Today parents and other members of the community will have the first of four opportunities to hear from the Wilton Public Schools‘ math department about proposed changes to the math curriculum across the district. There are four information sessions scheduled over the next month for math educators to review the changes with the community.

School officials have called the changes to the district’s mathematics program “substantial.”

The changes have grown out of an extensive review of the curriculum. It was overseen by Trudy Denton, math curriculum coordinator for the district, who led a Math Curriculum Review Steering Committee (MCRSC) made up of teachers, administrators and parents. According to school officials, the recommendations for program changes “are based on extensive research and analysis of the Wilton Public Schools math program, begun during the 2017-2018 school year, and incorporate feedback from a survey of more than 2,000 teachers, students and parents.”

During a presentation to the Board of Education in early January, Denton said that the overall goal of the curriculum review was to advance the math learning outcomes for all Wilton students by instituting structural changes to the math program and by incorporating more research-based strategies into instruction.

To achieve improvements in student outcomes in math, the committee proposed the following recommendations:

  1. Curriculum revision and alignment:  Revise math curriculum units K-12 to achieve alignment and coherence from one grade to the next and/or one course level to the next. The K-8 Math in Focus program should also be supplemented with additional resources.
  2. Continued coaching support:  Provide coaching support for teachers to further enhance instructional practices and teacher content knowledge.
  3. Course changes and delay acceleration:  Adopt a proposed math course sequence change for grades 6-12 to ensure students have the necessary foundational skills to be successful in high school math. This can be achieved by offering different course acceleration pathways for students who demonstrate mastery of foundational content and problem-solving skills. Includes realignment of course sequence in grades 5-8 and delay in acceleration from grade 6 until grade 7. Different pathways for acceleration beginning in grade 9 will be created, and all current course options available to grades 11 and 12 will be maintained.
  4. Increase and protect math instructional time at all grades:
    • K-5:  protect the one hour of instructional time currently in place
    • 6-8:  schedule additional instructional time–Middlebrook averages 35 minutes per class; students experience 4-39 fewer days of math compared to other DRG-A schools
    • WHS:  explore options for additional time for level 1 math classes.

One of the biggest changes being made is the delay of math acceleration for grade 6. Currently, some students accelerate in grade 6 in order to enroll in Algebra 1 in grade 7, and as a result, those students may miss critical, foundational content, says Denton. “It really does create learning gaps for students.”

What the data showed for Wilton students is that 43% of those students who accelerated in order to enroll in Algebra 1 in grade 7 do not remain in the honors level course through precalculus 3 in grade 10. The problem, says Denton, is the learning gaps remain, even when the students go down a course level. “It doesn’t make up for the content that they missed.”

One area that administrators feel should be addressed is the high number of overrides being requested–when a family will ask for a student to be moved up to a more rigorous class than what the teacher has recommended. As a result, says Denton, “…students are too often enrolled in courses they are not prepared to be successful in.”

According to Denton, the move to delay acceleration to 7th grade is something growing in popularity across the country. It also aligns with the common core.

Middlebrook math teacher Stephen Dore made an argument to the Board of Education members for why such changes are necessary–that by delaying acceleration, students will be able to spend more time solidifying their foundation and knowledge, and feel more self-confident in their math abilities.

“We want kids to be passionate about something that they might already naturally have a propensity for. We think our current model squelches that passion for all of those kids who didn’t make it along the way. We’d rather a growth model than a ‘too-bad-you-didn’t-make-it’ model,” he said.

During the upcoming information sessions for parents, the math department will review the different possible pathways that students can pursue, even with the new sequence changes.

One of the things Denton and colleagues will stress is that the recommended program changes will successfully help students achieve significant gains only when all of the changes are adopted in concert. For example, increasing the instruction time in combination with delaying acceleration will allow students to make a deeper dive into fundamental material which will increase learning outcome and mastery, increasing the likelihood for more students to be successful and better prepared for advanced coursework in high school.

As planned, the rollout for the new math curriculum will begin in the 2019-2020 school year. As it relates particularly to the 6th grade, the cohort entering Middlebrook next fall will be the first class that will no longer have an accelerated option in grade 6. There will be a gradual implementation each successive year.

The math department is making background and documentation supporting each of the recommended changes available on the WPS Math Program Update webpage. The four information sessions for members of the community, including one this morning, will take place in the Clune CenterZellner Galleryand are scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 10-11.30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26, 10-11.30 a.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 28, 7-8.30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Mar. 18, 7-8.30 p.m.
  • Snowdate:  Tuesday, Mar. 26, 7-8.30 p.m.

Please note, each date will cover the same presentation and material.

In the meantime, members of the public may use the Google survey created by the math curriculum committee to ask questions or share any thoughts about the proposed changes to the math program.