K-5 Math Program Update Presented To BOE
The Board of Education recently heard a presentation from elementary and Reed Intermediate School representatives updating officials on the Bridges math program that was implemented last year for kindergarten through fifth grade.
The presenting group consisted of math and science specialists Jess Fonovic from Reed, Amy Hiruo from Hawley School, Jill Bracksieck from Middle Gate School, Chrissie Pierce from Head O’ Meadow School, and Kris Feda from Sandy Hook School.
“For many years there hasn’t been a consistent math program K-5 in Newtown. We are thrilled to have that in Bridges,” Fonovic said.
Fonovic elaborated on K-5 consistency, describing Bridges math as “rigorous, engaging, and accessible,” with an embedded skill building program to introduce, reinforce and extend concepts.
Fonovic also spoke highly of the incorporated intervention program as well, saying, “it really targets the instruction of students that have mathematical gaps.”
Later, Bracksieck said during intervention, students are hearing the same language and models, and practicing the same strategies as in the core program. She said additional models added in intervention “beautifully support” the core.
‘Everyone Is Engaged’
“Students really talk like mathematicians,” Feda added about the vocabulary focus of the program and the student discourse encouraged in Bridges. “The students actually listen to each other, they build on each other’s ideas, they have developed a really deep conceptual understanding.”
The board also learned students could share their thinking on the Bridges website and see how other peers may have solved problems.
Hiruo talked about how hands-on learning is pervasive in Bridges’ design, with teachers and students having access to hands-on tools that allow students to make sense of their thinking.
Bracksieck described a Bridges lesson plan, explaining that someone capable of complex operations will have time to try something more challenging after they try what is easier for them.
“Everyone is engaged,” Bracksieck said.
It was explained that the iReady diagnostic test, assigned three times a year in Newtown, gives each student a “personalized pathway” to identify student need and level in various math standards.
The supplementary online program Math At Home, which is free for anyone, was also discussed by presenters. According to the group, teachers assign Math At Home content to students, or the website can be used casually by families with an accessible answer key and digital hands-on tools.
Each activity on the website includes an additional challenge question.
An assessment calendar for the 2022-2023 calendar year was presented. One of the presenters said assessments are being used to understand where students are in the curriculum, but the district is not “over-assessing.”
Later, in response to a board question, Hiruo said that while the district was still dealing with learning gaps from the pandemic, there has been “great growth” in test scores.
The group shared testimonials from teams of teachers and individual educators, as well as from Brookfield teachers who had visited Newtown to see if Bridges was right for their district. Testimony from two fifth grade students was included as well. All testimony presented about the Bridges program was positive.
The presentation did not mention any negatives to the program or difficulties in its implementation.
Board member Alison Plante asked if there were any “pieces that need work or improvement” in the Bridges curriculum.
Bracksieck said the district has more to learn about the program, and that they will “continue to offer embedded professional development” to “address the rigor of teaching.”
Board Chair Deborra Zukowski asked about the acclimation of students who may become frustrated with the content and “turn off” and advanced students who may excel beyond the content provided.
Regarding frustrated students, Bracksieck replied, “We have found that the models presented in the intervention program are very helpful to our students who may have trouble reading and taking apart a word problem.”
Bracksieck said advanced students are “engaged” and find the challenge questions provided “vigorous.”
Zukowski asked the specialists if there was anything else they needed to make the program a success.
Feda said having math interventionists has made “a world of difference” and asked that the board continue to support the math and science specialists by providing them with human resources to support the needs of all kids.
Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at email@example.com.