School system unveils plan for math

Draft program seeks to improve curricula among all levels, grades

October 14, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

A three-year plan for improving math curricula and teaching in Carroll County schools would ease students' transitions from elementary through high school, encourage the use of test data in instructional decision-making and place a math-resource teacher at every school.

The draft plan, expected to cost more than $2 million to implement, is the second of three designed for different skill areas. The school system recently launched a two-year, comprehensive reading improvement plan that calls for more frequent assessments of students, among other reforms.

Another plan, focused on writing, will be unveiled early next year, said Margaret Pfaff, director of curriculum, instruction and staff development.

The math agenda seeks to "provide a rigorous and relevant mathematics program for each and every student," said Kent Kreamer, supervisor of mathematics. "We're committed to helping every student understand mathematics."

It would also better equip teachers to meet students' needs, providing instructors with additional professional development and resources, as well as time for regular collaboration.

"This process ... is a work in progress," Pfaff said before the math improvement plan was presented to the school board last week. As they implement changes, school officials will review and monitor their progress, she said.

The agenda calls for identifying effective intervention programs for struggling and advanced students. An annual review of all math curricula for pre-K through 12th grade is proposed, too.

The review is part of an effort to make the curriculum a "living document that's always revisited," Pfaff said in an interview.

Fewer than half of the elementary schools have their own math-resource teachers, while the middle and high schools have none, school officials said. Every school has a reading specialist, though they serve a slightly different purpose at each level, Pfaff said.

Math transition specialists for each middle and high school, to help students in fifth and sixth grade, as well as eighth and ninth grade, are also requested. The specialists would assist teachers in working with those students, according to the plan.

"It will be a challenge to meet this goal," Kreamer said, referring to the staff increase. "We realize that the fiscal realities will not make ... [staffing requests] probable" in the three-year timeline.

Some board members responded to certain features of the draft.

While he approved the idea of adding math specialists, board member Jeffrey Morse said his top priority was reducing class sizes. Cynthia Foley, board vice president, expressed doubts about funding such positions.

"I ... am not inclined to throw more people at a problem," said Foley, who added, "I'm being realistic ... I don't have the money for that."

Besides provisions for students and teachers, the agenda also proposes making all test data available to parents -- particularly at the middle and high school level, where educators are in the process of rolling out additional assessments.

"Many times parents are confused as to what would be the next best step for the students in terms of placement," Kreamer said in an interview.

A seventh-grader, for example, could face the choice of entering Algebra I or taking the traditional math class for his or her grade level, he said. Given more information about how their children fared on periodic assessments, parents could better weigh their class options.

The plan was developed during the 2006-2007 school year with the help of recommendations from a math advisory council, Pfaff said. The council of nearly 30 consists of various teachers -- including math-resource, special-education and gifted-and-talented teachers -- administrators and other supervisors, Pfaff said.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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