U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal toured Macdonough Elementary School Monday, as part of a four-town visit, ahead of the Senate's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the coming weeks.
Blumenthal stopped off first at Nathan Hale School in New Haven, Manchester PreSchool Center and Hartford's Opportunity High School before coming to Middletown's North End.
At Macdonough, Blumenthal had high praise for this neighborhood institution, where many students walk to school daily with parents.
"The reason I came to Macdonough is to learn about the best in our state so that I can use Macdonough as a model for others to emulate when we pass legislation in Washington that affects education."
Blumenthal is a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which will consider the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.
"I have visited a lot of schools and it's among the top in the state, producing better studetns, that is better performing students, happier kids and involved parents as well as enthusiasm and exitement among teachers."
He stopped by a second-grade classroom taught by education technology teacher Joanne Jukins, and then met Teresa Morello's third-graders to observe differentiated instruction. In this type of learning, children are provided with options for understanding a lesson and making sense of ideas.
Blumenthal met with the school's data team, comprised of teachers from each grade level, and then with kindergarten, fourth-grade and special education teachers. There, fourth-grade teacher Buster Nelson told Blumenthal he wished there was more encouragement for teachers to return to their communities to teach, as he had done.
Afterward, Blumenthal lauded Macdonough's sense of community.
"What struck me most is the alliance, partnership and collaboration involving teams of teachers, involving parents and technology — bringing everything together in one place in way that is very collaborative and caring."
Blumenthal said having a school leader with vision is instrumental in a school's continued success.
"I think the kind of leadership that brings those different teams together ... is very important as a model and I'm going to bring that model back to Washington. I think the vision that Principal Romeo has brought to this school has been critical, absolutely instrumental in raising performance on test scores, but more than the numbers is the excitement and the commitment that really is very tangible in the school setting."
Something old and something new was the key to the school's success, Blumenthal said.
"It involves innovative use of the most advanced techology but the good old-fashioned virtue of neighborhood and parents who are committed."