When Windham’s high school students return to school in a few weeks, they won’t be returning to Windham High. Instead they will be choosing between attending “STEM (The Science Technology Engineering & Math Academy” and “The Humanities & the Arts Academy.”
Instead of principals, there will be two Headmasters and two new Deans of Student.
But a note to parents and local political leaders; It should come as no surprise that just because your “Special Master” calls it an academy and your principals will be called headmasters, it doesn’t mean that the students will be getting a better education.
The new program for Windham is similar in design to what Special Master Steven Adamowski did when he was in Hartford. He says that the change will “create small learning communities” and “each academy will have a unique feel and approach to learning that best matches the interests of the students involved.” The overall goal, he says, is to create a “rigorous choice of programs for all students to graduate with the necessary college readiness skills and knowledge.”
Adamowski often talks about his successful efforts to restructure and “re-invent” schools. He points to his decision to split Hartford Public High School into “four themed academies.” One academy for freshman, while the others were assigned impressive names like, the academy for law and government, the academy for engineering and green technology and a third called the academy for nursing.
The Malloy Administration has been so impressed with Adamowski that not only did they name him “Special Master” for Windham ( with a stipend of $225,000 a year plus benefits), but Malloy’s Commissioner of Education recently named him “Special Master” for New London’s Schools, as well.
And many in the media have believed Adamowski’s rhetoric.
When covering the news of his new assignment, the New London Day wrote, “As Hartford superintendent, Adamowski raised test scores in some of the city’s lowest performing schools.”
Using a ConnCAN report, Rick Green, of the Hartford Courant, once wrote that Adamowski had “tripled the rate of student achievement” in Harford.
While another Hartford Courant story reported that “to the cheers of a standing-room-only crowd of teachers, principals and parents at school district offices,” Adamowski proclaimed that “This is year three [increasing test scores]. This is a trend.”
As readers are now keenly aware, the claim that Adamowski increased test scores by turning around failing schools was primarily a result of his decision to remove about 10 percent of the lowest performing students from taking Connecticut’s state standardized tests. By removing students most likely to get the lowest scores, Adamowski was able to artificially increase the “average” scores for the remaining students.
Well now we get another snap shot about the truth.
A story in yesterday’s Hartford Courant, After Citywide Test, Poor SAT Scores For Hartford Students, highlights the results when Hartford juniors were given the SATs this year.
The Courant story reports that of the 868 juniors who took the SAT, the scores of which can range from 200 to 800, the average scores were as follows:
Critical Reading: 367
Colleges and universities traditionally look to the combined Reading and Math score when reviewing college applications. The SAT’s national average for the combined reading and math is 1,011. The average at the University of Connecticut is 1.216.
Hartford’s average combined score was 737
In addition to the overall scores, the Courant compares the city-wide numbers to the results for those students attending Adamowski’s various academies. These are the students who were not attending magnet schools, but were attending the re-invented high school. The average SAT scores for these students were:
Critical Reading: 336 (-31 points lower than non-academy students)
Math: 349 (-20 points lower than non-academy students)
Writing: 337 (-47 points lower than non-academy students)
The combined Reading and Math score was 685 (-52 points lower than non-academy students)
These results only reflect one test and one year, but they send a very powerful message to the parents and political leaders of Windham; Just because your Special Master calls it an academy and its principal a headmaster doesn’t mean the students will be getting a better education.