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East County Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018 8 months ago

Do math changes add up in Manatee County?

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Some parents in The School District of Manatee County irked by new direction teaching math.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

A change in the way math is taught in the School District of Manatee County’s elementary schools have left some parents wondering if the new strategy adds up to success.

Crystal Rothhaar, whose son, Ryan, is a first-grade student at Robert E. Willis Elementary in Lakewood Ranch, said she has seen “a slip” in her son’s math performance and came to learn more about the new math programs the district adopted –– the Ready Florida and iReady programs to teach math this semester. 

She attended a meeting the district held Oct. 1 at B.D. Gullett Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch to explain its change in math programs.

Rothhaar said her son had been doing better with the previous “Go Math” workbooks used in the schools.

“So far this year, he has had no physical homework,” Rothhaar said. “I’m not frustrated that he hasn’t had homework, but his assessment scores have dropped,” said Rothhaar. “I just need the district to be more open with us about what our children are doing in school. I’m not mad or ready to fight. I just want to know what’s going on while my child is in school. Maybe he needs more supplemental homework.”

Rothhaar said for her, it wasn’t about the need to go back to Go Math –– instead, she attended the meeting to learn more about her children's use of the iReady program. 

Ready Florida is considered a supplemental resource for grades K-8 that leads to a mastery of the Mathematics Florida Standards. Materials for Ready Florida are available in print format and can be supplemented with the online instruction of iReady. The Ready Florida program utilizes textbooks, but not all the schools purchase an accompanying workbook that is used to send homework with the children.

Tara Bergstrom-Merino, another parent at Willis Elementary, isn’t happy with the new direction.

“My children, Michael and Natalie, used to come home with homework every night with ‘Go Math,’” Merino said. “Now, they don’t even have workbooks. When you start to ask teachers to create all their own material, you are asking a teacher to go beyond their job description at a time where our teachers are already under immense pressure. Although my children may have exceptional teachers willing and able to ensure the success of their students, you cannot expect every teacher to operate at that level, especially a new teacher.”

The new program was selected after Kimberly Organek, who was a principal at Manatee Elementary School during the 2016-17 year and now is the district’s executive director of curriculum and professional learning, began seeking help for her struggling students to meet Florida Standards Assessments grades.

“At the time we were still using Go Math, a textbook with materials (a workbook) teachers can use to help teach their math curriculum,” Organek said. “We ended up ordering Ready Florida to help students bridge the gaps. After we ordered Ready, our school’s grade went from a D ... to a C school.”

Go Math, the workbook and teacher resource was retired from the district at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The past five years, iReady has been used by the school district as a supplement for students who failed to meet FSA standards. Now it has taken a larger role.

The 2018-2019 school year is a gap year for the district, meaning that its five-year contract with “Go Math” has expired and it hadn’t decided on a new program. The district bought a year of service with Ready Florida.

“When there’s change, there’s always pushback,” Organek said. “They’ve been using ‘Go Math’ for five years.”

Organek said misinformation has circulated. She said workbooks for the new programs are available. Homework also is available online, which some parents don’t feel is “real” homework.

“That’s why we’re having the information sessions (such as the Oct. 1 meeting),” she said. “Parents look for physical homework, that’s kind of old school. These programs are more comprehensive and aligned to our standards.”

This story was updated on Oct. 4. 

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