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Teacher Morale Through the Roof: Exciting Progress in Bridgeport

From right, Bridgeport Education Association President Gary Peluchette, CEA President Sheila Cohen, and CEA Vice President Jeff Leake listen to Curiale teacher Katie McLeod explain an exciting plan to boost student achievement at the school.

Governor Malloy is all ears as he learns about plans and early progress being made in schools that are part of the new Commissioner’s Network — a key program enacted when the governor signed Public Act 12-116, Connecticut’s sweeping education reform law.

Today the governor was at Curiale School in Bridgeport. “This is a check-in. Are we moving toward improvement? Are we making progress?” The governor was speaking in the school’s library with key stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, and board of education members.

At the meeting, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor credited the Bridgeport Education Association (BEA) and CEA with being “incredibly creative and flexible” about spawning innovation at the school.

One of those innovations was developing new teacher schedules to provide students with a longer instructional day and an extended day schedule. The extended day complements the strong academic program by offering dance, music, and art classes, as well as sports and recreation opportunities for students and families.

Curiale teacher Katie McLeod served on the committee that developed a “turnaround plan” for the school.

McLeod says, “We are all excited about the after-school enrichment programs and our new administrators. Teachers’ morale is through the roof, and student attendance is way up.”

With a new curriculum and more teacher professional development, enthusiasm about improvement is palpable at Curiale.

Governor Malloy talks to Curiale Students Kwajana Gooden (left) and Nayelis Perez.

In Christine Nogueira’s fourth-grade class, Governor Malloy chatted with students Kwajana Gooden and Nayelis Perez.

Perez said she likes the longer days. “They are designed to help you,” Governor Malloy told the girls.

Beyond the extended day and after-school program, other elements of Curiale’s turnaround plan include the following.

  • A rigorous kindergarten through grade three literacy initiative.
  • Smaller class sizes.
  • Leveled flexible groups for reading and math so students receive appropriate instruction.
  • A new curriculum in all core subjects.
  • The formation of Instructional Learning Teams to lead and facilitate schoolwide implementation of lesson studies and professional development.
  • Common planning time for teachers each week.
  • A program of Schoolwide Enrichment that will identify the strengths and talents of all students and create classes and programs to develop these talents.

UConn’s Neag School of Education is working with Curiale to develop and implement the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Neag will offer professional development to train teachers and staff to identify students’ areas of strength and develop strategies to address them and link them to students’ areas of need. Research shows this model engages students in learning and makes them eager to participate in school programs and activities.

Governor Malloy said today that an extra $4.5 million are being allocated to the Bridgeport School District this year.

At Curiale and other schools, the hope is that extra resources and hard work will have everyone talking about “substantial change, not marginal change,” according to the governor.

McLeod explained that the extra instructional time has provided enrichment opportunities enabling teachers to go back and teach fun things that excite students, such as a unit on Pioneer Days.

Jennifer Kelemen, a teacher at Madison School, and Gregory Furlong, a teacher at Bryant School, also serve on the Curiale Turnaround Committee.

BEA President Gary Peluchette said, “Along with Katie McLeod, they are exemplary educators who have shown how much teachers can and want to be part of the solution. They are dedicated to their students, their profession, and their community.”

Kelemen said she hopes Curiale can be a model for other schools because extracurricular opportunities, from sports to the arts, really motivate kids. Furlong pointed out that wraparound services for students and families are also an enormous plus.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said that collaboration that includes all education stakeholders is a key element. “We are pleased that school reform efforts are putting a focus on families and community — essential ingredients for student success,” said Cohen.

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