Casting the NetWide in an Effort to Change Math For Kindergarteners
NORTHVILLE, NY — It was all systems go for school districts in Northville, NY, in the fall of 2014. For months, the school board had been prepping for a full-scale rollout of the Common Core math standards and assessments. The administrators of some of the district’s schools had gone to Washington and testified at hearings and town hall meetings in favor of the new standards.
Now, just over one week before the planned launch, the board declared that it would not proceed with the tests. What was the holdup?
In a word, creativity.
An audit report commissioned by the Northville school board uncovered that a substantial portion of the grade school students did not do well on multiple-choice tests. Some students performed well enough on the tests—and others did not—to justify the adoption of Common Core.
The board decided that the district should spend $2,500 to find a way to tailor testing to individual students, based on unique assessments tied to the Common Core. A customized version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) would be used, but also children would be taught to interpret the test results.
The Northville board began thinking creatively. School district Superintendent Rick Taylor took the lead and asked Melissa Rahn, director of district operations, to put together a panel of third grade and fifth grade teachers and parents to design a “K-2 Team for Bright Futures.” “We would create a curriculum-driven learning-intensive learning environment,” Taylor said. “We would measure the results with a variety of common core assessments.”
The idea was to create a model curriculum that would teach all third- and fifth-graders how to assess their knowledge and understanding of mathematics.
The team developed and tested a curriculum for the 2015–16 school year that would teach children to answer questions on a specific problem, and then how to draw graphs to show the answers. The exercise encouraged children to think deeper—to think about different parts of the answer and their relationship with each other.
“Kids in the classroom can adapt and understand concepts, develop their brain power, and come to see math as a whole; as a whole object,” Taylor said. “But they can’t learn how to do it until they are in front of the board and are given appropriate challenges.”
“Having the help of third and fifth grade teachers to help integrate the Common Core into our curriculum had allowed the district to develop a comprehensive and innovative educational framework that can be used as a model for many school districts,” said Taylor.
“Our new approach to teaching helps students learn the meaning of maths; they use different skills to understand mathematical ideas. And, when asked to do tasks, the children’s answers on the test are more adaptive, meaningful, and reflective of their experience.”
Mary Ross, the district’s literacy specialist, said that she has worked in South Carolina, North Carolina, and New York for decades and has never seen such widespread experimentation and cultural change in education. “I’ve never seen so many different things being done in classrooms.”
The Northville district is now the only one in New York State in which math teachers are being recognized with an award from the National Council on Teachers of Mathematics.
Northville K–2 Team for Bright Futures in School District