By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe School District June 5 approved the math pathway of courses their students will go through to get ready for the next level.
The math pathway will offer advanced math in third, fourth and fifth grade and at the middle school level, sixth grade math, advanced sixth grade math and math seven and eight.
“I feel like the whole math program has taken a step up,” said Assistant Superintendent Cindy Schaub.
Schaub has worked with the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD), which the district feeds into for 9-12 math courses. Together they determined which middle school courses would have students best-prepared for the next level — both for students who need to be challenged and those that need extra help.
Schaub said the new Common Core State Standards (which go into effect this fall) recommend against acceleration in math because the philosophy is that it’s best not to “squeeze a lot in” but rather focus on depth of knowledge.
As SDUHSD is doing, RSF will offer accelerated students a chance to skip seventh grade math and they are developing an online course for seventh graders to show mastery of that level. Students on that track would then go from advanced sixth grade math to eighth grade math and then take SDUHSD’s ninth grade Integrated Math 1 in eighth grade.
For students who are struggling or need small group instruction, the district will offer math intervention outside of the regular math block.
“Regardless of what track (the student is on), it’s really rigorous and difficult,” Schaub said. “Students are going to be challenged.”
Schaub said the new Common Core math curriculum has been a huge undertaking and a big change this year.
“Changes in homework were the biggest challenge in the beginning of the year,” said Superintendent Lindy Delaney.
By November, the problems seemed to be ironed out regarding homework but it did take a lot of education for both parents and staff—the students were the easy ones. “They’re like sponges,” Delaney said.
RSF School District Board Vice President Todd Frank agreed that the homework has been rough—especially when students came home with poorly Xeroxed sheets for assignments. Delaney agreed that “cattywampus” copies reflect a rush and that not a lot of thought has been put into it. She admitted it has been a challenge but they have been and will continue to work with teachers on that issue.
Schaub said it has been a “long and tedious” process reviewing materials for their math program. Staff reviewed potential new material from eight publishers.
“At this time I’m recommending not to adopt or purchase any material,” Schaub said. “They just don’t meet the needs of Common Core.”
Instead of adopting new material at this time, RSF will continue using the district-written curriculum and Engage NY material, free material from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that Schaub said gives a solid scope and sequence for the year.
Schaub said it was many of the teachers’ decision to stay with what they used this school year as it is really working for the kids.