Superintendent Manuel Rivera and Norwalk Public Schools Testing and Evaluation Specialist Diane Filardo said the 2013 results of the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test show that progress has been made for black and Hispanic students.
They also said that challenges remain, and much work needs to be done.
"We have to pay attention to increasing performance," Rivera said. "Because -- I want to look at this -- we're heading in the right direction. It's not a glass half empty issue here. It is that we're moving in the right direction, but we also have to recognize that when we have 43 percent of students that are at or above grade level, that means we have 57 percent of a particular subgroup that are not at or above grade level."
Student scores for the CMTs and the CAPTs fall into five categories, including proficient, which counts when determining if the schools are meeting the demands of No Child Left Behind, and goal, which is considered challenging but is the state goal.
Filardo's PowerPoint presentation used bar graphs to compare the yearly test results from 2006 to 2013 in a variety of categories.
The fourth-grade reading tests showed that, in 2006, 26 percent of Norwalk's African-American students were at grade level, while 30 percent of African-American students were at grade level statewide. That gap narrowed, and varied only a percentage point from 2009 to 2012. In 2013, 44 percent of Norwalk's African-American students were at grade level, compared to 37 percent statewide.
She also compared reading scores over that period, comparing white and black Norwalk students.
In 2006, 26 percent of black students were at goal, compared with 61 percent of whites. In 2013, 44 percent of blacks were at goal, compared with 73 percent of white students.
"Are we happy with that? No," she said, referring to 44 percent figure. "But you do see decline over time, a steady increase for our African American students and somewhat for our white students as well... At least we're heading in the right direction."
Fourth-grade Hispanic Norwalkers consistently outperform their peers statewide in reading. The largest difference is in 2013, when 52 percent of Norwalk Hispanic students were at goal level, compared with 38 percent statewide.
In 2006, the ratio was 34 percent Norwalk, 27 percent statewide.
Norwalk's seventh-grade black students have outscored their statewide peers in reading for the past three years, she said. In 2006, the comparison was 35 percent of Norwalk kids at grade level, 39 percent of the state; in 2013 it was 68 percent of Norwalk students at grade level, and 59 percent statewide.
Seventh-grade Norwalk Hispanic students outscore their statewide counterparts in reading over the seven-year period. In 2006, 43 percent of Norwalk Hispanic students made goal, compared to 37 percent statewide. In 2013, 77 percent of Norwalk Hispanic students made goal, compared to 59 percent statewide. For comparison, in 2006, 82 percent of Norwalk's white students were at goal level for reading, and, in 2013, 92 percent were at goal level.
The sophomores' CAPT results were not as impressive. In 2007, Norwalk's reading scores were 36 percent at goal level, while statewide it was 46 percent. In 2013, 37 percent of Norwalk students were at goal level, while 49 percent were at level statewide.
The change in mathematics was 10 percent for Norwalk from 2007 to 2013, while the statewide improvement was 8 percent. In writing, Norwalk improved 12 percent while the state improved 9 percent. In science, Norwalk improved 1 percent, while the state improved 4 percent.
Filardo also highlighted the change in population over the time period. About 4,800 students in grades three through eight took the CMT test in 2013; 49 percent were on free and reduced lunch. In 2006, 35 percent of those students were on free or reduced lunch.
Rivera said it was important to share the study with the board.
"As I talk about us becoming a district of excellence, that means excellence for all children," Rivera said. "All children regardless of race, ethnic background, economic circumstance. If you raise the bar for every single one of our students, we mean that every single one of our students meets that kind of expectation."
In other board news, members unanimously approved a social media policy and a policy regarding students selling produce grown on school property. In addition, two contracts were approved after an executive session.
One was for Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona, who has a new title under a reorganization plan approved at the last board meeting. The former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction will make the same $199,875 he was making before serving as interim superintendent to bridge the gap between Susan Marks' resignation and Rivera's hiring. Daddona will handle the day-to-day administrative chores, Rivera said earlier, while the new superintendent concentrates on improving the schools and preparing for the full switch to the new Common Core Standards next year as prescribed by the state.
Board members Mike Barbis and Sue Haynie abstained on Daddona's contract.
Finally, Ralph Valenzisi was named the new chief of technology, innovation and partnerships, another position that was approved at the last meeting as an upgrade to the former IT director position.
Valenzisi is no newcomer -- from 2006 to 2009, Valenzisi was the Norwalk school system's director of technology and, from 2004 to 2006, he served as instructional technology specialist.
Since leaving NPS, Valenzisi has been senior vice president for e-learning and educational technology for GEMS Education in New York City.
Prior to accepting the superintendent's position in Norwalk, Rivera was the CEO of GEMS, an international education company that owns and operates high-performing schools, according to its public relations materials. It also offers consulting services to both the public and private sectors.
Valenzisi's salary will be $175,000. The former IT director's position paid $162,590. Board member Migdalia Rivas abstained on his contract. Board members Jack Chiaramonte and Artie Kassimis were absent.