Notes from the Board Table: Kindergartners make progress

Last week we said good-bye to a group of retiring teachers and staff members who collectively supported our schools for almost 375 years. Divided among the 16 individuals, that works out to an average of more than 23 years of service to the Wilton schools. These individuals will leave lasting legacies on our students and our schools, and we will miss the many contributions they have made.

Our 2014 retirees are:

  • Joanne Borruso — Middlebrook, Math, 12 years
  • Alison Clark — Cider Mill, Special Education, 19 years
  • Fred Collis — WHS, Custodian, 43 years
  • Pamela Darrah — WHS, Special Education, 29 years
  • Dave Delzell — WHS, Math, 33 years
  • Bonnie Dickenson — WHS, Theater, 18 years
  • Nancy Doncaster — Central Office, Administrative Assistant, 7 years
  • Loretta Ertl — Miller-Driscoll, Nurse, 28 years
  • Lynne Fitzpatrick — Cider Mill, Special Education, 14 years
  • Mary Ann Mougin — Miller-Driscoll, Elementary, 31 years
  • Michele Myers — Cider Mill, Special Education, 16.5 years
  • Joanne Price — WHS, Special Education, 13 years
  • Barbara Quist — Miller-Driscoll, Reading, 22 years
  • Julia Simone — Middlebrook, World Language, 16 years
  • Sandra Soson — WHS,English, 38 years
  • Barbara Wyton — Cider Mill, Music, 34 years

I reiterate my belief that our teachers and staff are our best assets, and the reason for our tremendous success. At a time when teacher retention has become a national crisis, we can take pride in the high caliber of teachers who choose to build their careers in Wilton, and to the investment our community has made to attracting — and retaining — the nation’s best educators.

You may recall it was a year ago when the board voted to implement a full-day kindergarten program. Previously Wilton had offered an “extended-day” program, whereby the week was divided between three shortened days and two full days. The board voted to change the format for a number of reasons, including implementation of the more rigorous Common Core standards, advances in pre-K readiness, and a growing trend both in Connecticut and nationwide for full day kindergarten. At the time, the board asked the administration to provide an update on the program at the conclusion of its first year of implementation.  We were pleased to receive a one-year “report card” at our June 12 meeting.

Principal Jensen-Gertner was joined by Assistant Principals Sheelah Brown and Jeremy Cross, who shared quantitative data including:

From the Mouths of Babes.  As part of the Student Climate Survey, kindergartners were asked, “how do you feel about school?”  The results are telling: 174 students responded “I like school,” 52 said, “It’s okay,” while eight told us “I don’t like it.”

Sight Word Recognition. Cognitive recognition of certain words is a fundamental building block when students learn to read. Prior to implementation of full-day kindergarten, our students were expected to have “sight understanding” of 45 key words. Beginning this year, students are expected to know 50 sight words. Here are the results:

2012-13 School Year (Goal: 45 Sight Words)

  • Recognition of 45 words: 64% of students
  • Recognition of 40-44 words:26% of students
  • Recognition of 35-39 words:2%  of students
  • Recognition of 32-34 words:5% of students
  • Recognition of less than 32 words:3% of students

2013-14 School Year (Goal:  50 Sight Words)

  • Recognition of 50 words: 84% of students
  • Recognition of 44-49 words: 13% of students
  • Recognition of 40-43 words: 0 students
  • Recognition of 35-39 words: 2% of students
  • Recognition of less than 35 words: 1% of students

Assistant Principal Cross noted that this higher mastery of more words at an earlier age will have a benefit once the children reach Cider Mill and Middlebrook. Not only will students be more proficient readers, he said, but there will be less of a need for reading intervention, and a greater emphasis on enrichment.

Reading Comprehension. We also saw significant progress in our kindergartners’ reading comprehension levels. Students were administered the Fountas and Pinnell Independent Reading Assessment, through which a student is deemed to be successful if he or she comprehends at least 96% of the subject matter.

When the test was administered in Fall 2013, 37 students achieved the 96% benchmark, while 209 fell below. The test was administered again this spring. Two hundred thirty-three students were at benchmark or higher, while only 11 failed to meet the 96% comprehension rate.

The numbers really speak for themselves. Another interesting observation is that while some of our older students have struggled with the introduction of the rigorous “Math in Focus” curriculum, our youngest learners seem to have had little difficulty absorbing the new style of learning.

Our next board meeting, scheduled for June 26 at 7 p.m. in the WHS Professional Library promises to be very bittersweet. That will be Dr. Richards’ final board meeting as he prepares to begin his well-earned retirement effective July 1. I encourage you to attend the meeting if your schedule permits, as we will have some special guests in attendance that night.