RANDOLPH, NJ- The board of education listened to an update of the Randolph Middle School's math program. Other subjects were also discussed on the Tuesday night, April 14, meeting such as a Randolph Education negotiations update and an upcoming training session for stipend parties.
Three middle school representatives were in attendance Tuesday, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Supervisor Anne Vitale and teachers Triona Hoover and Bryan Mate. Last year the middle school started a new math program for grades six through eight. What was then known as Singapore Math has developed into "Math In Focus."
"The teachers at the middle school are not just teaching our students math. They're trying to help them develop a passion for their content area and also where it'll fit in the broader context, 'Where does this fit in the world?'," said Vitale.
Vitale went over some of the ways the teachers transitioned into the "Math In Focus" program. She also discussed what made up Both programs, Singapore Math and "Math In Focus."
At the end of last year, there was a summer session for teachers to be introduced to the new program. The program was chosen by the middle teachers through a decision analysis process. They looked for the criteria they wanted in a math program and concluded that "Math In Focus" met their needs.
The Singapore's Mathematical Framework considers the students attitude about math, if they are persevering, confident or interested in the subject. Teachers are working on this process as well as with concepts involved in math and any necessary skill work wherever needed.
Bar Modeling is another way to solve problems. Mate has led the department on this process and initiated a training session for fellow teachers. Bar Modeling was a struggle for both the teachers and students. The model actually uses physical blocks for students to take apart and help make a connection back to the concept of the lesson.
"This is such a better program for the students in how they learn. It really promotes the idea of problem solving without the teacher showing you every single step of the way," said Mate.
The instructional strategies of the program includes the problem solving approach, which focuses on students doing the thinking versus just finding an answer.
"That was actually uncomfortable for our teachers at the start of the year because they like nothing more than saying 'yes' to when something is right," said Vitale.
Teachers want the student to think each process through in order to be able to apply the same process in a new situation.
When teachers are helping students solve problems in multiple ways the idea is to get them to understand the material on a deeper level. Students are being asked to demonstrate their understanding of these exact concepts on standardized testing like PARRC.
Vitale has seen the most student growth in mathematical practice one, which is persevering and solving problems, and also attending to precision. One of the Randolph academies that middle school will conduct for the elementary is precision in math language. As a concept is being taught teachers have to think about how the math concept is being talked about in a way that is transferable all the way up throughout the grades.
Some of the nonnegotiables of the "Math In Focus" program is the concrete pictorial abstract process. This can be challenging for even the brightest students who know the algorithm and do not want to do it in a pictorial way.
Teachers also lay a foundation that looks at what the student already knows, background knowledge. Each lesson will build their content knowledge and consolidate them in the assessment piece. Chapter test have novel problems that is the same math concept in a novel setting.
"We're building this content but we're stretching kids as far as we can and as far as they're comfortable," said Vitale.
The next steps was to make sure the teachers had a good program fidelity. Trainers came in multiple times this year to get the teachers in a very good place with "Math In Focus." They wanted to make sure the aspects of the program that are crucial are being implemented and that teachers adjust the course using data.
This summer the curriculum will be revised to have more varied assessments like creating rubrics and having projects. Transfer goals in math will also be added to the program so students can understand how math can be transferred into their lives.
Hoover expressed, "I think the kids have adjusting in their pacing and their expectations. They know what is coming because it is the same format from chapter to chapter. It's definitely gotten better as the year has gone by," said Hoover.
The board's biggest topic of the night was Superintendent David Browne's new recommendation for the districts change of start and end times. After careful review and evaluation Browne still prefers a three tier system as opposed to the popular two tier.
"It became abundantly clear to me that no matter how convenient it may seem to be to have two tiers, it is prohibitively expensive. I am not comfortable recommending something at a cost that is upwardly to a million dollars a year as an ongoing cost," said Browne.
The three tier system would begin the high school at 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., the middle school at 8:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. and the elementary at 8:55 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.
To read more on the subject and two tier expense, click the following:
Board member Christine Aulenbach suggested that teachers could possibly brainstorm for some type of morning program available to kids with working parents who need to drop their children off early and who cannot afford before care. A number of years ago, Fernbrook started a breakfast program and walk-in club before school.
"I think the staff is so willing to brainstorm solutions and as long as we give them opportunities to do that then I think that would be something to look into," said Aulenbach.
Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Fano included that principals have already discussed having some of the extracurricular clubs run in the morning instead.
"There's no need to start them after at 4 o'clock. They can certainly run them earlier. They might not meet everyday. It wouldn't be a solution but it might alleviate some the stress," said Fano.
A board vote will likely be in May on the school start time issue.
The board also spoke about reviewing the YMCA lease that is to expire. There is a request to use the YMCA for a life skill lab. Many felt that before that was done the board should look at the internal facility. However, Business Administrator Gerald Eckert sent an email saying that it may not be possible to use the building due to the county that claims the facility would not be appropriate.
The Finance, Facility, Transportation Committee went over the snow equipment for turf fields. In the past certain turf fields were not utilized because the administration was not able to remove the winter snow. The right equipment must be purchased in order to make proper use of the fields.
FFT also asked IT supervisor to attend the meeting to provide a better view of the five year business plan. The committee wants to understand the need for some of the technology under the budget and how it will help the district with its core message of education.
The committee also requested that Superintendent Browne develop a training session for stipend positions to better educate everyone on the rules of district funded activities and activities funded by booster clubs. The issue continue to be raised at both board and FFT meetings and felt it was necessary for all parties to attend a session as this.
Next, Board President Tammy Mackay provided an update on the negotiations with the Randolph Education Association. The board met with the REA and the mediator on March 18. They are also scheduled to meet again on April 23.
"Things are going well. We got a little more work to do, understanding on both sides. We are pretty confident that we'll have a signed and ratified contract before the end of the year," said Mackay.
Board member Dr. Diana Thomas shared her experience at the Induction of the Math Honor Society. The honor society is newly inducted and had quiet a bit of work to put it together.
The Randolph High School Mathletes took eighth in the state and first in the county. They also took second place in the Pi section contest at the Association of Mathematic Teachers of New Jersey (AMTNJ).
"How's that for school rankings. The students are amazing," said Thomas.