JAY — Regional School Unit 73 Directors were given a presentation Thursday night, Jan. 23, on a new math program being used for third grade students at Spruce Mountain Elementary School that is already making a difference.

Title 1 math teacher Nathan Harnden and third grade teacher Ashlee Giroux explained the need for the pilot program begun this year and how it works.

“In the 2018/2019 school year it became apparent more and more students weren’t meeting the grade level math expectations. The state identified us as a Tier 3 school-based a lot on low standardized test scores. There was the anticipation of this year’s third grade students struggling with math based on discussions with teachers at the primary school,” Harnden said.

He said there was a lot of discussion with the principals from both schools, the teachers and the Title 1 math program. The current math program, student learning models and the instructional models were looked at before coming up with a plan, he said.

“We needed to do something to better meet the needs of our students,” Giroux said. “Everyday Math, the program used for 15 years, wasn’t meeting our kids’ needs. We changed some things around, took out some lessons, added some resources, came up with a sequence we thought would better meet the third grade standards our kids are facing.”

She said the second change was going from direct instruction to more of a workshop model of teaching, similar to what is seen for literacy.

“The biggest component is the small group space. We could assess their (students’) understanding, provide feedback and offer support immediately which would be beneficial,” Giroux said.

She said the biggest change was grouping the seven classes into two pods, based on what the student needs were.

“We pre-test students before each unit is taught, then the teachers get together to look at the scores. Students are grouped based on their needs,” Giroux said. “Some students should be in a slower-paced group. Teachers work closely with them, provide intervention from math specialists if needed. Some students need a faster pace, need to be challenged.

“It’s extremely flexible. In the midst of a unit you can change a student to another group to best suit them.”

Giroux said teachers don’t always teach the students from their homerooms, share all kids for math. The students don’t know what group they are in, are excited to be with students from other classes and take on the responsibility of gathering their things for class.

She said students are post tested after each unit. The two tests are used to track growth which wasn’t always evident with the former practice of only post testing. After each unit, the teachers get together to review and plan for the next unit.

“I’m not teaching the same group of kids each day, I’m teaching different levels. As a teacher I’m being challenged,” Giroux said.

Harnden said students are showing increases in confidence, more engagement and feelings of success. One student who had struggled with math is pleased with her test scores and is advocating for herself.

Giroux said red flags are seen earlier in the year. Teachers can intervene sooner to get students the help they need.

Director Andrew Sylvester said he appreciated the innovation to make students feel better about themselves.

Board Chairman Bob Staples, a former math teacher, asked if the program would expand to other grades.

“SMES Principal Pat St. Clair said, “Yes…Everyday Math just doesn’t work for a lot of kids. Maranacook had something similar, I said we could try it.”

Director Joel Pike said he appreciates anything teachers can do to help more students like math.

RSU 73 Superintendent Scott Albert said Everyday Math probably wouldn’t be used in the primary or elementary schools next year.

“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” Harnden said. “With it comes questions about ways to improve student learning. There is a need for more professional development/training.

“The desire and willingness by staff to constantly improve student learning experiences is seen throughout the district. Having ongoing professional development will help staff reach their goals.”



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