News

School district eyes new middle school math textbook

School board to discuss committee recommendation for adoption

A school district committee is recommending a new mathematics curriculum for Palo Alto Unified's three middle schools to help bring their materials up to speed with statewide mathematical standards adopted several years ago.

The Middle School Math Textbook Selection Advisory Committee, formed last spring, is recommending the district adopt Big Ideas Math, which teachers piloted and widely supported over other textbooks they tested out. The school board will discuss the group's proposal on Tuesday night.

Despite the fact that the new statewide Common Core State Standards were approved in 2010 and the school district formally adopted Common Core math content for the secondary schools in 2014, middle-school math teachers in Palo Alto have been leaning on supplemental resources and their own materials "to align their curriculum and instruction to the standards in the absence of an adopted textbook," a staff report states.

In the 2015-16 school year, math teachers at all three middle schools explored different state-approved textbooks and materials. The committee convened last April with 21 teacher, staff, administrator, parent and student members.

Feedback from both efforts led to the pilot of two different curriculum that teachers formally piloted this school year: Big Ideas Math and Math in Focus.

More than 90 percent of the teachers who piloted the materials said Big Ideas Math met their needs, while only 45 percent said the same for Math in Focus, according to a survey. Half of teachers rated Big Ideas Math's application of the Common Core standards and topics for each grade level as "very good" and 42 percent as "good," while about 37 percent of teachers rated Math in Focus' as "fair" and the same amount as "very good."

Teachers also rated Big Ideas better on providing access and support to students and parents when teachers are not present and on providing support for teachers.

Big Ideas Math uses the Common Core standards as its "foundation," the curriculum website reads. It offers three pathways for its middle school materials: regular, compacted and advanced.

"Students gain a deeper understanding of math concepts by narrowing their focus to fewer topics at each grade level," the website reads. "Students master content through inductive reasoning opportunities, engaging activities that provide deeper understanding, concise, stepped-out examples, rich, thought-provoking exercises, and a continual building on what has been previously taught."

Math in Focus, a Singapore Math textbook, offers "problem solving as the center of math learning and concepts taught with a concrete–pictorial–abstract learning progression through real-world, hands-on experiences," its website states. It also "supports the goals of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics."

Both textbooks are on the state Board of Education's approved list of programs.

Both, however, receive poor ratings from EdReports, an independent nonprofit that provides evidence-based reviews of instructional materials. For both textbooks, their sixth and seventh grade materials do not meet standards and eighth grade materials only partially meet standards, according to EdReports. Math in Focus meets expectations, however, for focus and coherence in eighth grade.

EdReports' evaluations became central to the school board's decision last year on new elementary math curriculum to pilot. (The board looked to the third-party validation since none of the recommended textbooks were on the California Department of Education's approved list.)

The estimated cost of the materials is $600,000; one-time discretionary funds from the state could be used to purchase them, according to staff.

If adopted, the materials would be in classrooms starting with the new school year this fall. Staff hopes the board will vote on the recommendation at their next meeting on March 28.

In other business Tuesday, the board will vote on a recommendation to rename two middle schools and vote on a proposed districtwide equity plan, among other items. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the agenda here.

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Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:02 am

Ah, the Math Wars begin again. :o) Why are we picking something with poor reviews? If outside evaluators think they don't meet Common Core standards, then teachers will just be supplementing again, right? That's OK by me. Let teachers teach!


10 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:19 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

No one seems to care - everyone's distracted by the school name sideshow. Maybe the district should change names every time they want to switch curriculums to avoid controversy.


3 people like this
Posted by If it's not broken....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:28 am

What, specifically, are the problems with our current math curriculum? I have two kids--one with a learning disability and one who is gifted in math. Both of them (very recent graduates) got excellent college preparation for math in PAUSD schools.

If there are specific problems, fix the specific problems. However, overall, the math curriculum in PAUSD school worked pretty well for my kids. If it's not broken, work on something else that is.


6 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Why is the District adopting something that is not recommended by EdReports?

"Both, however, receive poor ratings from EdReports, an independent nonprofit that provides evidence-based reviews of instructional materials. For both textbooks, their sixth and seventh grade materials do not meet standards and eighth grade materials only partially meet standards, according to EdReports. Math in Focus meets expectations, however, for focus and coherence in eighth grade."


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Ed Reports is used to determine Common Core alignment. The alternate source for that is approval by the state board of education. The proposed text is on the state approved list from 2014: Web Link


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