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                                                   CASD reviews math program

CASD reviews math program
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Clearfield Area School District continues to work for ways to improve the transition into its new math curriculum. At its special meeting on Monday the school board voted to create two after-school math tutoring positions to assist the high school math program and one after-school math tutor for the middle school.
The tutoring will be from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. as needed. During periods of high demand a second tutor will be added. The salary of the tutors will be $20 per hour as stated by the district's contract with the teachers' union.
This year the school district switched to the Chicago Math curriculum for its middle school students and high school algebra and geometry students. The Chicago Math system is similar to the Everyday Math curriculum the district uses in its elementary schools.
However, parents have voiced complaints to the school board over the last several months that their children are struggling under the math program.
Board member Mary Anne Jackson asked if these tutors are enough and asked if the school district should add an additional math teacher.
She said she knows several students in the high school who are continuing to struggle with the new math curriculum and said they are having difficulty finding help.
Plus she said the after-school program could conflict with some students' after-school extra-curricular activities.
Vice Principal Tim Janocko said the administration is addressing many of these issues and are looking to add an additional part-time math teacher to assist in classrooms where students are struggling. He also said the after-school program will be used in conjunction with an in-school tutoring program so students with after-school activities can get the needed tutoring in school while those students without conflicts after school can use the after-school program.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Otto said the administration was hoping to have a recommendation to hire the part-time teacher that night but said they didn't have enough time to recommend a candidate for the position.
He said they would have a recommendation for the board at the December meeting.
Bruce Nicolls, director of curriculum and instruction, coordinator of federal programs said an additional full-time teacher isn't needed because the district's class sizes are not bad, and said the part-time teacher would be used to assist in classrooms where students are struggling.
In the Chicago Math curriculum, students are asked to collaborate in groups to find answers to problems and the part-time teacher would assist students when doing group work.
When looking at the test scores, Nicolls said the middle school students struggled early on but have improved as the year went on and are only slightly off from their historical averages. The algebra I scores are also slightly off from last year but not substantially and he said the geometry scores are actually much better than the district's historical averages for this point in the school year.
However, the algebra II students continue to struggle and said the part-time teacher would focus on these classrooms.
Otto said at a previous meeting the algebra II students are struggling the most with the transition because not only are they adjusting to a new teaching method, the new curriculum assumes they were taught certain subject matter in algebra I that wasn't taught in the former curriculum.
Nicolls said the district has added additional algebra I classes so students struggling with algebra can retake algebra I.
He also said the district is doing additional professional development for its teachers and sending them to neighboring districts that have already implemented the Chicago Math curriculum.
In other business, the board voted to:
• create a personal care aid position at Clearfield Elementary and appoint Sonya Knepp to the position.
• approve the board's upcoming meeting schedule as follows: Dec. 19 combined, Jan. 16 and 23, Feb. 20 and 27, March 19 and 26, April 16 and 23, May 23 combined, June 18 and 25, July 23 combined, Aug. 20 and 27, Sept. 17 and 24, Oct. 15 and 22, Nov. 19 combined, Dec. 3. 

                  Students still struggling with Chicago Math in Clearfield (12/6/2011)

CASD Addressing Students’ Struggles with Chicago Mathematics

Dec 6th, 2011 @ 04:00 pm › Jessica Shirey


Gant Daily

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors began moving forward to help students who are struggling with the newly implemented Chicago Mathematics curriculum at Monday night’s re-organizational meeting.

The board created two high school after-school mathematics tutoring positions. The tutors will assist students for one hour, starting at 3:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday on an as-needed basis.

During periods of high demand, the second tutor will be scheduled during the said timeframe. Tutors must be certified in grades seven through twelve mathematics and have a background in the Chicago Mathematics curriculum.

In addition, one after-school mathematics tutor has been requested at the Clearfield Middle School. Tutors must be certified in either middle school mathematics or in grades seven through twelve with Chicago Mathematics experience.

The mathematics tutors will be scheduled from a pool of eligible applicants and paid $20 per hour as per the CEA agreement, according to board paperwork provided at the meeting.

However, board member Mary Anne Jackson said she wasn’t trying to criticize Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto but expressed the district’s actions still weren’t enough.

She pointed out that for some students, it’s their third different mathematics curriculum, and they’re not having any success. She pushed for mathematics tutors to be placed in the classrooms to assist student groups alongside the teacher.

Jackson said students who are seeking help during ninth period aren’t getting it. She said the strugglers are there asking for help; however, there aren’t enough tutors to assist everyone.

“We need to do more and throw all our resources into this. We did eliminate a mathematics teacher last year,” she said. Assistant Principal Tim Janocko said he’s been addressing all those concerns, as previously voiced by Jackson.

According to him, the district has arranged for three of its mathematics teachers to visit Bald Eagle Area, which has also implemented the Chicago Mathematics curriculum. He said they’ve considered possibilities of adding an assistant in isolated classrooms or periods, where there are a high number of struggling students.

“We’re hearing these concerns and are working on every one of them,” Janocko said. Jackson said she’d spoken with her contact at Bald Eagle Area, who explained they only started Chicago Mathematics with their students who had Everyday Mathematics.

Further, she was advised Bald Eagle Area had implemented Chicago Mathematics one year at a time. However, Janocko said they utilized the Power Teaching approach, while they couldn’t afford to gradually implement the new curriculum.

“We had to do something now,” he said. At that point, board member Phil Carr asked if the board should consider adding a mathematics teacher so that it’d reduce the class size, making instruction more individualized.

Janocko said he didn’t believe class sizes were contributing to the students’ woes in mathematics. He said they need more team teaching in classes, where they have a lot of students struggling with the new curriculum.

Otto said the district has been looking at bringing back a retired mathematics teacher who is familiar with Chicago Mathematics and who will assist struggling students. He said he’s been working on a memorandum of agreement, and it would be prepared for the board’s Dec. 19 combined committee and board meeting.

Bruce Nicolls, director of curriculum/instruction, said the high school’s biggest problem area lies in Algebra II. Janocko said the three teachers who would be visiting Bald Eagle Area for professional development all taught Algebra II.

Otto said the district would continue to search out assessment tools and more professional development opportunities for its mathematics faculty. Janocko said he and Nicolls would be visiting classrooms this Thursday and doing some motivational speaking to help boost the students’ morale.

“We have a good handle on who needs the extra tutoring, and we think they’ll show up,” Janocko said. Nicolls added that they need in- and after-school tutoring opportunities because students might not always be able to attend those offered after school hours.CASD Addressing Students’ Struggles with Chicago Mathematics Dec 6th, 2011 @ 04:00 pm › Jessica Shirey