Fort Frye rolling out new math curriculum for 2014-15

BEVERLY -Fort Frye Local Schools plans to roll out a new kindergarten-through-eighth grade math curriculum for the 2014-2015 school year as the administration and board of education weigh all the options.

At the board’s regular meeting Thursday evening, Fort Frye’s curriculum director Micah Westerman presented the board with the current top choice based on a process of sampling of different companies’ programs and materials.

The McGraw-Hill My Math for kindergarten through fifth grade and the McGraw-Hill Glencoe program for sixth through eighth grade is currently in the process of review, and next month, Westerman and the committee he formed of school math teachers will make an official recommendation to either adopt the programs or go in another direction.

“We wanted to make this process as inclusive as possible,” Westerman said. “All four schools are represented on the committee, and we’re discussing the needs and priorities of our math education.”

Those needs and priorities include several criteria, including that a new curriculum adheres to Common Core standards and the new PARCC assessment tests rolling out during the next school year.

“We haven’t updated our math series in 11 years, so we want to do that now,” said Superintendent Stephanie Starcher. “The aim is to improve math performance.”

After reviewing a list of different companies and their respective systems, Westerman purchased samples of The McGraw-Hill curriculum-from textbooks to CDs-for teachers to learn to use and review.

“We’ve taken the time and energy to get everyone’s feedback, and now we feel like we have the voice of the community,” Westerman said.

The system features books, workbooks and interactive material like smart board lessons and corresponding online programs that have been hailed by various teachers as being more rigorous and catering more to Common Core.

The district currently utilizes Saxon, a program from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Westerman said the only criticism he has gotten as feedback from teachers is that the curriculum lacks “spiraling,” which is the concept of a constant review process in which lessons are continuously carried on as chapters progress.

“It’s important to spiral, but having that for every student is not necessary,” Westerman said. “This program will allow for more individualized learning at the right pace for each student.”

Starcher said that because a new math curriculum has been on the horizon for a while, the district has between $125,000 to $150,000 set aside to contract with a textbook company to roll out new curriculum.

Typically, a contract would be made with a company like McGraw-Hill to receive necessary materials for about five years, though length is negotiable. Starcher said typically the five years is set so that schools can rotate the review of each subject’s curriculum.

“And part of that contract includes professional development, so teachers can learn how to use this,” she said.

Some board members raised questions about the McGraw-Hill choice.

Board member Stephanie Lang brought up a concern about calculator use, and whether or not a new curriculum would dictate how much time students would spend on them.

“It’s extremely important to build a strong foundation and get kids to use their brains,” she said. “There has to be a balance; they need to know what five plus two is in their head and have those memorization skills, too.”

Starcher assured board members that that concern, and the concern over lack of review in the McGraw-Hill program, was part of the territory.

“It’s a tool, and a tool doesn’t do everything,” she said. “Common Core is the minimum, and beyond that, we still have to supplement it.”

Westerman will continue to receive and compile feedback from all of the representative teachers, and if the committee collectively approves the K-8 curriculum from McGraw-Hill, administrators will present it to the board for approval to purchase for the next school year.

In addition to the curriculum presentation, the board also:

Approved a $11,500 check from the Fort Frye High School Band boosters as money raised to go toward new band uniforms. About 35 uniforms will be ordered for the fall, with about $14,000 total raised. This will be the first time in 15 years the band has gotten new uniforms.

Accepted the approval of four additional calamity days as granted by the state of Ohio for accumulating snow days.

Approved to start advertising for the position of a junior high athletic director, to be paid an annual stipend of $1,500.