Summit School District eyes expedited overhaul of math curriculum materials

Officials aim to shore up math test scores, close gaps between white and Hispanic students

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured on Nov. 12, 2020. Math test scores in 2022 were below the state average and revealed a stark discrepancy between white and Hispanic students, prompting district officials to consider new teaching material
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Summit School District officials are eyeing new math curriculum materials for the 2023-24 school year in a bid to improve test scores and close achievement gaps between students

The recommendations were discussed during an April 13 Summit Board of Education meeting and were put forward by a committee that was formed this fall to identify the shortcomings of the district’s current teaching materials. 

According to Patty Wallace, the district’s curriculum and instruction coordinator, the district’s math test scores for the Colorado Measures of Academic Success — or CMAS — test are slightly below the state average. 

For elementary students last year, test scores were between 2% and 6% lower than the state average and revealed a disparity between English-speaking and English-learning students. For example, between 40 and 50% of white students in third, fourth and fifth grade met or exceeded math scores. But between just 2 and 14.8% of Hispanic/Latino students did. 

“There’s a big achievement opportunity between our Hispanic/Latino and our white students,” Wallace said. 

The committee, which included staff from across the district, was tasked with identifying the “root cause” of these problems, Wallace said, and to ultimately find and recommend a new set of learning materials. 

The committee ultimately landed on the “Reveal Math” program by the educational publishing company McGraw Hill. 

District reviews and implementation of curriculum material typically occur every five years and Summit officials would have introduced the new program for the 2024-25 school year if they stuck to that timeline. But Superintendent Tony Byrd said he insisted the new materials be brought in next year amid the concerns over test scores from district officials and parents. 

To determine the best program, committee members whittled down a list of existing materials based on a slew of criteria, some of which looked at effectiveness in the classroom. 

“We really wanted to know, is it usable for teachers?” said Silverthorne Elementary Assistant Principal Maddie Johnson, who served on the committee. 

Other determining factors included the diversity and range of the material, such as if it amplified “multiple points of view and representation of multiple perspectives” and promoted and included “contributions to the field from underrepresented peoples that relate to the content area,” according to committee members. 

The committee ultimately chose to recommend the McGraw Hill program for several reasons such as its inclusion of language proficiency goals, instructional language routines that are built into lessons, materials that are in English and Spanish for teachers and students, and its promotion of more student dialogue around the material. 

The latter was something that Johnson said “has been missing” from the current curriculum structure. 

District board member Julie Shapiro, while supportive of the recommendation, said there need to be improvement goals that the district can hold itself, and the new material, too. 

“What percent of our students are we expecting to make expectations?” Shapiro said. 

Byrd said the new materials will likely be a learning curve, adding, “It’s not uncommon that when you first start driving a new car, there’s a little bit of an implementation dip.”

“It’s a lot on our teachers to learn another curriculum, so that could happen,” Byrd said, adding he hopes for “long-term improvement over time.”

To aid with that, the committee also recommended hiring a program specialist who could work with teachers to help implement the materials. 

Director of Elementary Education Liz Strempke described this approach not as a “gotcha” for teachers who may be struggling but as a way to provide coaching and support. 

That cost would be wrapped into the expected budget needed to purchase the materials and support the program’s long-term rollout. Committee members believe that will cost more than $564,000, up to $100,000 of which could come from a state grant. 

Board members are expected to vote on the plan during their April 26 meeting. 

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