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Newport-Mesa approves new math materials for K-5, but Swun Math will remain in 6th grade

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A truck with a message opposing the Swun Math program was parked outside a Newport-Mesa Unified board meeting in August.
(File photo / Daily Pilot)

New math materials will replace Swun Math by next school year for kindergartners through fifth-graders in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, but sixth-graders will continue to use the current program, which teachers and parents have complained is filled with errors.

The board of trustees Tuesday night unanimously approved using The Math Learning Center’s Bridges in Mathematics program. Bridges is a K-5 curriculum that implements Common Core State Standards, according to its website.

Sixth-graders will continue to use materials from Swun Math for an additional year to allow for more piloting of other programs in collaboration with middle school teachers.

Bridges was recommended this month by a steering committee of 140 teachers districtwide who tested math materials through a seven-month pilot process. On May 9, four elementary school teachers who were part of the steering committee shared reasons why teachers recommended Bridges over another piloted program, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Go Math.

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Debra Muniz, a Sonora Elementary fifth-grade teacher, said Bridges would help “foster math wisdom” for students, even though she described the program as cumbersome for teachers and said it would require a lot of preparation and patience.

Bridges is being used in 30 school districts, including in Rocklin and Denver.

New materials will cost about $1.8 million over six years, said John Drake, Newport-Mesa director of curriculum and instruction, with about $170,000 spent annually for “consumable materials.” Teachers will receive immediate online access to the program, Drake said, and program materials will be ordered.

Parents, citing errors in Swun Math, have been urging trustees to look at other Common Core-based math materials.

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Last year, a dump truck with a red painted sign reading “Dump Swun now, kids deserve better” sat outside during a board meeting.

In 2015, the district requested that a panel of 11 teachers perform what administrators called “edits” to the materials to fix mistakes.

Swun Math has said the Common Core math curriculum is new for the company and that when it finds errors and typos, it posts corrections on its website.

Retired teacher Laurie Smith thanked Drake and the steering committee for their work but said interim math materials could be provided to sixth-graders by September if teachers “hustled” to pilot new programs this summer. Then all district students “would be free of Swun Math” after “four years of frustration,” she said.

“Why has Swun math lasted so long? Four years of a failed program and now there’s threat of dragging our teachers and sixth-graders through a fifth year of Swun Math,” Smith said. “This can’t be the best we can do for our kids and community.”

Erica Roberts, a parent at Mariners Elementary School, set down a thick stack of papers she received from the district after filing eight Public Records Act requests.

Though she said she’s pleased with the progress made for kindergartners through fifth-graders, Roberts read emails from her stack from parents addressing teachers this year about “endless frustrations at home” because of Swun Math.

“Basically, sixth grade is stuck right now since we don’t have anything identified,” Roberts said. “Please work hard to get the parents what we need, and we know you guys can do it.”

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However, selecting a new math program is a “more nuanced” decision compared with recommending a new English language arts program, said Britt Dowdy, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers.

The Common Core math program is different from what teachers are used to doing, Dowdy said. He urged the board to have “realistic expectations” for the “long-term project.”

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella


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