standing WPS

WESTERLY — The school district's teachers for grades 5-8 will begin implementing a new math curriculum in the 2021-22 school year that will be phased into other grades in subsequent years.

The implementation will follow the unanimous-consensus acceptance of the district's new K-8 math curriculum by the School Committee during its June 23 meeting. The new curriculum will start being taught to grades 3 and 4 in the 2022-23 school year and to grades K-2 in the 2023-24 school year.

The School Committee approved a new English Language Arts curriculum in May.

Selection of the new curriculum follows three years of study and analysis of potential math curriculums for the district, said Stephanie Lenihan, head of the Westerly Middle School Math Department. Lenihan served on a 17-member committee of teachers and administrators that worked on finding a new curriculum for the district.

A state law adopted in 2019 requires public school districts throughout the state to adopt "high quality curriculum materials for Grades K-12 that are aligned with statewide standardized tests, academic standards, and curriculum frameworks.

Members of the local Math Curriculum Committee met over the course of dozens of hours with officials from the state Department of Education and Edreports, a nonprofit organization that reviews instructional materials. Members of the committee later visited schools where the materials that were ultimately selected were being used.

"We used interviews and anecdotal teacher testimony and together analyzed which curriculum aligned with our need and our vision," Lenihan said.

The Bridges in Mathematics curriculum will be used for Grades K-5 and Agile Mind Middle School Mathematics will be used for Grades 6-8. Lenihan said the Bridges curriculum appealed to local teachers because it aligns to math standards and is "equitable regardless of teacher, grade level, or school" and because it requires students to "make sense of mathematical ideas and processes." The Bridges curriculum has previously been used in the district for students who need extra assistance in math, Lenihan said.

According to a presentation to the School Committee, Agile Mind Middle School Mathematics also aligns with math standards and it complements the curriculum that will be used by younger students.

The Agile Mind curriculum also "balances conceptual understanding, fluency procedures and application" and "fosters math being a collaborative and social endeavor," according to the slide presentation. The curriculum also includes supports for students for whom English is a second language.

Teachers will undergo professional development training as the new curriculum is implemented and a system has been developed to track the implementation and ensure integrity to the new approaches, Lenihan said. Student performance will also be tracked. New teacher and student goals will be developed as the curriculum is implemented at all levels.

School Committee member Rob Cillino, who works as a school principal in North Stonington and formerly served as a public schools math coach, said the Bridges curriculum has received "near-perfect ratings" from organizations that review curriculums.

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