Superintendent’s update from 4/29

For a pdf version of the ARPS Update, please click here.

Para obtener una versión de la actualización de ARPS en español, haga clic aquí

Para uma versão do ARPS Update em português, clique aqui.

As I have shared in prior newsletters, April is Linguistic Heritage Month. As a culminating event, the Amherst Public Schools and the Multilingual Parent Advisory Council, in collaboration with Town of Amherst Community Participation Officers, are pleased to host a Linguistic Heritage Celebration this Sunday, May 1 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. on the Amherst Town Common.  Participants will have the opportunity to listen to read-alouds in Spanish and Portuguese, take a Latin dance class, participate in a story walk, make crafts and enjoy delicious snacks provided by Amherst restaurants Mexcalito and Oriental Flavor.  Multilingual students, staff and community members will perform poetry, music, and dance, followed by a performance by Cape Verdean artist Tem Blessed.  A graduate of UMass Amherst, Blessed is a socially-conscious Hip Hop artist whose work centers around empowering youth.  He is a multilingual speaker of Portuguese, Kriolu and English.  I hope that many of you will be able to join us for this event in celebration of our community’s rich linguistic heritage!  

I am pleased to report that, on Tuesday, the Amherst School Committee and the Pelham School Committee accepted my recommendation to adopt i-Ready Classroom Math K-5 as the elementary math curriculum for the Amherst and Pelham school districts beginning in Fall 2022.  This recommendation followed a six-month review process that was led by a 20-member Elementary Math Review Committee (MRC), which included teachers from all four elementary schools in a variety of roles, as well as principals, central office administrators, math specialists, and parents/guardians. In addition, the MRC considered input from stakeholders such as the school-based Parent-Guardian Organizations (PGOs), the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), and the Multilingual Parent Advisory Council (MPAC).

I convened the curriculum review due to persistent opportunity gaps in state-defined subgroups and the potential power of curriculum as an equity promoter. For any curriculum to be considered, it must meet five guiding parameters:   1) be a high-quality, core instructional math curriculum with research-based evidence; 2) provide equal access in English and Spanish; 3) support the learning of all students given diverse skill levels; 3) include both print and digital materials; and 5) embed a strong program of professional development for teachers. 

The MRC began by investigating deeply four curricula that had received top ratings from EdReports, an independent nonprofit committed to ensuring all students have access to high-quality instructional materials, and CURATE, which convenes panels of Massachusetts teachers to review and rate evidence on the quality and alignment of specific curricular materials, then publishes their findings for educators across the Commonwealth to consult.  After the MRC identified two finalist curricula based on their investigations, those curricula were piloted for six weeks by a select group of 15 elementary teachers from grades 1-5 representing all schools. The pilot teachers contributed daily feedback during the process, and students from pilot classes, as well as classroom observers, also contributed feedback to the MRC. In addition, the MRC reached out to select school districts in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island that were using one of the two finalist curricula in order to learn from their experiences. 

Based on this extensive process, the MRC recommended i-Ready Classroom Math K-5 because it is the curriculum most closely aligned with district priorities.  Program features of particular appeal included:  the accessibility of the math to all students; the program’s prioritization of student discourse and active participation; the availability of in-depth reports that enable instructional decisions so teachers can help students reach their greatest potential; a wide range of features to maximize usability for students, teachers and families; rigorous practice opportunities that build students’ conceptual understanding and procedural fluency; and the availability of all materials for students and teachers in both English and Spanish.  

This was truly a community effort, and I am especially grateful to the members of the Math Review Committee and the pilot teachers for their invaluable contributions to the demanding work of seeking a new elementary math curriculum.  Proficiency in math is a gateway to future opportunities for young people. We are excited to make i-Ready Classroom Math K-5 available to our students, teachers and families, and look forward to the implementation of this powerful tool for teaching and learning!

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