Niche.com ranks Monroe as the 18th Best School District in Connecticut

Monroe public schools ranked 18th out of 131 Connecticut school districts assessed by Niche.com, a website used to research U.S. colleges, schools, neighborhoods and companies.

Niche says its report cards are “designed to capture what schools and neighborhoods are really like.” Monroe’s overall Niche grade for 2020 was an A.

“It’s nice,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Zamary said of the ranking Thursday. “No one of these indicators defines us, but it’s just another outcome that speaks to the good work that’s going on in our schools.”

The breakdown for Monroe’s overall grade includes an A+ for academics, an A for teachers, an A- for clubs and activities, a C+ for diversity, an A for college preparatory courses and an A for health and safety.

Monroe also ranked as the 12th Best Place to Teach in Connecticut compared to 130 districts, and 17th of 132 for the Safest School Districts in Connecticut. Farmington ranked as the Best Overall School District, New Canaan was ranked as both the Best Place to Teach and the Safest district in Connecticut.

“It’s definitely a good thing for the schools and the community,” Zamary said of the success of the Monroe school district. “Some of the districts we’re in with are excellent districts: New Canaan, Westport, Ridgefield, Amity … it’s good to see Monroe in such good company.”

“Niche grades and rankings are calculated using dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews,” according to the website, which says, “our data scientists and user researchers vigorously analyze data and user opinions to assess the key aspects of K-12 Schools, Colleges, and Places to Live. Every month, millions of students and families use the Niche grades and report cards to find the right school or neighborhood.”

Among some of the data sources used by Niche.com are the U.S. Department of Education, the Private School Universe Survey, the Common Core Data School District Finance Survey, Common Core Data, School Attendance Boundary Survey, Niche K-12 Student and Parent Surveys, the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, Urban Neighborhoods and Boundary Statistics, and the Uniformed Crime Report from the FBI.

Part of a pattern

Zamary expressed his belief that students’ performances on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test played a key role in its high Niche rankings.

“I think our SBAC scores were particularly strong this year, it was our highest in math and English since the inception of the test,” he said. “In English language arts we’re actually 10th in the state in Connecticut compared to 189 districts.”

Though Connecticut has 169 municipalities, Zamary said some towns have multiple districts.

“I think it’s just another affirmation of the good work that’s going on in the district,” he said of the Niche rankings. “By itself it’s a nice thing, but what’s more important is that it’s part of a pattern of those kinds of outcomes. It’s really a much stronger statement about the good work being done.”

Monroe by the numbers

Monroe’s page on Niche.com includes some statistics about the community and its schools.

The percentage of Monroe students who scored at or above proficiency levels on Connecticut’s reading and language arts assessment test was 81 percent and math was 68 percent. Monroe’s high school graduation rate is 96 percent.

Based on 316 responses from Monroe families, students’ average SAT score is 1200. The average ACT composite score out of 36 was 29, according to responses from 76 Monroe students.

Monroe’s student to teacher ratio is 14:1, its average teacher salary is $88,778 and four percent of its teachers are in their first or second year.

The district’s total expenses are listed at $61,888,000: 60 percent for instruction, 37 for support services and three percent for other expenses. Niche says Monroe spends $19,602 per student compared to the national average of $12,239.

According to the town profile, Monroe households have an average income of $89,773 compared to the national average of $55,322 and the median home value is $417,800, while the national average is $184,700.

Of Masuk graduates, who are Niche users, 219 went to the University of Connecticut, 100 went to Southern Connecticut State University, 78 went to Quinnipiac University, 73 to the University of Rhode Island, 71 to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 69 to Fordham University, 66 to Fairfield University, 63 to Boston University, 62 to Northeastern University and 59 went to Sacred Heart University.

Six reviews

Niche.com had gotten six reviews on Monroe’s page. Anonymous reviewers were identified as an alum, a senior or a parent and gave rankings based on five stars before their comments.

An alum, who gave the district four stars wrote: “I enjoyed the public school experience here. From the clubs, to the supporting of student arts, really a great district.”

A senior, who also gave four stars, wrote: “Teachers truly care about their and preparing them for college. I feel the video production department should be more advanced with equipment and their yearly assignments. Also the video production club should be developed for more advanced projects.”

A parent, who gave a perfect five stars, wrote: “We love Monroe schools. The instruction and curriculum are rigorous but still allow opportunities for creativity and celebration of the seasons and holidays. So many schools feel so sterile and Monroe schools are so student centered. The staff is warm and supportive. As a parent of one child in special education and one who is excellerated (sic) I have experienced both ends of the spectrum in the schools and couldn’t be happier. The special education program even in the preschool level is top notch!”

A senior, who gave the district three stars, wrote: “I liked the teachers and the atmosphere the school has. I feel as though they could have made the school more interactive, as almost no one is in clubs and i feel like there are many groups or people that can scare people away from doing what they want.”

An alum, who gave four stars, wrote: “I came to the Monroe school district here in CT when I was entering the sixth grade. Right away I was accepted by my fellow classmates and teachers who were very supportive of me. I quickly made friendships that would last a life time. The school curriculum was als very thorough all the way through high school I learned something new everyday and my teachers did the best to help everyone understand.”

Another alum, who also gave four stars, wrote: “offer more clubs, organizations, resources, sports, options to take courses involving the workforce or career specialization i.e. nursing home, etc.”

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