New math program approved for elementary schools in Amherst, Pelham

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Published: 5/4/2022 9:17:07 PM

Modified: 5/4/2022 9:15:36 PM

AMHERST — A new mathematics program for the Amherst and Pelham elementary schools, aligned with priorities for the districts that include being usable, accessible to all and having materials in English and Spanish, will begin in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms this fall.

The school committees in both towns, at a joint meeting April 26, unanimously approved a recommendation from Superintendent Michael Morris to adopt i-Ready Classroom Math K-5 as the elementary math curriculum for the four elementary schools in the two towns.

Morris said in a statement that the study of a new math program began to promote equity, following a report two years ago that the district needed to evolve from what is considered outdated curriculum, Everyday Math, that it has used since 2012. The schools have seen persistent opportunity gaps among certain subgroups of students.

“Proficiency in math is a gateway to future opportunities for young people,” Morris said. “We are excited to make i-Ready Classroom Math K-5 available to our students, teachers and families, and we look forward to the implementation of this powerful tool for teaching and learning.”

The committees’ decisions came after a six-month review process led by a 20-member Elementary Math Review Committee, which included teachers, principals, central office administrators, math specialists and parents and guardians. Input also came from Parent-Guardian Organizations, the Special Education Parent Advisory Council and the Multilingual Parent Advisory Council.

Mary Kiely, interim coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, and Stephanie Joyce, the Title 1 District coordinator, oversaw the review process that led to i-Ready being recommended. Locally, the program is already used in the Springfield and Westfield public schools.

The committee narrowed its focus to two finalists, the other being Illustrative Math, then piloted both for six weeks by a select group of 15 elementary teachers, including Crocker Farm, Fort River, Pelham and Wildwood elementary schools, with daily feedback during the process. Students from pilot classes, as well as classroom observers, also contributed feedback to the committee, and committee members reached out to school districts in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island already using the curricula.

Joyce said three-quarters of the local group enthusiastically recommended i-Ready Math, while no one held the same feelings for Illustrative Math.

In addition, student feedback in grades 1 to 3 also showed enthusiasm for i-Ready. “The children literally were jumping out of their chairs and clapping and cheering for their new math books as they started looking at them,” Joyce said.

Kiely said launching the new math program will have about $119,000 in first-year costs, to be covered through a grant from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Morris said he sought a math curriculum that will provide equal access in English and Spanish, including in both print and digital materials, and will embed a strong program of professional development for teachers.

The committee began by investigating four curricula that had received top ratings from EdReports, an independent nonprofit, and CURATE, which convenes panels of Massachusetts teachers to review and rate evidence on the quality and alignment of specific curricular materials.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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