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JCPS teachers get trained on new districtwide math and reading curricula

 Several adults crowd around a white board with markers.
Jess Clark
JCPS teachers participated in a training on the new math curriculum at Atherton High School on July 18, 2023.

Teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools are getting trained this week on how to use a new math curriculum. When school starts in August it will be the first year JCPS has the same math and reading curricula across all elementary and middle schools.

Teachers and district leaders say standardizing the reading and math curricula across the district will help ensure all K-8 students have access to high-quality instruction.

“That’s how we provide equity for all of our students no matter where they are in Jefferson County,” JCPS Curriculum Design and Support Specialist Elisabeth Read said.

Since the 1990s, curriculum has been set at the school level by each school's Site-Based Decision-Making Council. However, some education leaders say this means the quality of curriculum varies by school.

In 2022,state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1, which gave district superintendents the power to set curriculum.

Read said a committee of JCPS teachers and administrators settled on purchasing a K-8 math curriculum called Illustrative Mathematics, a program that about half of K-8 schools were already using.

IM encourages hands-on learning experiences with math, Read said, and lots of work with “manipulatives,” or physical objects like blocks or cubes students can use to understand concepts.

“We want kids to build it and draw it and think about it, and not just rely on procedural memory,” she said.

Wilkerson Elementary School teacher Christopher Miller said he thinks standardizing curriculum across the district will make it easier for students who change schools midyear.

“You get kids that move all the time,” Miller said. “It’s like the worst when you get a kid, and they’re like, ‘We didn’t do this at my school.’ And I feel like I have to start all over with this kid.”

When the curriculum is the same at each school, Miller said new students can pick up where they left off.

District officials say they’ve spent $3.5 million on materials for IM, all covered through federal pandemic relief funding.

The new reading curriculum, Expeditionary Learning, cost $9 million, also paid for through federal COVID relief.

JCPS Chief Academic Officer Terra Greenwell said the reading curriculum shifts all JCPS schools to a “structured literacy” approach — an instructional technique that stresses phonics and is backed by the science of how children learn to read.

Kentucky is one of many states that has come under fire for pushing an approach to reading instruction many say is ineffective and even harmful.

In addition to getting all schools on board with research-based instructional approaches, officials say standardizing curriculum will also allow teachers and administrators to collaborate between schools.

JCPS’ first day of school is Aug. 9.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

News JCPSeducationYouth Reporting
Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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