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New Alliance Districts, ERN Assessment Toolkit, and Undercounting Latinos in the Census

Stratford Joins Alliance District Program

This past Wednesday, Stratford Superintendent Uyi Osunde announced that the school district had been added to the state's list of Alliance Districts, the 33 lowest-performing public school districts in Connecticut. The state uses an accountability index, based on 12 variables, to track districts' performance and make the designation every five years. According to coverage by the Connecticut Post, Superintendent Osunde acknowledged that this is "not the optimal news we want," but that it also creates opportunities for improvement. Alliance Districts get additional state funding with which to innovate and improve. (Here's a list of the districts that received Alliance District grants in 2019-20.) According to a document from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Stratford is actually among three newly identified districts in 2022, along with Enfield and Plainfield. They take the place of three districts that have graduated the program this year: Groton, Norwalk, and Winchester. For context, we’ve included below a list of this year’s Alliance Districts and graduates, sorted by the accountability index.

New Resource: The ERN Essential Assessment Toolkit

Last week, our national affiliate, Education Reform Now, released an Essential Assessment Toolkit, broken out into four separate resources to target different audiences (Advocates & Policymakers, State & District Leaders, District & School Leaders, and Parents & Families). They explore the different types of assessments (diagnostic, formative, interim, annual), why they are important, and how they can be leveraged to drive student achievement.

The Family Guide to Assessments, for instance, helps to unpack the questions that parents and guardians might want to ask educators about how their students are progressing academically, questions like:

  • How is my child performing for their grade level?

  • How has my child grown academically since last year?

  • How are students in my child's school performing compared to other schools in the state?

Each type of assessment plays an important role in the educational experiences provided to students–whether to set a baseline for students’ skill levels, to inform day-to-day decision-making, or to facilitate comparisons that impact state and district policies. Diagnostic assessments (screening tests), for example, gauge students’ academic skills prior to instruction, providing educators with useful baseline data. Educators then use formative assessments (quizzes and tests) to measure students’ understanding on specific skills throughout the year, which similarly inform instructional decisions. In contrast, interim assessments (e.g. the MAP test) do not inform day-to-day instruction, but rather measure whether students are on track or need extra support. And the data accumulated from annual assessments (like the SBAC) facilitate clear comparisons about student performance–comparing both individual students against academic standards and districts against each other; this allows for decision-making in the interest of equity.

The hope is that this new toolkit will prompt helpful conversations about how assessments can best be used to meet student needs.

The Implications of an Undercount of Latinos in the 2020 Census

Earlier this month, a report from the US Census Bureau showed that Black, Latino, and Native Americans have been undercounted in the 2020 census. Although there is a historic trend of undercounting these demographic groups, Latinos had a net undercount rate of 4.99% in 2020, three times the rate of ten years ago. This week, an Education Week article explores the serious implications of the Latino undercount on education–impacting:

  1. Representative Governance, which could lead to school board maps that disadvantage Latino candidates;

  2. Federal Funding, potentially leading to fewer resources for school districts with large Latino communities; and

  3. Policymaking, where inaccurate data on the student population can result in flawed decisions.

In Connecticut the Hispanic/Latino student population has grown from 19.06% in 2010 to 28.96% in 2021. (Interactive state data here.)

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