A message from Dr. Fischer, Superintendent of Schools
The young people in New London are as capable as any in the United States. Don't confuse literacy and math skills for intelligence. New London kids are smart. We just need to make sure they have the skills to show that they are.
Schools must be safe places for students and adults and we are working hard to make that happen. Looking at serious student misbehavior data, we can show that 2 percent or less of our students are involved in serious violence or substance abuse. We do not tolerate bullying and encourage students and parents to seek help in stopping it. Have we solved all discipline problems effectively? No, but it is a top priority.
This past spring we passed Connecticut's first literacy standard for graduation. This year's freshmen will have to demonstrate 10th grade level reading and writing skills in order to receive a New London High School diploma. Students will have until age 21 to meet this standard with access to free services.
We have carried out intensive training with principals about observing, evaluating and conferencing with teachers to improve instruction and increase accountability. This year we will be revising our principal's and administrator's evaluation tools based on research about effective management and improving student achievement. For example, we know that when adults set positive rules and consistently enforce them, school safety and student achievement improve.
We are raising the expectations for students in the classroom. The emphasis is on teachers setting clear, high expectations for student performance. Among the expectations are that teachers ask higher level questions that require students to think and problem solve. We expect students to speak and write more; to always use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation; to learn 10 new words a week in each subject; and to take more challenging courses.
Two years ago we totally revised our teacher evaluation tool. Teacher performance is now measured against nationally known, research based standards of effective teaching. These standards are based on what we know about how teaching can improve student achievement. An example is that each class will have a clear beginning, middle and closing. Another is demanding that all students participate. Professional development for teachers to improve instruction and student achievement continues this year.
Over the past two years we have totally revised our K-12 English and Math curriculum. We have also built new curriculum in Science and Social Studies. Teachers are held accountable for teaching this curriculum.
Using dollars well
Over the past two years we have had to reduce costs by more than 5 percent. We always cut administrative costs first. We have one of the lowest administrative costs per student in the area (5.64 cents per dollar). We are at least six custodians short of what we need to effectively clean the square footage of current and new buildings. We need a person to manage human resources, to improve diversity in staff recruitment and build staff development for all staff.
In the private sector business leaders calculate $2 per square foot of property for maintenance, repair and replacement. We should be spending $1.2 million dollars; we only have $500,000 available in school and city funds.
Our children are worth more than $.002, or two thousandths of a penny per day, which is what the average New London taxpayer is spending in local taxes to educate children. We must face the fact that while only 20 percent of the population has children in public schools, all of us benefit or pay for the public's view of New London schools.
Many people have children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren in our schools. Property values turn around people's views of the schools. Businesses make decisions about staying or coming here based on their views of the schools
All of us have a vested interest in creating and nurturing the best possible education for New London's children.
Nicholas A. Fischer, Ed.D.