Palo Alto Unified's elementary teachers started this year testing out mathematics curricula aligned with the new Common Core State Standards, with an eye toward choosing two or three to formally pilot in the 2016-17 school year.
The school board will discuss the math pilot at its meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 26.
This school year has been dubbed an "exploration year" during which teachers can sample portions of Common Core-aligned curricula and incorporate it into their classrooms along with the district's adopted Everyday Mathematics textbook series. The goal is to deepen teachers' understanding and application of the Common Core standards while identifying the best new curriculum to pilot, according to a staff report on the topic.
"Having hands-on experience with two or more curricula will expand our collective district knowledge on the quality of what's available," the report states.
Lead math teachers at each school worked with math teachers on special assignment (TOSAs) and principals this fall to select two to eight different curricula they wanted to explore, according to the staff report. Whole grade levels or individual teachers created plans for how to introduce the materials in their classes and submitted the plans to their principals.
All teachers are encouraged to explore new materials, but those who choose not to will continue teaching the Everyday Math curriculum, according to the staff report.
A "teacher leadership group" will be formed this year to evaluate and recommend two to three curricula that are "worthy" of a full pilot in the next school year, the staff report states. The group will meet monthly and include upper- and primary-level teachers and principals, according to the staff report. That group will also eventually make a recommendation to the board for formal adoption in the 2016-17 school year.
The district will also be seeking feedback from parents through a survey, to be distributed in February, according to the staff report. Math leads and TOSAs will collect input from teachers as well.
Mathematics curriculum became a topic of controversy in the district several years ago, leading up to the board's adoption of Everyday Math in 2009. Parents questioned whether the textbook series adequately stressed standard problem-solving methods and strong mastery of basic skills. More than 700 community members, mostly parents, signed a petition urging the board to postpone adoption for a year in order to pilot other textbook options.
In other business Tuesday, the board will further discuss and vote on one of the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee's final recommendations, presented along with Superintendent Max McGee's own recommendations at the Jan. 12 board meeting.
The board will vote on a proposal to assign new students set to enter the district in the fall from a new Stanford University housing development, University Plaza, to Nixon Elementary School. McGee also recommended that staff plan to place up to three portables at Nixon to accommodate the influx of more than 100 students.
With a total of 471 students enrolled this year, Nixon is the fifth-largest elementary school in the district. (It has the same number of students as Addison, according to the district's 11th day enrollment count.)
Nixon Principal Mary Pat O'Connell has expressed support for the proposal, McGee wrote in a staff report.
The board will have further discussion about enrollment committee's and McGee's recommendation that the district create a new advisory committee to explore and recommend "an array of educational models, programs and practices" for the contiguous Cubberley Community Center campus (including neighboring district sites at 525 San Antonio Road and Greendell School, which houses the district's pre-kindergarten programs) and the current secondary schools, McGee wrote in his report. This committee would be made up of faculty, students, parents, alumni and community members without children in the schools, led by a professional facilitator. McGee has identified a deadline for the group's work: Oct. 1.
McGee has also added a new recommendation since the last board meeting: Direct staff to develop recommendations for realigning attendance boundaries in the 2017-18 school year for two groups of elementary schools Fairmeadow, Palo Verde and El Carmelo; and Addison, Walter Hays and Duveneck. McGee cites high levels of overflow, particularly in the Palo Verde area, plus extra space and/or lower enrollment at other schools, as a rationale for redrawing attendance boundaries to better accommodate students.
Pending Tuesday night's discussion, McGee could ask the board to vote on the remaining enrollment committee recommendations at the next board meeting on Feb. 9.
The school board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. Read the full agenda here.
The board will also convene earlier in the day, 10 a.m. to noon, to hear Palo Alto and Gunn high schools' 2015-16 Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) reports, annual documents each school in the district creates to set and monitor goals for the year. Read the agenda here.