Math program changes are proposed

Following expressed concerns about the district’s math program last March, the Wilton Public School District formed a Math Curriculum Review Committee to discuss and recommend changes for the district’s current math program.

Members of the review committee shared their recommendations at the Board of Education’s Jan. 10 meeting.

In developing its recommendations, the committee incorporated feedback from a needs assessment survey taken by more than 2,000 teachers, students and parents.

With the goal of improving learning outcomes in math for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Math Curriculum Review Steering Committee has recommended that the district:

“Continue to revise K-12 curriculum units to achieve vertical alignment and focus on the major work of each grade and course.

“Continue to provide coaching support for teachers to change instructional practices and build teacher content knowledge to support student growth.

“Provide an hour of “protected” math instructional time for kindergarten through fifth grade, schedule additional math instructional time for sixth through eighth graders, and develop a program to support high school students enrolled in level-one math classes.

“Adopt the proposed math course sequence changes for grades 6-12 to ensure students have the necessary foundational skills to be successful in high school math while offering additional course acceleration pathways for students who demonstrate mastery of foundational content and problem-solving skills and are ready to tackle more rigorous math content.

The committee also recommends the district consider an additional math coach at each elementary school building so the district can “achieve faster progress on scaling up student-centered changes to math instruction.” It also recommends the provision of “built-in consistent collaborative time for teachers at the secondary level,” considering that teachers identified time to work collaboratively with colleagues as a top professional developmental need in the needs assessment survey.

Sixth grade math acceleration

To ensure that all Wilton public school students “have the necessary foundations to be successful in high school math courses,” the committee has proposed changing the math course sequence in grades 6-12 by discontinuing sixth grade accelerated courses and developing additional opportunities to accelerate students in high school.

Implementation of these changes would take five years, according to the committee.

The first of the committee’s two-part change to the math course sequence is to offer one level of sixth grade math beginning next school year, with current course progressions remaining for students now in sixth through eighth grade. This change would mean geometry would no longer be offered at Middlebrook beginning in the 2021-22 school year.

The school district’s practice of allowing middle school students to accelerate by skipping sixth grade math is “among the factors in [the] district that has created learning gaps that impact” students’ “perception of themselves as math learners,” according to the committee’s WPS Math Program Recommendations-Implementation Plan.

The second part of the plan would be to provide the following three acceleration opportunities for high school students who have demonstrated mastery, beginning in the 2022-23 school year:

“A condensed Algebra I/Geometry course.

“A condensed two-year Geometry, Algebra II and Precalculus course.

“Doubling up by taking Geometry and Algebra II in 10th grade.

Overrides are another contributor to the learning gaps in the district, according to the committee, because when students get overrides into classes they’re not ready for, it can prevent them from being successful in subsequent math classes.

Since the district’s current course recommendation process doesn’t ensure that students enroll in courses they’re ready to take, the committee is recommending the development of “a rational course placement process” based on “multiple data trends,” such as “standardized test results, course grades … and internally developed validation exams.” While the process could provide for an appeal procedure, the committee believes the final placement decisions for math ought to be made by the district.

Community feedback

As part of its math curriculum plan, the committee also recommends the school district consider “engaging in a series of community conversations between February and April,” which “may involve providing information to the community and soliciting community feedback on the proposed changes.”

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