Meriden school board nixes midterm exams, appoints new associate superintendent

Meriden school board nixes midterm exams, appoints new associate superintendent


Miguel Cardona

MERIDEN — Students at the city’s two public high schools can say goodbye to midterm exams. Members of the Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate them for the 2015-16 school year.

The Meriden school system would likely be only the second in the state to uniformly eliminate the midyear exams. The Danbury Board of Education voted in May 2014 to get rid of both midterm and final exams.

“This is one of the more exciting things we’ve done,” said Robert E. Kosienski, the Meriden school board secretary. “I think it’s awesome. I think it’s something really encouraging to see the enthusiasm” from both Maloney High School Principal Jennifer Straub and Platt High School Principal Robert Montemurro.

Kosienski serves on the board’s curriculum committee, which is chaired by Pamela Bahre.

Bahre said Tuesday that teachers and administrators sought more instructional time, and less time spent getting ready for the exams.

The high schools’ principals were charged with presenting the idea to teachers, and reporting back to the curriculum committee with the group’s opinion.

Kosienski said that although there was “just a bit of resistance at first, both schools delved into the possibilities of what they could do” without the exams, and ultimately landed on a favorable outlook.

Final exams for high school courses are a state mandate and will still be required. School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni said Tuesday that he wouldn’t be surprised if that mandate is re-evaluated, though.

“Finals will remain intact in part because of state requirements, but I’m sure in a short period of time, there’ll be discussions around the state about getting away from that model,” Benigni said.

In place of the midterms, teachers will focus on performance-based assessments at more regular intervals throughout the year. Benigni and Kosienski said that those type of assessments would better serve both students and teachers, compared to a midyear exam.

“The problem with midterm exams now is we give a test, we get the results, we count it as 10 percent of the students’ grade, and then we move on,” Benigni said. “We’re testing just for the sake of testing. We’re not doing away with testing altogether here, we’re saying let’s assess all year long, let’s do those dipstick assessments” and shape instruction around the results.

Kosienski said the change removes a burden from students who have been required to take two midterms in the morning and attend classes in the afternoon during the full week of exams.

This is different from the final exam schedule, in which tests are in the morning during a week of half-days. In other words, students take their final exams, then go home.

“This is a more creative way to evaluate in the classroom, it affords more holistic grading,” Kosienski said. He said that the elimination of midterms would add 5½ hours of instructional time during the year.

Board member John Lineen said Tuesday that according to a television program he saw, the world’s top teacher doesn’t test her students.

“That’s really what we’re going to be talking about at some juncture, getting away from testing and getting toward more performance-based assessments,” he said.

Board President Mark A. Hughes, who is an administrator in the East Haven school system, said just before the vote, “Being somebody who lives in the world of high schools, I see the benefit of doing this.”

In other business Tuesday, it was announced that Miguel Cardona, current performance evaluation specialist for the Meriden schools, will take over as associate superintendent for teaching and learning, starting July 1.

He’ll replace outgoing the associate superintendent of curriculum, Robert Angeli, who is leaving at the end of the month to take a position as superintendent of the Lebanon public schools.

In an emotional speech Tuesday, Cardona thanked board members and central office staff for the appointment.

“This appointment represents the opportunity available to any child that walks into the Meriden public schools,” Cardona said, himself a graduate of the school system.

He also credited his parents and grandparents for giving up a life of luxury in Puerto Rico to ensure “better lives” for their children and grandchildren.

“In me, the third generation, the narrative has blossomed,” Cardona said, visibly moved. “We use education as a catalyst for growth.”

Benigni and Hughes were equally complimentary.

“Miguel is a huge asset to the district,” Benigni said. “He cares a lot about the kids, and knows that education is the greatest gift we can give them.”

Hughes said Cardona “has been outstanding in every position he’s had,” and pointed to the board’s unanimous acceptance of his appointment as proof that “we agree that he’s the right person for the job.”

Benigni said that because it was an appointment process and Cardona was the first choice, no one else was considered. The duties of Cardona’s former position will be folded into existing jobs, Benigni said.

It was also announced Tuesday that Donna Mik, director of pupil personnel programs, will be retiring at the end of this year, after 35 years in the school system. Patricia Sullivan-Kowalski, supervisor of special education, will be stepping into the position. (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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