Shelton looks to change school curriculum

Students, parents, and faculty said they left Shelton Intermediate School feeling enlightened and inspired following the screening of the documentary entitled, “Most Likely to Succeed” directed by Greg Whiteley.

Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet said the film, which highlights how the modern day education/organization system is outdated and may not necessarily prepare students for the real world, raises the question of why wouldn’t Shelton aim to be one of the innovators to change the way students are taught?

“It’s not like everything’s going to change next year, but over the next several years and decades to follow we need to plan for doing things differently. That’s what Most Likely to Succeed is about... We need to make sure we’re working together. We don’t have a lot of time and we don’t have a lot of extra resources to waste.”

Board of Ed Chairman Mark Holden said the movie connects to the strategic plan the board had while looking to hire a Superintendent last year at about this time.

“One of the things the board decided was important was looking to improve the way we teach for the future. We have a great school system and we make due with what we have, but it’s not good enough,” said Holden. “We need to continue to find ways to be more efficient and more effective in reaching out to the students to teach them what they need to know in order to be successful in the future.”

Shelton High School student Darius Floyd said he enjoyed the film as it highlighted some of the flaws he and his peers face in the school system of today. Floyd said he earns good grades in school, but admits that he doesn’t retain the information once the school year is over.

“The grades will get me into college, but will they prepare me for the real world or the job I want?” said Little.

The film directed by Whiteley poses the question to whether or not students are merely preparing to pass tests such as regular exams or the SAT’s versus preparing for the real world and college.

Students at High Tech High School in San Diego, which were a focal point for the film, underwent a much different curriculum that strays away from the norm. With no formal exams, textbooks, or class bells dividing their periods at the school some parents seen in the film were worried about the information their students should be learning while in school.

Floyd and his peers said they can see how some parents would be apprehensive, but they would like to see some of the learning/teaching styles adopted by more schools. Rather than having exams and classes micromanaged by teachers, the High Tech High is one of multiple schools that has public examinations that students’ grades are based off of as well as courses that encourage them to take on more responsibility, decision making, and challenges that encourage them to be critical thinkers.

Mayor Mark Lauretti attended the film screening and said Shelton embodies the innovativeness that has made this country successful and he encourages the changes needed in the school system in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Clouet said the film’s theme of “cohesiveness” is vital and something the student’s future successes depend on. Shelton’s school system has created a five focus groups to collectively develop plans for the future.

Housemaster of SIS Ken Saranich said the movie inspired him and as the chairperson of the group that focuses on innovation he wants Shelton to be considered one of the innovators who changes the current education model.

Assistant Director of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics and data management(STEM) for Shelton Schools Tina Henckel is leading a focus group on STEM.

“Our work is far from complete and we encourage and welcome participation from teachers, parents, and community members to continue forming ideas and opportunities to continue to move this critical work forward,” said Henckel.

Headmaster of SHS Dr. Beth Smith is leading the focus group on career pathways. She said the group has already examined different career pathways and held four separate forums gathering input from people in possible career fields. She added that the group also spoke with students who have graduated from SHS within the past three years to get a gauge how well they were prepared for college.

“We need to move forward progressively looking at providing more personalized learning for students in the future,” said Dr. Smith.

Counselor Kathy Riddle is leading the group focused on community and said she believes in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and that when a community works together the students achieve and learn more.

“That’s how we must work as a community to nurture our students and certainly nurture our schools,” said Riddle.

Long Hill School Principal Kristen Santilli is leading the final focus group on humanities.

According to Dr. Clouet, minutes from each focus group’s meetings will be on the Shelton school’s website and the meetings themselves are open to the public. Each of the group leaders encourage community engagement and participation in the meetings.