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Huge Changes Coming to Math Classes in WD Schools

The school board approves a new math curriculum for the West Deptford School District that aligns it with the new model set by New Jersey's Department of Education.

There are some big changes in store for math classes at West Deptford schools.

As part of approving a curriculum for the school district, the school board on Monday approved revised changes to the mathematics curriculum for grades K-5 and 9-12. The changes align West Deptford's curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the new benchmark used across New Jersey.

The school district's director of curriculum, Kristin O'Neill, gave a presentation to the board to explain the changes.

The new model curriculum is the first that New Jersey's Department of Education has issued. The new curriculum aims to to prepare students for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests that all students in the state will begin taking in 2015.

The new math curriculum, which can be found in full at the state Department of Education website, uses progressive scale of learning with very defined requirements for students at every grade level. The new standards should challenge students in preparation for the PARCC, which will feature varying quarterly assessments. O'Neill noted that the new assessments are much more challenging and include open-ended questions, unlike other assessment tests.

PARCC tests will be administered in 22 other states and the District of Columbia as well.

“The department of eds, for the first time to my knowledge, are actually talking about a common language and a common focus,” O'Neill said.

A lot of factors go into new curriculum shift—one is the need for new textbooks that align better with the changes. That's a bit of a problem, O'Neill noted, because there's no textbook on the market that directly correlates to the CCSS at every level. Currently, the district uses Everyday Math as its textbook, and teachers must pick specific parts of the book to teach to ensure they're teaching the state curriculum.

O'Neill told the school board she hopes to find a teaching resource that helps teachers follow the new curriculum. Quotes for new math textbooks run in the range of $200,000, so district officials must ensure they purchase the right books.

“We have to be very careful with our resources such as time and money, but we also have to make decisions at the same time,” O'Neill said.

Parents also play a part in the new curriculum through involvement with students' schoolwork.

“This is a commitment by everybody: teachers, students, parents,” said O'Neill. “There are less standards, but they are much deeper and require more knowledge. Practicing your math facts at home and practicing your times tables—and practicing them so that the kids understand them fluently—is crucial.”

The curriculum for grades 6-8 hasn't been fully detailed, so those grades will not transition to the new standards until the next academic year.

There will also be changes coming to the language arts curriculum next year. O'Neill explained that the district opted to make the changes in math first and will soon shift focus to language arts.

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