In the world of school curriculum, publishers debut their newest series and schools then have the opportunity to “adopt” the instructional materials they find most suitable for their students.
After a period of time, the publisher’s contract is up and, often, new and updated materials are available. While teachers welcome the instructional materials, it can be a little overwhelming to re-learn and re-plan with a new set of curriculum resources. But, school districts such as Ramona Unified find a way to make sure their teachers get the most out of the new instructional materials, which ultimately benefits the students.
Recently, RUSD adopted new mathematics instructional materials for kindergarten through secnd grade. To support the teachers and students, the district partnered with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and offered a three-day, hands-on training program for each grade level where teachers are able to fully learn and explore the new Macmillian/McGraw-Hill K-2 curriculum resources.
“In order for anyone to become more skilled at their job, they need training,” said Assistant Superintendent Cathy Pierce. “Educators constantly are learning from research, from each other and from professional development. Ramona Unified is very proud to support the growth of our teachers by offering our K-2 Mathematics Professional Development Series.
“And, not only does professional development benefit the teachers, but, in the end, the real winners are the students,”
Pierce said that the goals of the professional development series are fourfold: to familiarize teachers with their new mathematics instructional materials, to enhance the mathematical knowledge of the teachers, to collaboratively read and discuss research and professional articles, and to share “best practices” so teachers learn from other teachers.
That’s exactly what the professional development provided. The comments coming from the course evaluation expressed enthusiasm about the learning. Teachers said they received many good ideas and when they all came together they didn’t feel so alone with the new material. They said they also learned how to lesson plan better and, most importantly, how to best serve their students in math.
“We want teachers to become familiar with the various resources available, both layout and content,” said Pierce. “By knowing each component of the instructional materials, teachers will be able to select the best resources for each lesson they teach.”
Ramona Unified is grateful to SDCOE for supporting the district as it focuses on increasing the learning of mathematics and optimally using the new instructional materials, said Pierce.
While RUSD data shows mathematics scores are the highest they have ever been, the district still finds it important to stay current in materials that optimize student learning.
“Our goal is to keep the upward trend of increasing student learning,” said Pierce. “Our K-2 Mathematics Professional Development Series supports the district focus on mathematics.”
One of the main highlights of the new materials is balance. According to Pierce, the materials have a blend of three types of lessons, problems and assessments: Conceptual Understanding, Computational or Procedural Skills and Problem Solving, with the cornerstone being conceptual understanding so students can build from knowing the essence of mathematics to applying the abstract reasoning with meaning.
“Our goal is for students not only to solve the math problem, but to understand how they determined the answer and why it works the way it does,” she said. ‘In other words, we want our students to have a balance understanding of mathematics—concepts, procedures and problem solving. In addition, our new mathematics instructional materials have a host of outstanding online resources for both teachers and students.”
The new materials are being used in classrooms, and so far have been met with great success, the educators report.