Once again, the education spotlight has swung to Meriden.
First, it was the ascension of Miguel Cardona, a former teacher and principal in the city, to the post of State Education Commissioner in August 2019. Then, relatively soon thereafter, Cardona was tapped by incoming President Joe Biden to be United States Secretary of Education, taking the oath of office in March 2021.
As Cardona continues leading the nation’s education initiatives for the Biden Administration, the city in which he spent his youth and much of his adult life was back in the news, again for its initiative in education.
A front page article in the New York Times this past Sunday – which also appeared prominently in other newspapers including the Boston Globe – described how at the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden “students are showing promising progress in math, a subject that was hit hard during the shift to remote learning, even more so than reading.”
The headline, “How One School Is Beating the Odds in Math, the Pandemic’s Hardest-Hit Subject” explains the approach led by Dan Crispino, the director of school leadership who oversaw changes at Franklin and other elementary schools in Meriden, beginning in late 2019.
The article points out that Meriden “repurposed a half-hour meant for extra help on various subjects – either from teachers or through worksheets – and put that time into math.” Math is now taught with a short lesson followed by group work. The Times noted that “the children seem to be engaged, even enjoying themselves.”
As the article by Times reporter Sarah Mervosh explained, “The school’s math progress may not look like much: a small improvement amounting to a single decimal point increase from spring 2019 to the spring of this year, according to state test results. But by pandemic standards, it was something of a minor miracle, holding steady when test scores nationally have fallen…”
The article points out that “experts say peer work can be particularly beneficial in math, which comes to life in the magic of problem-solving.” Increasing class time and building tutors into the school day can also be helpful, research suggests, but those tools must be used effectively, the article emphasizes.
In Meriden, apparently, that’s precisely what’s happening.
Secretary Cardona – who is credited with first putting Meriden on the education map - had two decades of experience as a public school educator in Meriden. He began his career as an elementary teacher, then served as a school principal in Meriden beginning in 2003 where he led a school with outstanding programming for three to five-year-olds, students that were bilingual, and students with sensory exceptionalities, his official profile highlights.
Now, a second look at education innovation in Meriden, circa post-pandemic 2022, once again illustrates that progress can be made, obstacles notwithstanding. The school district’s slogan, it would seem, continues to ring true: “Here, Students Succeed.”