Budget season has officially begun! Last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting included the board’s review of a list of “budget assumptions” that will guide development of the 2013-14 operating budget for the schools.
The assumptions are based on several factors including (a) elements within the budget that are contractually binding; (b) external cost factors over which we have little control, including health care and heating oil costs; and (c) priorities that have been identified in the district’s “strategic plan.” A complete list of the budget assumptions can be found on the district website. I do want to point out that a key driver of the discussion will be to ensure that the 2013-14 operating budget “represents value in the eyes of the community.”
Our board is very mindful of the need for our community to understand and support our schools’ priorities. We intend to provide open and honest communication with residents as the budget process unfolds, and I sincerely hope that people will become engaged in the process, and take the time to find out about some of the great things that are happening in the Wilton schools.
The budget was not the only focus of our October 11 meeting, student assessment also took center stage. We hear a lot about standardized testing, and it is important to realize that standardized tests are one of many ways our students are evaluated. In Wilton, student assessments are taken very seriously, and each student is evaluated in several ways to measure performance. Based on this information,interventions are developed and implemented to support students who may be struggling.
Assistant Superintendent Tim Canty briefed the board on the processes in place to assess our students. Currently Wilton uses multiple forms of assessment to ensure that we have a broad and accurate picture of student learning. Those assessments include standardized testing, along with performance-based indicators including essays, portfolios, debates, science experiments, projects, videos, and the list goes on.
Tim spoke about the need for both “formative,” and “summative” assessments. “Formative,” as explained by Dr. Richards, could be likened to tasting a pot of soup to see if it needs more salt, and then adding the salt. “Summative,” on the other hand, refers to an evaluation of the entire meal. Both assessments are important, since each measures performance at different stages.
We also heard about the State of Connecticut’s new process for measuring student performance. You may be aware that earlier this year, the state applied for a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. As a result of the federal waiver, the state will pursue what it believes is a more realistic and useful approach. Under the new system, student growth will be assessed in a number of different categories. Each year students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 will be scored on key areas including reading, writing, science, and math. Based on the student’s score in each of these areas, the student will be categorized as advanced, goal, proficient, basic, or below basic. The student’s progress will be monitored in each of these areas, and scores will be modified upward or downward, based on progress. The district and each school will be assigned a performance index based on the average of students’ scores.
This individualized approach, which is very different from the No Child Left Behind mandates, will allow educators to pinpoint exactly which students are struggling,and to identify areas in which additional support is needed.
Mr. Canty pointed out that Wilton, a high performing district, will likely be placed very high on the state’s performance index spectrum. The challenge for us, will be to maintain those high standards, and to ensure that all of our students are achieving at least at the state target.
In the coming weeks, the Board will review the District testing report, which will provide an overview of 2011-12 data. That report, which will focus solely on standardized testing metrics, combined with our district assessment strategy, will ensure that student progress is regularly and appropriately measured at all steps of the learning process.
We also discussed several policies, most of which have been in place for several years but needed updating. I urge you to visit our website and read the “Board Briefs” section to learn about everything that was on our agenda.
Our next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 25 at 7pm in the Wilton High School Professional Library. Among the many items on that meeting’s agenda, will be a presentation by our external enrollment expert, Ms. Ellen Essman. Ellen will present her enrollment projections for the next several years, which will play a critical role in our ongoing budget discussions.
As always, our meeting will include a public comment period, at which time members of the public are welcome to share their thoughts. I hope to see you there.