NARRAGANSETT – Following up on wanting to improve students’ mathematics comprehension in the wake of last year’s Rhode Island Common Assesment System’s scores, the school committee recently unanimously approved the purchase of mathematics materials that will impact a variety of grade levels. The new materials, Pearson ENVISION, have a strong focus around student engagement and comprehension through numerous interactive means, and were presented to the school committee following a rigorous selection process conducted by a specialized team from the Narragansett School System (NSS) consisting of administrators, mathematics coaches and teachers.
The district has noted its underperformance in mathematics in standardized testing in recent years. Data shared by NSS shows that 52 percent of Grade 7 students were not proficient in mathematics in the 2019 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS), as well as 67 percent of Grade 8 students, including some in Grade 8 Algebra 1, scoring as not proficient in the RICAS. Also in 2019, 61 percent of students in grades 8/9 were either approaching expectations or did not meet expectations in mathematics on the PSAT.
Along with the administrators, specialized coaches and teachers working on the team to find new mathematics instruction materials, the Rhode Island Department of Education was consulted in addition to outside agencies. The team met with these groups and internally a number of times throughout the academic year to review new materials vetted by educational outlets that were based on rubrics and standards around focus and coherence, rigor and mathematical practice and alignment rating. A number of vendors came to the district with presentations on proposed new learning materials and previews were sent to the school system. Ultimately, the team decided on Pearson ENVISION, a highly interactive system for students that focuses on student engagement, which possesses strong reviews from fellow educators.
“We wanted to make sure we only looked at those materials that were of the highest quality,” said NSS Curriculum Director Gail Dandurand.
The new Pearson materials emphasize organization of content across all grade levels, providing student support b documenting their thought process in both a digital and print workspace, visual learning through interactive practices around classroom conversations, problem-based and personalized learning and student engagement. Tutorial videos are available when students complete homework with the new system. Which contains both digital and physical textbooks, additional tutorials and videos. Interactive elements such as math games are also included.
“It really is a nice package that we think will help make math more exciting for students through real-world connections,” said Dandurand.
Along with the new materials, the district opted to rethink its mathematics pathways, allowing students to access higher-level math classes through a variety of means rather than simply and exclusively taking Algebra 1 in grade 8, as was offered in the past.
“We wanted to pose a mathematics pathway that would allow students at various entry points to have the opportunity to get into higher-level math courses based on when they were ready,” said Dandurand. “There’s been a need to really do something different than we have been doing in math. The data shows our students are not doing as well as we would like them to do.”
As part of the new system, the district is considering allowing students taking Algebra 1 in the eighth grade to take the class at Narragansett High School rather than in the middle school.
“What the data tells us, and this is really part of what’s driving some of the thinking of our math team, is that very few of our Alg 1 students did well on the RICAS, and we have also seen a long-term drop in our SAT mathematics scores,” said NSS Superintendent Peter Cummings. “There is a piece that is missing in that accelerated pathway where students aren’t learning some of the fundamental pieces that they need for the long-term foundation, not only to get to higher level math but to achieve the standards that are being assessed on the SAT.”
“We have to strengthen our mathematical pathways so the students in those advanced pathways are truly advanced,” he added.
The work was met with praise from the Narragansett School Committee, which ultimately unanimously approved the purchase at a recent school committee meeting. The cost of the new math materials is approximately $52,000.