It’s About Time: Lessons from Meriden, CT

Today's blog is written by Robert Travaglini, senior director of school and district support in Connecticut.

In Meriden, Connecticut, district leaders and teachers were in a quandary. Their neighborhood schools did not provide students and teachers with the necessary resources to help close the achievement gap. So, the community came up with a plan to redesign the entire school day to benefit students, staff, and families through expanded learning time. The recent AFT handbook, It’s About Time: Lessons from Expanded Learning Time in Meriden, Conn, highlights the work done in Meriden addressing union-district partnerships, school level planning, effective scheduling, teacher collaboration, instructional support, and expanding student opportunities through enrichment programming.

The AFT Innovation Fund - founded in 2009 by the president of the American Federation of Teachers to provide resources for unions to lead educational change – was an important part of the district’s success stressing the importance of teachers playing a leading role in planning for the longer school day. The AFT helped create these union-district partnerships in 2011, inviting a team of district and union leaders from Meriden to attend a meeting with NCTL in Boston to learn more about the benefits of expanded learning time. This meeting led the Meriden Federation of Teachers to apply for and receive an AFT Innovation Fund grant to implement expanded time in Meriden schools.

"The Meriden experience shows that innovation and flexibility stem from true labor-management-community collaboration. It takes support, resources, respect and time.” – AFT President Randi Weingarten

Dr. Mark Benigni, Meriden’s Superintendent, and Meriden Federation of Teachers President, Erin Benham, are to be commended for their courage and collaboration in putting students and families first through innovative planning and creative thinking in realizing the traditional schedule of public education was not working for their students. It’s About Time is an important resource for unions and districts that are considering expanding learning time. "It's really a soup-to-nuts account of how we did what we did," said Erin Benham. "Meriden teachers wanted more time to collaborate to help their students. By re-engineering the school day at three schools, they have created a strong sense of collaboration and community.”

We recommend you read the handbook to find best practices for implementing expanded learning time