to and or become volunteer (egads, UNPAID!) monitors from across the nation/region/town. even a brief report, made from a recorded teaching session could be reviewed after the fact and that report sent back to the teacher first, then perhaps the admin. where would all this time come from? how would i know, seems plenty of people have hours fo free time to spend online. many must be teachers, retired or not. it's time to become a community, not for the money, but for our own survival.
PatchReader61 October 29, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Rick, the interviews were being conducted for an AP, and one was hired earlier this month.....the total is still three, and there are no plans for hiring a fourth.
Rick McDonald October 30, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thank you for the information. I thought there were already three based on previous articles that indicated a total of four before one of them moved to the assistant superintendent position. Guess I was wrong.
Dave October 31, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Instead of doing all these teacher evaluations, we would probably get more bang for our buck by providing parenting lessons to the parents of the low performers. The only problem with my idea is that by the time these kids get to high school they may be too far behind to catch up. The problem of parent and student apathy needs to be addressed earlier. I am sure the elementary school teachers of these kids probably recognized there was a problem. The only real solution may be to send DCF workers to their homes when they are young. Reviewing high school teachers and merit pay is not the answer, this problem must be nipped in the bud.
Daniella Ruiz November 02, 2012 at 11:39 AM
yes, this deficit is a social issue that cannot be just 'fixed' at a later time by the 'purchase' of ever increasingly expensive 'experts' (at mid/high school levels). asking parents to discipline their children, and then charging them with child abuse does nothing to help this situation either. children are immersed in a social environment rife with conflicting values, one person talks incessantly about money, another about kindness, another about violence, another ever talks about a religious element, others have their own specific beef that is impinged upon innocent minds. (and there's the media and music with it's own special vision's of life). there is no fixed, or at least coherent and genuine nurturing environment within many homes, let alone the outside world for many of these children. they are bombarded with constant talk of soldiers, violence, social depravity, civil rights, drugs, gangs, even the mention of what is worn is an issue to be argued among some. (and let's not forget the remnants of racial stigmata that lies dormant among so many as well)
Daniella Ruiz November 02, 2012 at 11:39 AM
continued from last... do the children deserve a peaceful, genuinely loving community? can any parent expect that with the fright of child molestation, deviants, rapists, automobile racers, motorcycle noises, boom box thumps, and now, internet 'noise'? many have struggled through far worse than what we deem as 'bad social startup' conditions, yet have excelled and achieved. perhaps those lessons can be found among those who are willing to part with them for free, rather than extortion. are there any true social philanthropists available anymore?
Geezer November 02, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Once again blanket statements and solutions for specific, individual issues. How many actual students are we talking about here? Specifically what are their individual personal reasons for substandard performance on"a" test? Interview each individual, student to determine what went wrong for him,her,(LD,home life,illness,motivation,poor test taker, lack of observation of specific teachers etc.etc.) formulate a high quality plan for "fixing" the negative forces creating poor performance for that student and specifically implement the plan. Not all poorly performing students come from negative home environments and not all students from negative home environments fail to flourish.Lets get specific otherwise we are only firing random shots at the issue.
Dave November 02, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I completely agree with "Daniella Ruiz" and "Geezer". This is a very complicated multifaceted problem. I agree that we really need to study each specific individual to find out what went wrong in their life. Without doing this "root cause analysis" Groton will never be able to attack the problem. I also think that parents need to be held more responsible. It is difficult to raise a child these days with all the outside influences. Parenting requires active participation and some parents just don't try. The opinion of some politicians and school administrators that the fault lies with high school teachers is just wrong. I believe these kids had problems way before high school.
Carol Day November 02, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Schools are very different than business or the navy or family dynamics. The number of teacher observations & the administrative time each takes is set by each school district but is subject to approval from the State Dept of Education. Connecticut is also subject to Dept of Education regulations & guidelines. Remember, the mandate to each & every Public School is to educate EVERY child. I believe our children & their education are more important to the future of our Democracy than anything else. I am willing to put my tax money behind Public education rather than prisons, or the military, or social services. I want an educated population because as I grow older I depend more & more on a younger generation to take care of me - in stores, in offices, in churches, everywhere in my community. If that were not enough I think our children are worth our best & that includes my dollars.
Sean Blais November 03, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Hello my name is sean blais us and I am a black student at Robert E Fitch high school seeing what is come of our school and the scores produced by our students is disheartening to me. I see the young men and women in our school everyday and many of them are not motivated to pursue an education. In middle school I was the same way and didn't realize the importance of an education until late in my freshman year at Fitch. I have struggled to learn how to study and retain information; but the task at hand is not an impossible one. Through years of hard work I have gradually increased my grades. We all have potential to succeed but some of us need different kinds of help to get there. For many students at Fitch the solution may just be having somebody at home that motivated them to strive for self improvement. One thing is for sure though : there I hope for the future of these very students that recently scored so low on the capt test. Lets get to work!
Sean Blais November 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
My name is sean blais* and there is*
Rick McDonald November 04, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Good answer, instead of addressing why evaluations take so long lets just hire more assistants. The educations budget is already over 70 million, many Groton tax payers are already at their financial limits. There are ways to resolve the evaluation issue without spending more money. Why is the answer always more money?
Jason Morris February 04, 2013 at 06:27 PM
ctreports.com to find all that info
Jason Morris February 04, 2013 at 06:33 PM
do some research in the legitimacy of the tests and their scores. ask questions like: do they match curriculum? what do they actually measure? what DON'T they measure? how to students "prepare" for these tests? do they effect their final grade? how are the costs of giving these tests effecting budgets? and once you get those answers...i'm pretty sure your next question will be: why the hell are we putting so much weight on the results of these tests to the point where we are (due to 2012 legislation) making them be 22.5% of all educator's evaluations, we're intervening in school districts from the state, we're disproportionally supporting charter schools over public schools, and so many other things...just because a standardized test said so?

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