ELLSWORTH — A new math program will be in place for students at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School next year.
At a meeting on June 9, the School Board unanimously approved the McGraw Hill McNeil program to replace the GoMath curriculum that had been used at EEMS for the last several years. The new program received high marks from educators, parents and students after what administrators say was a rigorous evaluation process.
“We started with five programs,” EEMS Principal April Clifford explained. “And we gave teachers the ability to really get into each program, take it into the classroom and do a couple of lessons. We used what I called the ‘touch-tank’ approach.”
Teachers and students alike were given rubrics to grade different aspects of each program. Once the results were collected and the top three programs were identified, webinars were scheduled with representatives from each of those programs so that educators could ask additional questions. After that the programs were re-ranked. According to Curriculum Director Rachel Kohrman-Ramos, the McGraw Hill McNeil program came out of that process rated the highest at most if not all levels.
Teachers liked the program, Kohrman-Ramos told board members, because it involved extensive fluency practice. There were also videos assigned to students that they could review at their own pace, and each lesson came with “exit slips” to help teachers gauge how many students understood the lesson and how many needed more practice.
Teachers appreciated the fact that there were fewer problems included on each page so that students wouldn’t get overstimulated or overwhelmed. They also felt that word problems were not overly wordy, so that students could focus on math and not reading.
“Instead of having a six-sentence word problem you have a three-sentence word problem,” Kohrman-Ramos explained. “And that will help those kids who can’t get past that literacy barrier.”
Student feedback on the program was positive as well. They liked that there was more space included in workbooks for them to do their work, which was also a feature that board members appreciated.
“As a kid you were always taught to show your work and there’s never enough room to show your work,” said School Board member Elizabeth Alteri.
Students also gave the program high marks for its colorful presentation and online tools.
“There’s a series of videos for parents to watch to learn what the kids have to do so that they can help them learn as well,” Kohrman-Ramos told the board.
According to the Maine Department of Education, 21.2 percent of EEMS students were performing below state standards for math in 2020-21. Educators are hoping that this new program will help boost test scores. Kohrman-Ramos also mentioned that Ellsworth High School was looking at using McGraw Hill McNeil materials for its pre-algebra program for ninth-graders. This would aid in a smooth transition for students as they make the leap from middle school to high school math.
Kohrman-Ramos also was confident in a smooth rollout for the program this coming school year. Webinars have already been scheduled over the summer for teachers to train and the turnaround time is such with the distributor that teachers may actually have the materials in hand while they are going through the training process.