Math curriculum will refocus on accessibility

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By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer

The Hudson Public Schools will soon adopt a new set of classroom materials in fifth and sixth grade classes in an effort to improve math education in town.
The Hudson Public Schools will soon adopt a new set of classroom materials in fifth and sixth grade classes in an effort to improve math education in town.

HUDSON – The Hudson Public Schools are restarting a change to the district math curriculum after a 16-month pause imposed by pandemic conditions, Director of Mathematics Robert Knittle told the School Committee at their Aug. 17 meeting

“We want to impact students and their problem-solving capacity, including their ability to communicate, collaborate, and make connections,” he said. 

Accessibility is the main deficit Hudson math students face, Knittle said. 

That’s according to a 2019 study that assessed Hudson’s math program curriculum. The study was conducted by CURATE (CUrriculum RAtings by TEachers), a state program that provides peer analysis for educators. 

Hudson met state standards for content and organization, also rating somewhat highly on grade appropriateness and usability for teachers. But, on the metric of accessibility for students, Hudson did not meet expectations.

The district found that math problems assigned to Hudson students in grades 5 to 8 were heavy on language. As a result, those who struggle with English could face a significant barrier to understanding the problems, even if their math skills were excellent. 

“We found that struggling readers and English learners struggled to access the content,” Knittle said. “Materials aren’t presented for flexible thinking. Rather, they’re prescribing a single way for students to demonstrate learning.”

Math curriculum materials for kindergarten through fourth grade were rated as somewhat accessible. Knittle described them as “okay.”

As Hudson has eyed possible curriculum changes, its MCAS scores have been flat.

“We’ve not progressed over the last couple years,” Knittle said. “We’re remained stagnant, and we think we’ve found why.” 

A plan was written to address these shortcomings in the first few months of 2020. But the pandemic delayed its implantation. 

“Nothing has been acted upon,” Knittle said. 

He later added, “We’ve just struggled a year-and-a-half through [the] pandemic, and math is such a sequential topic.”

A new set of classroom materials, i-Ready Math Classroom, will be used in fifth and sixth grade this year. The seventh grade math team chose not to make the switch.

“The language-based issues, the accessibility, had just overwhelmed the capacity of both grade levels. But grade seven said we need more time,” Knittle said. 

A grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will pay for the new materials for grades five and six, as well as a digital assessment component for all three grades. That grant was awarded in June 2021.

i-Ready was chosen from among six publishers who applied as part of the grant process.

Hudson will also create new professional development and content team. 

The team will have 20 teachers, hopefully from each grade level, including elementary math specialists. Teachers will apply and members will participate in regular coaching workshops. 

This professional development will be paid for by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funding. It will be contracted out to Better Lesson, Inc, for $23,250.

In addition, by February, 2022, Knittle expects to begin piloting three sets of more accessible curriculum materials. These will focus more on communication and reasoning in mathematics.

“We would cultivate the vision of mathematics moving forward,” Knittle said. He added, “We’re not making it less rigorous. We’re trying to make it more accessible.”

 

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