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Posted: 05/07/14

RCS board approves of
$215,270 for curriculum

Major changes in math scheduled for 2014-15

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      New curriculum changes will address falling math scores in Romeo Community Schools.
       The Board of Education voted unanimously on April 21 to spend no more than $215,270 on curriculum proposals and purchases for the 2014-15 school year.
       The largest expense is a new mathematics program for K-5 students at a cost of $25,000 for implementing EngageNY.
       Assistant Superintendent Eric Whitney said textbooks that have been rewritten to meet Common Core standards won't be available until 2016, so the district is taking a different approach to improve math scores.
       Math has been a sore spot due to the latest Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores showing Romeo students not performing as well as in previous years. Sixth-grade math dropped from 52 to 35 percent of students considered proficient, and in fifth-grade math, the percentage dropped from 39 percent to 28 percent.
       "We definitely need something that is fully aligned" with Common Core, Whitney said. "We don't want to spend a lot of money on a program that is only a little bit aligned."
       Whitney said a K-12 curriculum math committee was formed to identify useful math curriculum. The Michigan Department of Education doesn't write curricula, so the district has worked over the past year with math curricula written by state departments of education in Georgia and New York, known as Georgia Math and EngageNY.
       Whitney said the math committee determined EngageNY matches up with Common Core and would best suit Romeo's needs.
       "Our goal is to work with that for the next two years, and when those textbook programs start coming out, then we want to take a look at those programs and see if they are an improvement, if they would be better, or if we're really happy with the direction we're going with math," he said.
       Whitney said the curriculum is provided for free, so the funding goes toward materials and supplies that go along with the program. He said the curriculum will be uniform across all elementary schools.
       The board's approval included the purchase of math textbooks for grades 6-8 at both middle schools for $172,925. The textbook includes updates for Common Core.
       Romeo Middle School math instructor Jennifer Raicevich said the purchase also includes online books, training and an individualized online program known as MathXL. She said it breaks down to $20 per student a year for six years.
       "This is not a huge adjustment for us and we love the program," she said.
       Trustee Chris Young asked that both items be tabled until investigations were conducted on what other districts are doing for math, and to reduce the number of physical textbooks purchased for cost savings.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski said since not all students have access to high-speed Internet at home, this will provide textbooks for them.
       "If we're going with a Common Core, then this is part of the tools that we need to start addressing," he said.
       Whitney said the spring of 2014-15 will be the first year with new assessments that are aligned to Common Core.
      
Additional changes

       Other purchases included 70 new online textbooks and 35 hardcover books for Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry at $10,695. The former books are more than a decade old and do not cover all topics brought up in class.
       Textbooks for AP German were also be be purchased for $3,500, and will require training for instructors. Instructor Andrea Page said this would bring German on par with Spanish and French curriculum.
       The English department will add "The Book Thief" novel to its grade 10 curriculum to meet text complexity requirements from Common Core standards. The books will cost $3,150.
       "The most recent novel we read was written in 1950," said Kim Droope, English instructor.
       American Sign Language (ASL) will extend its offerings to a third level for grades 10-12. No additional staff is required, but minimal spending for materials will be required.
       "Hopefully by taking ASL III we can get them ready from school to work," said ASL teacher Paul Fugate.
       Computer programming for all high school grade levels will now offer a visual, performing and applied arts credit for students taking the course.
       The math-related credit for Career Technical Education (CTE) has also been clarified for seniors, only requiring enrollment in one period of CTE for one credit of math.
       The marketing curriculum will expand its second course to include entrepreneurship to become a CTE course at no additional cost.


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