How One School Is Beating the Odds in Math, the Hardest-Hited Subject of the Pandemic
an overhaul, starting from the top
Changes to Meriden began in late 2019.
Mr Crispino, a former principal, was hired to oversee all primary schools after helping to start a district school that risked being taken over by the state due to poor performance. The school was eventually awarded a prestigious national award, and Mr. Crispino was asked to take the lessons learned across the district.
Then the pandemic struck.
Meriden reopened faster than many places, by 2020, a decision that certainly helped buffer against more serious academic losses. Still, many families chose to stay at home, including Franklin’s, where some students stayed away for several months.
To make up for lost learning, schools across the country have sought to add instruction, although often outside the school day, during afternoon teaching or summer school. Such programs can be helpful but depend on student attendance.
Meriden continued to place bets throughout the school day.
District officials rearranged half an hour for extra help on various subjects – either from teachers or through worksheets – and diverted that time to math.
Up and down the hallways in Franklin, math is now taught the same way: a short lesson, followed by group work. For 15 or 20 minutes, the teacher meets with some students while others work in their respective groups. Students who need extra help are accompanied by tutors, some of whom were paid for by the federal pandemic relief fund.
When a chime or buzzer sounds, the students walk around.
Julie Sarma, who researches elementary math education at the University of Denver, said working with students in small groups “is really important, and a lot of pre-kindergarten teachers don’t want to do it.” Part of the resistance, she said, comes down to tradition. “You teach as you were taught.”
At Franklin, change hinged on a meticulous program for its 350 or more students. School Principal Joan Conte supervised the classes with Mr. Crispino. Even a five-minute delay in returning from vacation could have attracted attention, as that five minutes of instructional time was lost.