The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Good News From a Connecticut School District

on May 14, 2017

As I sat before my computer yesterday I had no idea what I would write about. Then, suddenly, a source that I sometimes use sent me to an article about a school district that has moved to teacher autonomy and leadership with many positive results:  Meriden Public Schools: Courageous Leadership and Innovation in Action. Below is the basic information, but I suggest that you to go to the source and read the whole article if you want to know about specific examples of school changes.

Under the leadership of its superintendent, Mark Benigni, the Meriden Public Schools district in Connecticut began to move toward a significant change in 2010. That change was to give voice and power to the district’s teachers, which began with dedicated time every day for them to meet with each other and talk about the changes they’d like to make in their classrooms. Right away teachers began to suggest new ways of doing things across the school district, and the superintendent began to put resources into activating those suggestions.

His first actions were investing in new professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators, moving to a student-centered teaching approach, and purchasing new technology aimed at serving individual student needs.

Today the 8000-student school district is humming with innovations and positive results. Suspensions are down 86 percent and expulsions 95 percent. In 2016 the district’s students produced the highest test scores in its’ history. Teachers say that the changes in teaching they’ve made have increased student engagement and successful learning considerably.

More significant than the physical changes in classroom practices and the improved student achievements, however, are the views teachers have of themselves. Now, they exude pride and confidence full time. They take on new responsibilities without being asked to do so, are eager to try out new teaching methods, and view all their students as potential “winners.” Being a teacher in the Meriden district has become a badge of honor, and being a student in a Meridian school is viewed by outsiders as a pinnacle of good fortune.

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