Are there problems brewing with the new mathematics curriculum in Saskatchewan's schools?
Education Minister Donna Harpauer received results of the recent math consultations with front-line educators, as well as feedback from parents and the dialogue provided some common themes where the Education Ministry can seek to strengthen supports for the renewed curriculum, she said.
Lynn Little, superintendent of education for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, participated in one of the two sessions conducted in the Cornerstone division. Both of which were held in Estevan in the recent past.
“One session was for leadership groups and principals and the other was for the K-to-12 teachers,” she said. She was involved in the leadership workshop.
“The consensus coming from our meeting was that the public has questions about the delivery of the math curriculum. It pits the new delivery system up against the traditional and the pot was being stirred a bit,” said Little.
Earlier in the academic year, the ministry made an effort to address parental concerns and a petition that came from the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math. Two provincial MLAs, Russ Marchuk and Gene Makowsky, hosted the eight provincial consultation meetings with teachers and administrators.
“Feedback was generally positive regarding the curriculum but with caveats that additional instructional supports may be required for teachers and parents,” Harpauer said.
“After hearing from the front line, we have identified specific areas where the ministry can be more responsive in the implementation of renewed curriculum.”
The ministry said it would focus on professional development for math teachers and ensure teaching supports are in place including professional development and partnerships with school divisions to develop resources.
Harpauer said the ministry works at interpreting and implementing the curriculum using best practices to achieve consistent and comprehensive strategy for curriculum rollout and to connect with parents through school community councils to ensure supports are in place to provide math assistance in the homes.
“We talked at length about that area,” said Little, referring to the home-based supports.
“How do we do that, and what do you see ... what can you see as a result?”
Little said that the local consultation processes led to the suggestion to provide further support for the school system that will enable those who deliver the courses to help explain what goes on in the new math programs even better.
“In other words, the students are learning the new direction and so are some parents,” said Little.
“And no, no, no, we are not removing drills and practical algorithms. Those are still core skills. But what we are doing is having some very healthy conversations and I can say that there are no major red flags being waved in the Cornerstone School Division regarding mathematic outcomes. But the sessions proved we can improve in some areas so we are identifying when and how we can do that.”
From a provincial perspective, changes have been made to the structure within the ministry to better align with goals for improved student achievement across the province. In the Student Achievement and Supports branch, individual units are now responsible for curriculum, instruction and assessment. The result of the new balanced approach is better focus and strategic support for teachers and school divisions, said Harpauer.
“While there is good work taking place in the province, there is need to ensure consistency across all 28 school divisions,” the education minister said.