School board to talk mathematics, curriculum in Montgomery County -- Gazette.Net


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School officials will attempt in the new year to address what has become mathematics mania in Montgomery County.

Since implementing Curriculum 2.0 in third grade this year, parents, principals and teachers countywide have said the same thing: Teachers need more training and students need more acceleration, said Erick Lang, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Montgomery County Public Schools.

To see that teachers’ and students’ needs are covered, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr announced preliminary plans last week to add funds to next year’s budget for curriculum implementation, staff development and new teacher positions.

More details are scheduled be revealed Jan. 8, at the first school board meeting after winter break, Lang said.

School board members have a lot of questions, stemming from parent concerns, board President Christopher S. Barclay said.

“I think all of us saw the need to continue to get updates,” said Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park.

Curriculum 2.0, which implements new lessons and a new way of teaching, currently is in grades K-3 and will be extended next school year into fourth and fifth grades and Algebra I, Lang said. The lessons follow new national standards for learning called the Common Core State Standards and are meant to help students develop a deeper learning of subjects by focusing on fewer topics.

At the January meeting, school staff will, for the first time, outline the math course options that will be available for students in upper grades of elementary school and explain the acceleration options that will be available, Lang said.

Parents, especially those with children in the county’s gifted and talented program, eagerly are awaiting to hear the math pathways that will be possible under the new curriculum, said Laurie Halverson, curriculum co-chairwoman of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, the main countywide parent group.

“They are hoping there is still an aggressive pathway,” Halverson said.

Parents have had concerns this year with the way schools implemented the new curriculum in math, placing students of all levels within the same classroom. Parents fear that by not allowing students to jump grades, students will not be accelerated through math courses.

The school system is designing curriculum beginning in fourth grade to help meet the needs of advanced students, according to a school system budget document.

“The students who meet this designation would take the equivalent of mathematics curriculum for grades 4, 5 and 6 during grades 4 and 5,” the document states.

Different schools will be using different models for grouping students for acceleration, Lang said, adding that more will be shared at the January meeting.

To see that the curriculum roll-out is smooth, Starr has included $1.55 million in his proposed budget, which will allow for about one day of training in the summer and two substitute days for planning time for teachers who are implementing the math curriculum for the first time next year, Lang said. Other elementary teachers will receive more training or planning time, although it is not yet decided how much, Lang said.

“We will be bringing groups of teachers together and sharing curriculum, talking about instruction and sharing best practices, Lang said.

The budget also includes $655,934 for 10 more elementary math teachers, who will be used to provide advanced math for students. The school system has not yet decided how those teachers will be allocated across its 132 elementary schools, Lang said.

Halverson said she believes the extra money will address some parent concerns.

Philip Giordano, a parent of a third-grader at Chevy Chase Elementary School, disagrees.

Giordano started a petition last month asking the school system to allow for greater differentiation in math. The petition has gathered more than 1,450 signatures.

He said the extra elementary school teachers will not be enough to address needs at all elementary schools. He also said that he does not want to wait until next school year to see change, for the sake of his child and others currently in the school system. Giordano wants the school system to regroup students into separate classrooms starting next semester.

“[My son] hasn’t learned a single thing that he hadn’t learned in second grade,” Giordano said.

Lang said school districts everywhere are struggling with the same issues as Montgomery when implementing the new standards, because budgets have been tight everywhere.

Next year’s budget shows that Montgomery is committed to addressing concerns, especially regarding professional development, Lang said.

“We feel we are making a good investment,” he said.

jbondeson@gazette.net