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How a Connecticut school district improved elementary math scores amid a nationwide decline

Schools avoid pandemic plunge by changing math class
Connecticut school district avoids pandemic impact on grades by changing math class 02:38

Meriden, Connecticut — When Dan Crispino took the job overseeing the curriculum for elementary schools in Meriden, Connecticut, it was 2019 and he had a big problem to solve. The low-income district, where nearly 75% of kids receive free or reduced lunch, was struggling with math. 

"When I would go into classrooms all over the district, I could see that kids didn't seem as excited about math," Crispino said. "And it didn't surprise me that our results were depressed in math." 

Crispino said math classes were 60 minutes then. They are now 90 minutes, beginning with a 30-minute lesson followed by an hour-long block where every minute counts. The class is made up of tightly timed segments, where students and the teacher rotate through small groups. 

Every classroom is on the same lesson, using the same math vocabulary. No one moves on until everyone understands the new material. For the first time, tutoring is offered during the school day.  

With the changes spearheaded by Crispino, a remarkable transformation has taken place. Nationwide, student math scores plummeted during the pandemic, with the steepest decline ever recorded. But in Meriden, scores went up at nearly every elementary school in the district.

"We're going to be trendsetters," Crispino said. "People are going to want to know what we're doing in math. It's going to be that good." 

Teacher Amalia Calafiore thinks it could be a model for schools nationwide. 

"I think it's something that might seem daunting to start," she said, "Once you get the hang of it, it's actually much easier." 

Student Colin Flynn may love recess but he now also looks forward to addition, subtraction and division. 

"What makes math fun is that you usually get to work with a partner or go one-on-one with a teacher," Flynn said. "Because then sometimes it's like competition, or sometimes it's you just reviewing and knowing what you did wrong." 

Crispino says the new curriculum is creating more opportunities for the students' futures. 

"Opportunities to do things in college that are connected to mathematics," he said. "You know, giving kids another avenue of what their future can look like." 

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