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TUSD passes on Common Core math text books
math pic
The Turlock Unified School District rejected five potential Common Core math curriculum pilots reviewed by a committee of teachers, principals and a math instructional coach. - photo by Journal file photo

Common Core aligned math textbooks will still be missing from bookshelves in Turlock elementary schools as Turlock Unified School District has made the decision not to pilot math instructional material at this time due to significant curriculum gaps in available programs.

“The team members wanted so badly to find a program, but as we reviewed and looked at what was lacking, we realized we are better off with what we have now,” said Professional Development and English Learner Programs director Kea Willett to the TUSD Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

 “We feel confident that as districts choose not to purchase what is put out there that is not aligned, publishers will begin to put out programs that are more aligned to Common Core,” added Willett.

Earlier this month, a math review team comprised of teachers, principals and math instructional coach Scott Johnson examined five pilot curriculum currently made available to the District: My Math, K-5; California Math Expressions, K-6; Math in Focus, K-5; Go Math, K-6; and California enVision Math, K-6.

“The committee of teacher leaders who reviewed the five programs felt that the materials did not offer a substantial improvement over our currently available math programs and supplemental materials,” wrote Willett.

According to Willett, the team used a very specific process to review math instructional materials, including an Adoption Toolkit similarly used by county offices of education; Math Progressions, which state what each individual math standard is meant to look like in CC; as well as the Math CCSS and the Standards for Math Practice.

“It was very enlightening for us in the room that day to have it broken down for us in the beginning with the Counting and Cardinality concept in kindergarten all the way to how fractions are meant to be developed as a math concept in eighth grade,” said Willett.

“Through that process we were able to identify where the strengths were in individual programs as well as potential gaps,” continued Willett. “At the end of each program review, teachers reached a consensus on whether or not that program was significantly rigorous and aligned enough to warrant a potential pilot.”

Willett reported that teams found significant gaps in every program, with examiners finding My Math a “blatant repackaging” of the District’s currently adopted 2008 math program.

“That was very much an eye opener for the team,” reported Willett. “At the publisher level, a lot of the program, problem sets, pictures and visuals from previous programs were repackaged and possibly realigned so that they would be considered aligned to CC—but it was very much of the same things we have been seeing in our math programs.”

Those who reviewed the materials believed that these gaps in rigor and coherence would significantly impact students’ learning processes and the spending time necessary to realign these curriculum gaps would hinder the current work of professional learning communities.

“We want these pilots to be significantly aligned enough to say we want to spend the next six to eight weeks in our PLCs piloting them, ultimately knowing that the purchase of it could be anywhere up to $2 million to put in the hands of teachers in all classrooms,” reported Willett.

According to the District, the funding that would have been used to purchase these programs expires on July 1. However, in the event that it is not used for instructional material adoption, the District does not plan to let this money go to waste.

“The beauty of the Common Core money is that it is flexible and we can move it as the need arises,” said assistant superintendent of Educational Services Dana Trevethan on Tuesday. “We have placed more money than was originally allocated in the Common Core spending budget for professional development. That’s where a large portion of the money originally allocated to instructional material will go.

“We will have money to purchase instructional material when needed, just not with the Common Core spending money that needs to be spent by this July,” continued Trevethan.

For now, Willett reports that elementary school sites will continue to use what they currently have available, including the adopted 2009 McGraw-Hill program, curriculum maps and supplementary materials from EngageNY.

The District has plans to review available 6-8 math instructional materials next and will reconvene the math review team in the event that any new math programs become available.