The Longview School Board Monday night adopted a new elementary math curriculum that officials hope will improve state test scores and better matches what the state expects kids to learn, educators said.
“Ready Math” has shown promise in three Oregon school districts that adopted it recently, and it played to rave reviews among Longview elementary school teachers who are using it on a pilot basis this spring, officials said.
The district was scheduled to update K-5 core instructional materials this year, and Instructional Coach Ryan Chinchen led a committee of teachers, math specialists and a principal to review the math curriculum.
One option was to continue to use the current curriculum, Math in Focus, but Chinchen said “it was not an option looking at the data.”
“We’re lagging behind the state line,” he added.
Math scores are a problem across Washington, and Longview is particularly struggling. In 2016-17, only 35.5 percent of third graders met the state standard in math for the Smarter Balanced Assessment test, according to the state school superintendent’s office. The statewide average was 58 percent.
Scores for Longview fourth- and fifth-graders were about the same. And scores dropped for third- and fourth-graders from the previous year, though fifth-graders meeting the standard increased by 6 percentage points.
The current curriculum, Math in Focus, was developed before the state adopted “common core standards” in 2011, Chinchen said.
Common core standards are academic learning goals for grades K-12 in math and English language arts. Common Core sets goals or standards that focus on deeper understanding of basic subjects in order to better prepare students for success in college, work and life.
Superintendent Dan Zorn said math scores are low partially because Math in Focus is out of sync with state standards. However, he said, “I’m not certain that we’re asking enough for our kids.”
“I believe that the new materials that we have are going to help us with that in terms of raising our expectations,” Zorn said.
During public comments, Longview Councilwoman MaryAlice Wallis asked how elementary school students would transition out of Ready Math and into a different curriculum in middle and high school. Zorn said that though different, the two curriculums “have a very similar underpinning philosophy.”
Instructional materials for middle school and high school math were updated last year using the same criteria as the elementary school math review.
“A student walking into sixth grade should have the prerequisite skills,” Chinchen said.
The seven-year contract with Ready Math is quoted at about $785,000, though the district is negotiating that cost because it already pays for one part of the package, iReady Diagnostic tests.