School board approves new learning plan

Budget work, teaching curriculum, and student goals — it’s all proposed to change under the district’s new strategic learning plan.

After months of surveying residents, teachers and administrators, the Board of Education heard from consultant Jonathan Costa Monday night.

Costa, who has led a committee in town for the last several months, told the board that the district needs to change its vision to better prepare students for a global economy and technology-driven world.

He said that, under the new plan, the district can ensure that students have learned what they need when they transition to middle school and later to high school.

“This is a backwards design,” said Costa.

“You start with what you want and you go and find the gap between where you are and where those things are.”

Superintendent Karen Baldwin agreed with Costa’s assessment that the district’s teaching methods needed to be overhauled.

“In Ridgefield, after thoughtful consideration and research, we believe the priorities among those required skills include critical and creative thinking for problem solving, effective communication, and the ability to work cooperatively with others,“ she told The Press Tuesday.

Costa said Monday night that his committee found the district operates under the traditional method endorsed by the New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC). The method isolates specific skills to be taught in different classes.

Costa said this poses a problem, which his plan aims to solve by making a move toward a more inclusive approach.

“A child should have the opportunity to get better at [these skills] in every class,” he said.

Under his framework, which the board approved Monday, students will be practicing critical and creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, independent learning, empathy, resilience, and self-reflection in all classes.

“If you’re not thinking about these things before you get to ninth grade, it’s too late,” said Costa.