School officials back off changes to early-grade math curriculum
Concerned about how math is taught in Fairfield schools, more than 150 parents and educators jammed a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night expecting a decision on which textbook would be used for the youngest students.
Instead, they learned that a district review committee decided students will use the same educational resources to learn math next year instead of choosing one of four texts proposed for pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Walter Wakeman, curriculum leader for grades pre-K through five math and science, said the committee made that decision so it can consider further which textbook should be used for all four grades.
"With the accumulation of all these resources and the results of all the work, we're putting before the board after reviewing all of this to continue utilizing resources that we have in the district," he said at the meeting.
Wakeman said the committee was considering using either Singapore Math, Singapore: Math in Focus, TERC Investigations or Stepping Stones math textbooks in creating a curriculum aligned with Common Core State Standards. Last year, the board approved a curriculum for grades three through five that adheres to the standards.
The decision to continue using the same texts comes at a time when there has been much controversy over math curriculum in the Fairfield public schools at both the middle school and elementary levels, as well as considerable support for Singapore Math for the early grades.
At Tuesday night's meeting, many parents spoke in favor of using either of the Singapore texts over the two other textbooks.
Currently, the district uses different textbooks and other resources for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten yet the same ones for first and second grades as it continues to develop its Math Instructional Model.
More than 30 people spoke at the board meeting, including many teachers who expressed support for the new curriculum.
"The balanced math curriculum builds student understanding of math concepts and provides students with opportunities to solve real-world problems," said Kevin Nealy, a Garden Drive resident who teaches fourth grade at Riverfield Elementary School.
Before hearing comments from the audience, school board members spent a great part of the meeting discussing concerns over the use of different textbooks.
"I'm concerned that we don't have a text and that we have to pull from all of these sources," board member Perry Liu said. "How are you pulling all of these together so that there is one comprehensive stack of resources so that we know one school is not doing something different from another school?"
Specific units of study are written for teachers to ensure curriculum consistency across the district, said Anna Cutaia-Leonard, director of elementary education.
Board member John Convertito said an instruction guide for the different textbooks needs to be compiled for parents so they can help their children with homework.
Vice Chairwoman Pamela Iacono expressed support for the new curriculum, which is designed to help students gain an understanding of how problems are solved by figuring them out together and explaining how they came to their answers.
"I fully support what you're doing," she said. "I have every confidence you're moving in the right direction."
The board is scheduled to vote on approving the proposed curriculum at its next regularly-scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at Board of Education Central Office, 501 Kings Highway East.
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