Schools

We don’t just cover the Board of Education and issues affecting New Canaan Public Schools parents, including testing mandates and teacher evaluations, new hires in the district and programs in our schools—we also celebrate students and teacher achievements and spotlight outstanding work at all levels.

Recent Articles

School Staff: With Smarter Balanced, It’s Near-Impossible to ‘Teach to the Test’ [CORRECTION]

School curriculum leaders told members of the Board of Education on Monday that when it comes to the new Smarter Balanced assessments that are replacing the now-outdated Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), there really is no way to “teach to the test.”

“It’s probably very close to impossible to teach to this test—because of the adaptive nature of it,” Sarah Broas, English language arts coordinator for grades 5-8, said in a response to a question from school board member Maria Naughton during the group’s regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “But it is also because of all the standards that are wrapped up in the test.”

Broas was one of about a dozen curriculum leaders at the meeting who have been working as a team to address the district’s standardized testing needs. The meeting included a detailed overview of how the district is doing all five of the state assessments, including the CMT (Science), CAPT (Science), PSAT/SAT and ACT, as well as the new Smarter Balanced, which was first administered to students in 2015 as a pilot or “field test.”

The Smarter Balanced test was developed to be more closely aligned with the Common Core Standards adopted by Connecticut and 44 other states in 2010. It is administered in grades 3 through 8 and currently covers language arts and math. The science component of the test is scheduled for launch next year and will replace the CMT/CAPT science tests. Continue Reading →

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Board of Ed Honors Saxe Science Teacher Who Won Environmental Education Award

District officials on Monday night honored a Saxe Middle School science teacher who recently received a national award that recognizes educators who use innovative approaches to environmental education. Laura Poidomani received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Administered by the White House Council on Environmental Quality as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, it also recognizes outstanding teachers who “use the environment as a context for learning for their students.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during a board meeting that Poidomani is one of just 12 educators nationwide—and the only one in this EPA region (there are 10)—to receive the award. Poidomani is a teacher of 18 years experience, he said, and she has taught in every grade. “Her classroom vividly reflects how she integrates direct experiences with textbook learning,” Luizzi said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. Continue Reading →

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Board of Ed Member Calls for Increased Parent Collaboration on ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ in New Canaan Schools

The district must ensure that there’s an open channel for parents’ feedback on curriculum, including in the area of “social and emotional learning” or ‘SEL,’ according to one member of the Board of Education. Students are “consumers of the education” supplied by the New Canaan Public Schools, according to Maria Naughton. The kids “might show parents something at home that we may not see not in school, so if there is no collaborative approach,” then the district could miss an opportunity to improve, she said. “I was thinking, ‘I do not teach math at home but social-emotional skills I do teach at home,’ ” Naughton said during the Baord of Ed’s Sept. 5 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. Continue Reading →

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Superintendent: Working Group To Weigh Impact on Schedules, Homework, Wider ‘Ecosystem’ in Studying Later Start Times in New Canaan Public Schools

Officials are putting together a working group of parents, Board of Education members and New Canaan Public Schools representatives to study the widely discussed question of whether the district should implement later start times. That group will convene in two or three weeks and weigh considerations that include ways that starting school later would affect bus schedules, traffic, homework, extra help and extracurricular activities that include athletics, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi. A change to start times would ripple beyond the schools themselves to a larger “ecosystem,” Luizzi told NewCanaanite.com in an interview, “so when you start to move one piece of it, everything else has to be looked at and often adjusted.”

“It is looking at the whole system and that’s why it’s much more complex than saying, ‘Just move it.’ It’s not impossible, either.”

The Board of Ed is commissioning research reports from a firm called Hanover that helped Greenwich with its research before that school district opted this year for later start times, Luizzi said. “We are working with them and we have crafted out a study to look at districts that have moved their start times successfully and to start identifying what are the common elements from those successful schools?” he said. “What they are developing now is the research questions. Continue Reading →

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FIRST LOOK: Saxe Middle School Addition, Renovated Auditorium [PHOTOS]

District officials on Tuesday gave local media outlets a tour of the widely anticipated addition and nearly finished renovation of the auditorium at Saxe Middle School—an estimated $18.6 million project (including the “right-sizing” of overcrowded music rooms, now underway) that’s expected to come in at about $18.2 million. Built onto the school’s northwestern corner in the middle school’s traditional red brick, the new classrooms, common areas, staircases and hallways are naturally and brightly lit on all four sides—thanks in part to large windows, glass dividing walls between some classrooms, clerestories and a new courtyard created where the existing building meets the addition (see photo gallery above). The tour was led by Penny Rashin, a Board of Education member who chaired the Saxe Building Committee, and she was accompanied by fellow committee member Molly Ludtke, Principal Greg Macedo, Assistant Principal Dr. Steven Clapp and New Canaan Public Schools Director of Communications Michael Horyczun. “We are so appreciative of the support that the town bodies—the Board of Selectmen, Town Council and Board of Finance—and the community have given this project, because we really think it sets Saxe up for success for the next 10 to 20 years,” Rashin said. “You can see the exciting opportunities for education that are going to occur here, so we appreciate all the community support.”

Other members of the Saxe Building Committee include Vice Chairman Jim Beall, Secretary Ken Campbell, Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, Amy Murphy Carroll, Alan Sneath and Bill Walbert. Continue Reading →

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