“Connecticut, historically, has had one of the widest achievement gaps in the nation. Reducing the achievement gap and accelerating progress may seem daunting. However, tangible and encouraging progress is occurring in Bloomfield Public Schools under the leadership of its superintendent, James Thompson Jr.,” says the organization. “This suburban district has a student population that is 90 percent African American or West Indian and 50 percent low income. Bloomfield created a blueprint to narrow and eventually eliminate the achievement gap.”
The organization reports that Bloomfield Public Schools “has realized significant improvements in reading and math performance” between 2011 and 2014. The district has also increased its high school graduation rate by almost 16 percent.
With the goal of making a difference for each of its students, Bloomfield Public Schools has four major priorities associated with its District Accountability Plan: Holistic Accountability; Rigorous Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment; Positive School Climate; and Parent and Community Engagement. Please read the below highlights from the report by CCER.
Bloomfield’s Holistic Accountability system—which includes academic achievement scores and specific information on curriculum, teaching, and leadership practices—aligns school funding, standards-based instruction, teacher professional development, and teacher/administrator evaluation. In this system, district, school, and grade-level data teams examine student performance and make recommendations for opportunities to improve student performance. This system creates a district-wide culture in which all adults have aligned goals, feel responsible for all students’ learning, and are included in positive, collaborative, professional learning communities.
At Bloomfield, data teams develop initiatives at both the district- and school-level using relevant data. District efforts don’t stop there, though, as teachers for a particular grade or subject meet regularly to consider data for groups of students and discuss what they can do to improve the education experience for each individual student.
Rigorous Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
For Bloomfield, rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessment are vital for promoting the success of each individual student.
Curriculum. District educators are working to implement a standards-based curriculum in English Language Arts and Math. Across the district, teachers have teamed up by grade and subject with directors and instructional coaches. Together, they have unwrapped the Common Core State Standards to develop units of study using the Rigorous Curriculum Design model. As teachers implement the curriculum, they refine and strengthen their original lesson plans based on their experiences.
Instruction. Professional development in the district is provided in these ways:
- In-house experts lead sessions to support staff in their understanding of concepts.
- Differentiated professional development is provided through online resources and in-district workshops.
- The district’s instructional coaches provide embedded professional development in the classroom. They also may model lessons, meet with data teams, or provide workshops on challenging instructional tasks.
- The district brings in experts to assist with important initiatives.
Assessment. Some assessment strategies Bloomfield employs include:
- The district uses formative assessments to identify concepts that need to be reviewed with particular students.
- District educators use an online assessment platform to assess student learning three times per year. The system provides immediate results broken down by individual student, classroom, grade, school, and district and offers resources and lessons for re-teaching.
- The district follows an assessment calendar so that all grades in all schools can administer tests at the same time and in the same way.
Positive School Climate
Bloomfield seeks to meet the National School Climate Standards by creating supportive communities of learners who demonstrate enthusiasm for learning and respect for one another. For example, Bloomfield High School has developed a mentoring program that matches every student in the school with an adult mentor. Every other Wednesday, mentors meet with their mentees to discuss how they’re doing and provide assistance if necessary. And, they conference with students after each benchmark assessment and celebrate success with student assemblies once a month.
Parent and Community Engagement
Bloomfield Public Schools views families and community as integral parts of its educational process. The district focuses its efforts on offering a high degree of transparency and on finding opportunities to engage these audiences. For example, at Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School, parents are invited to visit the school for a “second cup of coffee” on Thursday mornings. The principal and social workers stage themselves in the school lobby to meet and greet parents, providing an informal opportunity for discourse and building relationships.
To learn more about Bloomfield’s exceptional efforts from the CCER report, please CLICK HERE.