On Monday, February 22, Milford School District Board of Education voted to approve a new elementary math curriculum. The new curriculum was part of a pilot program in which two different options were tested in the district.
“This has been a two-year process going into the pandemic,” Dr. Bridget Amory, Director of Student Learning, said. “The pandemic did delay us a little bit in the process. We have been working with a math task force for the last two years so that we could vet the most appropriate math source in the Kindergarten to 5th grade level in the school district and this work could not have been done without the work of Renee Worley, our district math specialist as well as the work of the pilot teachers who have put in tireless hours to try to work through the various materials and make sure they understand the different styles of teaching these strategies to our students.”
Dr. Amory explained that the task force decided to narrow their options to just two resources, Bridges and envision. Dr. Amory stated that the district had been using envision, a Pearson product, for several years but the version the district was using was no longer available. A new 2020 version was offered, and this was the option used in the pilot program.
“None of the teachers in the pilot knew what program they were going to pilot,” Dr. Amory said. “I know some teachers were a little disappointed that they got a program they might not have been interested in, but they were able to work through and give honest feedback. It really was a good process and educational experience for the teachers as well. One of the outcomes that we have is that we included all teacher voices at the elementary level in the process and various surveys were completed. We used our professional learning committee meetings to share some of the data.
Ashley Beisaw, a Kindergarten teacher at Morris, spoke to the board about her experience as part of the task force.
“As part of the math task force, we started by brainstorming and researching those math best practices,” Beisaw said. “These best practices we chose needed to be research-based as well as based on the standard. Adopting a curriculum that adheres to these standards ensures that teachers feel confident teaching math and also have the tools to do so. It ensures that the students are given a strong understanding of math concepts to set them up for math success. We called these our non-negotiables. These best practices and non-negotiables were the key points we sought out when beginning to dive into the math curriculums.”
Beisaw stated that it was exciting to unwrap all the components of each math curriculum. They read through teacher’s manuals, technology components, math manipulatives and student text additions, all sent by companies that met the non-negotiables. She explained that it was easy to become distracted by “bells and whistles” while also judging other programs when they did not have those same bells and whistles.
“But, with a math-focused approach, we stayed focused on the non-negotiables to find a program that provided our students all they need to become great mathematicians. After narrowing down our programs to find the ones that fit, we put the curriculum to the test with our hard-working teachers. Our teachers worked extremely hard to implement these programs in their classrooms. It is not an easy task to try something new in your classroom ever, but especially not in the middle of a pandemic.”
According to Beisaw, teachers worked to implement all the program components that each program offered and, although there were challenges, teachers were able to see each program as it worked in both virtual and in-person settings. Beisaw and other teacher at Morris believed that the Bridges program stood up to the test, offering many hands-on components and opportunities for classroom discussion.
“We believe Bridges provides a strong number sense that sets students up for success in many aspects of math,” Beisaw said. “We have already been successfully implementing Numbers Corner, which is a portion of the Bridges curriculum, in our classrooms for a few years. The adoption of the full Bridges math curriculum would allow the students to understand these math concepts to come full circle.”
According to Dr. Amory, Bridges was overwhelmingly chosen by the teachers in the pilot program, 66.3 percent to 34.7 percent. She stated that this gave an indication of how passionate educators were about this new curriculum. Materials for the new curriculum will be $153,379.15 for one year only with additional costs incurred each year. There are also charges ranging from $18 to $36 per student for materials used with the curriculum.
“We have money set aside for the curriculum already,” Sara Croce, Chief Financial Officer, said. “However, with the second round of our CARES funding, we are going to fund the virtual part of this as well.”
School board member Jean Wylie asked if parents would be able to understand the new math curriculum as difficulty with parents helping children at home with some recent math curriculums has been a problem.
“Each part of our program does have parent and family connections that can help with breaking down the concepts,” Dr. Amory said. “That can also be something we work on with the continuation of the math task force if we feel we need to break these concepts down even more or provide some clarification. We are very optimistic that we will be able to begin our curriculum evens that will include our families moving into the school year where we will also be able to provide some opportunities for families to engage with the material directly as well as have the ability to ask and answer questions.”
Dr. Amory also stated that there were many districts in Delaware already using the Bridges curriculum and that the program was popular enough that the Department of Education offered specific ongoing professional learning options to teachers who used the curriculum. She also explained that the program was designed to specifically assist minority students.
“It is intended to meet the needs of all our students, especially since there is a high level of hands-on involvement and so many manipulatives involved,” Dr. Amory said. “It is going to be a great resource, especially for our language learners as well.”
The board voted 6 to 0 to approve the new curriculum. Dr. Amory explained that the district would be looking at updating secondary math curriculum starting next school year.