Saturday, January 20, 2018
Education

Eureka! Elementary schools switch to new math curriculum

Hoping to focus instruction more closely on Florida's state standards, the Pasco County School District will transition to a new math curriculum in the fall.

It will replace Go Math, purchased in 2010, with Eureka Math, a Common Core-aligned system the district has turned to for several of its lowest-performing schools.

"Next year, it will be in all elementary schools," superintendent Kurt Browning said. "It made no sense to me why we're teaching from a non-standards-aligned curriculum, yet when we get to the release of FSA results, it isn't where we want to be."

Erin Ipock, district senior supervisor of elementary curriculum, said the change to Eureka Math should mark a significant improvement in the materials that teachers have available. With Go Math, she said, teachers have needed to supplement the existing books to ensure their lessons match the state's grade-level expectations.

The new materials should make lessons and instruction more consistent across the district, Ipock said.

Teachers will get training in how to use Eureka Math in the spring and summer.

The curriculum is not without its critics. Initially developed as Engage NY for New York schools, Eureka Math grew popular in part because of its alignment and ease of access. But when some Louisiana school districts adopted it, many found it confusing and too demanding for younger students.

Browning said district principals currently using Eureka Math "are seeing better improvement … than they've seen in previous years." He said the district is committed to the change and will use available state funding to purchase the curriculum.

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS: The school district's employee union, once known for its stable leadership, has a new president.

Gulf Middle School physical education teacher Don Peace won the United School Employees of Pasco top spot, ousting Kenny Blankenship after one term in office.

Peace, a 38-year Pasco County schools veteran, based his campaign largely on bringing more professionalism to the office. He suggested Blankenship was too confrontational with district administrators, with too little to show for it.

The Pasco County Elections Office, which supervised the vote, reported that Peace won 427 votes, or 53 percent of the total, to Blankenship's 375. Nearly 100 fewer USEP members voted than three years ago.

Peace has set a goals of increasing membership and participation in the dwindling organization.

The USEP and the district recently completed hearings before a special magistrate over contract issues that they could not resolve. The sides have not met in collective bargaining since December.

Browning said he spoke with Peace and agreed to hold off on major moves until the impasse proceedings had run their course.

PUBLIC COMMENT: On Feb. 21, United School Employees of Pasco then-president Kenny Blankenship stood before the Pasco County School Board and complained that employees, including his wife, were sometimes forced to work on weekends without compensation. He and others also complained about bus repairs, contract renewals and leave time.

As a rule, district administrators have not responded to such comments. No longer.

At the March 7 board meeting, deputy superintendent Ray Gadd rebutted the accusations, handing out pages of background notes in support.

Later in the day, superintendent Kurt Browning took to Facebook to counter district critics' allegations over job hires, property purchases and other matters.

"I'm tired of this district being pummelled with misinformation and untruths," Browning said. "Facebook and Twitter have given people the ability to say things with no factual basis to it. … It is inappropriate for someone to stand up and say things at the dais of the School Board meeting that are untrue, and we don't say anything about it."

Browning contended that a stream of misinformation is generating an unfair negative image.

"From this day forward, we will challenge and we will correct any misinformation that is stated from the podium," he said. "I'm not talking about every little comment. I am talking about the big issues."

None of the critics has given any indication that they will stop their comments. At least one wondered whether statements from the district would be given similar scrutiny.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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