New Milford High receives balanced accreditation review
NEW MILFORD — A group of 15 Connecticut educators who recently evaluated New Milford High School gave positive feedback on the school’s common learning time and class sizes, but suggested more cross-disciplinary opportunities and better training for teachers.
The committee from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) conducted the accreditation review that assessed the quality of educational programs at the high school during a four-day visit in May.
They shadowed 14 students for 48 hours of half-school days, conducted 53 hours of classroom observation, held individual meetings with 24 teachers about their work, instructional approaches and assessment of student learning, and held group meetings with students, parents, administrators and teachers.
“We did very, very well with respect to the report and continued accreditation is what I expect,” Principal Greg Shugrue said.
The NEASC committee gave positive assessments for interventionists, data specialists, common learning time, manageable class sizes and a range of services in the school and community.
“Teachers, individually and collectively, improve their instructional practices (and) adjust their instructional practices to meet the need of each student,” the committee found.
Areas of growth suggested included increased cross-disciplinary opportunities, library learning commons, and professional development and training of teachers. Some out-dated curriculum was noted that had not been updated since 1998 and teachers had to adjust class work to address that.
Shugrue noted that since the NEASC visit there have been technology upgrades, common learning time during professional development for teachers, and new courses added.
The report will be sent to the committee on Public Secondary Schools, which will decide on continuing the high school’s accreditation. NEASC accreditation reviews regularly take place at high schools across the state. The last time one was done for New Milford High School was in 2004.
“The school’s core values, beliefs and 21st-century learning expectation are actively reflected in the culture of the school, drive curriculum, instruction and assessment in every classroom, and guide the school’s policies, procedures, decision and allocations,” the report reads.
The committee also reviewed a self-study conducted by the high school over 23 school months from May 2013 to April 2015 and examined examples of student work submitted by the school.
“I was delighted with the report,” Shugrue said. “It demonstrates the good work we do here on a day-to-day basis. Our staff worked daily for two years to examine and review all of our efforts and progress for the self-study. The results were positive, but acknowledged and recognized that there still is work needed to evolve as a school.”
“During the comprehensive self-study, the faculty attempted to identify the school’s strengths and determine those areas in which changes would be beneficial,” Shugrue added.
Mayor-elect David Gronbach had a different take on the report, noting that “where the report said that 50 percent of the educators felt goals were being met, I want to know what the other 50 percent are saying — that they’re not being met?”
“The report is very consistent with my campaign stand,” Gronbach said. “Our district has great curriculum and educational system but there are things that need to be addressed that are outdated and detrimental to our children’s education.”
Facts compiled in the NEASC committee report included that 14.5 percent of the high school student population live below the poverty level and New Milford ranked 160 out of 169 districts in per-pupil spending with $12,231 per student compared to a state average of $14,500 per pupil. During the 2012-13 school year, $45.4 million or 78.9 percent of the school budget was covered by local taxes.
Still, 89.9 percent of the graduating Class of 2012 attended two- or four-year colleges with 5.8 percent entering the military or civilian workforce, the report stated.
There were a total of 123 teachers, library media specialists, counselors, social workers and school psychologists at the high school. Individual teachers carried an average load of 98.8 students, the report states.