PA Coalition for World Class Math

Traditional math pitched for Rochester's magnet school (NH) (1/4/2012)

Traditional math pitched for Rochester's magnet school

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ROCHESTER — Everyday Math was a key discussion point at Tuesday night's magnet school steering committee meeting, where ideas brought up at a local community forum were the focus.

The current plans for the magnet school would transform Maple Street School into the state's first magnet school beginning next fall, featuring a 200-day school year, near daily French instruction for all grade levels, and personalized learning plans for all students.

Whether a more traditional math curriculum should be used there, instead of Everyday Math, currently used at elementary schools throughout the district, were two key talking points throughout the planning process for the school and at a community focus group held Dec. 19.

At Tuesday night's meeting, School Board member and steering committee member Anthony Pastelis again brought up the question of which math curriculum would be best for the magnet school, suggesting the magnet school may be a good opportunity to try going back to more traditional math instruction.

Everyday Math has been used in the district for several years, but has long been questioned by parents who themselves often have a hard time understanding the program, and therefore struggle to help their children with their homework.

Pastelis said it may pay off to listen to parents' concerns and try going back to a more traditional curriculum.

"We have to remember that this isn't our school," he said. "The school belongs the community, and the jury on Everyday Math is still out."

Pastelis said it would give the district a "treasure trove" of data to have one school in the district follow a traditional math curriculum and others follow Everyday Math, as educators would be able to compare and contrast the two programs' success rates.

Some members of the steering committee disagreed, however, saying that with the many changes being brought to the magnet school, changing the math curriculum this year as well would be nearly impossible.

"I think that the issue for me is that if we implemented a new math program next year at magnet school, students learning Everyday Math would out perform every kid in the magnet school because there is not time to train the staff to properly teach that new curriculum," said Superintendent Michael Hopkins.

Still, Hopkins said it is not an idea that should be thrown out, but rather, one that should continue to be discussed and perhaps implemented in a number of years, if that is what the school, School Board, and community want.

Former School Board member Doris Gates said that while she agrees moving back to a more traditional math curriculum is an important thing to consider, she said it should be considered for the entire district, not only the magnet school.

"I've heard a lot of frustration (with Everyday Math) — this is something beyond the magnet school," she said.

While others on the committee agreed a larger discussion should be had about the use of Everyday Math in the district, Assistant Superintendent Mary Moriarty, who is also a member of a statewide task force aimed to improve the way the state's educators instruct students in mathematics, warned against going back to a more traditional math curriculum.

No matter what kind of math program a district uses, she said, it is the support that teachers receive while using the curriculum that determines its success. And while Everyday Math has failed in some districts, she said she believes it will ultimately be successful in the Lilac City, where the School Department gives teachers the most support it can, from professional development days to graduate courses for teachers to deepen their own knowledge of math.

In the coming months and years, she added, the district will work even harder to offer that support to not only teachers, but also parents.

"Everyday Math is such a deep, rigorous program and sometimes we've missed some of that extra time we need for kids to practice the skills," she said. "We're highlighting over the second half of year how we work with families. It takes time, but I think the magnet school, with the longer calendar, with the team atmosphere, and with the parent component is such an opportunity to show how that could have an impact."

Everyday Math will continue to be discussed in the district at a later date.

The magnet school steering committee will meet for another community focus group on Jan. 17, and plans to present the proposal for the school to the Instruction Committee of the School Board on Jan. 19.