SEVERANCE — School wasn’t in session yet, but nearly 60 teachers who teach kindergarten through second grade used two days of their dwindling summer vacation at Range View Elementary School to learn a new math curriculum.
The Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District is rolling out the Bridges math curriculum for its K-2 students, and will then introduce it to the teachers and students in grades 3-5 in the 2014-15 school year.
In the past, the various schools taught their own math curriculum, and there was no consistency in the district.
“That’s one of the biggest reasons is we wanted to make sure we had something selected consistently throughout the district,” said Amy Heinsma, district assessment coordinator. “We can share resources, we can have conversations about what’s working and what’s not.”
Range View has used the Bridges first edition for the past three years. The second edition will be used for the four elementary schools and Tozer Primary.
“They’ve been very pleased with the higher level thinking that kids can do with this curriculum,” Heinsma said. “The new standards are much higher and a little more difficult than what we asked kids to do in the past, so we were looking for something that was really good for kids, but also something that teachers could implement fairly quickly and have all the supports to go with it ... looking to make sure that they can still do computation, they can still do math facts, but giving them the reasons why and making sure they understand why.”
Heinsma said the district has provided a lot of math professional development to help teachers during the past couple of years.
“We tried to better their instructional strategies as well,” Heinsma said. “Things we used to teach in sixth grade are now (being taught) in fourth grade.”
Heinsma said the teachers seemed happy about what they learned during the two days of training, Aug. 6-7.
“The teacher group that met to decide that that was the curriculum that we wanted to go with, it was 100 percent consensus with what they wanted and that was Bridges,” Heinsma said.
Tina Doddridge, a first-grade teacher at Tozer Primary School who has taught in the district for 16 years, was impressed with the Bridges curriculum.
“It’s redefined a couple of things for me, how efficient and how fluently students solve problems,” said Doddridge, who said she remembers teaching without a math curriculum when she first started. She said this will be the third math curriculum she’ll be teaching during her time in Windsor.
Michelle Soronen, a first-year, first-grade Tozer teacher, said the two-day training was beneficial to her in learning how to apply the new curriculum to her students.
Tozer principal Shelly Prenger said she’s excited for the students.
“I think this new curriculum is very inquiry-based, it encourages collaboration among students, problem solving and critical-thinking skills, all those 21st century skills that students need to know,” Prenger said. “On the teachers’ side of it, I’ve heard so many positive comments about how excited they are about it. It affords them an opportunity to teach students how to reflect on their own learning which is part of what we as teachers need to do.”
Pia Hansen, director of professional development for the Math Learning Center based out of Salem, Ore., was on hand to present the Bridges math curriculum to the teachers.
“It’s all aligned to those new common core state standards,” Hansen said. “I’d say the hallmark of this curriculum is that it uses manipulatives and visual models to help kids develop efficient strategies for mathematics. We want kids to develop efficient strategies based on number relationships.”
Hansen said Range View students have benefited from learning the first edition of Bridges.
“Here at Range View, academic achievement went up, the student engagement was up from just the way they got excited about an opportunity to build models for understanding computation,” Hansen said. “Math hasn’t changed, but our expectations about when students would have mastery of those concepts and skills (have changed). I didn’t do any algebra until I got to junior high and high school. Now, we’re doing algebra in kindergarten.”
Hansen said the teachers were enthusiastic and excited about a comprehensive curriculum so they wouldn’t have to spend hours trying to plan lessons on their own.
“The idea of being a cohesive district using the same curriculum, especially for families that might be changing neighborhoods and moving schools, for those students that will be a real plus to have the same curriculum in all the schools,” Hansen said. “I think it will be wonderful for professional development conversations with other teachers across the district. All kindergarten teachers can have the same conversation about the same material.”
Range View principal Dan Seegmiller said some schools in the district had more than one math curriculum.
“Some schools had a couple of curriculums, one grade level was doing one thing and one was doing another,” Seegmiller said.
Seegmiller said it’s huge that the district will have one math curriculum for grades K-5 by next year.
“In a building, to have continuity and consistency is good,” he said. “It will make it a lot easier for us to look at our data and say where we need to put support in different areas. It helps you understand the math concepts. They build the concept so that the kids understand it, and from understanding the concept they’re able to catch the fluency and the ability to do it. They understand it. Kids here love math. It’s hands-on and very engaging. We’ve loved it.”