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Fairfield To Spread Support for Math, Science

Fairfield’s elementary school students already excel at reading, math and science. For example, in the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Tests , 86 percent of fifth-graders finished at or above goal in math, while 77.4 percent did the same in reading. Still, Superintendent David Title sees room for improvement in the way Fairfield teaches its kids. So he and Director of Elementary Education Anna Cutaia-Leonard have plans to add more support for Fairfield’s youngest students.

“We do not provide, in my view, sufficient support in math and science at the elementary level,” Title said. “To the extent that we can correct those issues early with children, it will pay benefits down the road.”

Title said the district’s plan to improve elementary math and science scores is to make access to resources more equitable across the district’s 11 elementary schools. Currently, math and science resource teachers are split evenly across each school, no matter the size. Each school gets four-tenths of a math support teacher, meaning a full-time teacher spends the equivalent of four-tenths of his or her time in any one school. Each school also now has one full-time language arts specialist.

“We know that our schools' sizes range from 310 to 540,” Cutaia-Leonard said. “And student needs vary based on size.”

Title and Cutaia-Leonard divided Fairfield’s schools into three “bands” based on enrollment . Band 1, consisting of Dwight, Holland Hills and Jennings, will each get 1.5 math/science specialists and 1.5 language arts specialists. Band 2, which includes Burr, North Stratfield, Riverfield and Sherman, will each have two math/science and two reading specialists next year. And Band 3, which is McKinley, Stratfield, Mill Hill and Osborn Hill, will have the same as Band 2 next year but will get an extra part-time math and science teacher in 2012-13.

The new teachers at each school will fill their days with three jobs. First, they’ll give one-on-one attention to students who need either remedial or accelerated math or science study. They’ll also spend time in classrooms with fellow teachers, helping to lead math and science classes. They’ll also meet with other teachers for professional development, “growing our teachers stronger,” as Cutaia-Leonard says.

Cutaia-Leonard and Title also developed a new curriculum for grades K-5, which will go into effect next fall. “It’s a new way of looking at mathematics and teaching it,” she added. “And we really need on-the-ground, five-days-a-week support.”

What do you think about the plans to change the elementary school curriculum next year? Share your opinions in the comments below.

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