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Richmond Public Schools Plans New Math, English Curriculums

math problems
Teacher training for Richmond's new math curriculum pilot. (Photo: Megan Pauly/VPM)

Richmond Public Schools is in the process of selecting new vendors for math and English curriculums as part of its five-year strategic plan to ramp up rigor in the classroom. The district received proposals earlier this year, and has narrowed down submissions to a few finalists in each category. These finalists are making their last pitches during a series of public meetings this week, which the district is calling “curriculum community conversations.”  

“So our community, our teachers, our principals, our students can have an opportunity to meet and talk to the vendors and ask the questions so we can get input to choose the best curriculum for RPS and our students,” said Autumn Nabors, director of curriculum and instruction for Richmond Public Schools. “We’re really excited to get input.” 

Representatives from companies like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Great Minds, and Math Space are pitching their textbooks and online materials, as well as taking questions from the community.

Holton Elementary parent Audrey Short attended the first session at Obama Elementary Monday night. She was happy to have access to the options in advance and hopes that others will get involved in the curriculum review process. She says it’s important for students to have continuity in the curriculum so they can focus on the content of materials as opposed to a new layout.

“I would like to continue to see materials that students can engage with both in and out of the classroom,” Short said. “I think that focusing on authentic literature by diverse authors, as at least one of the language arts presenters did, could be a way of reaching a wide range of students in RPS. I have seen students proudly carry around and discuss books that they are reading on the playground after school, and would love to see material that lends itself to continued, student-led exploration and a love of learning.” 

In terms of math, Short said she was excited to see a number of companies offer math curriculum in Spanish and hopes schools will consider offering math in Spanish class. 

“I think this would be a great opportunity to review math concepts while teaching students a foreign language,” Short said. “Students who may struggle with a foreign language but are strong in math could be more engaged.  Students who struggle in math could reexamine concepts in a new context through more hands-on opportunities.”

Short said she appreciated the attention some presenters gave to “differentiated learning” to allow teachers to have access to materials at a variety of grade levels to meet the unique needs of students.

Sessions are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 (Tuesday at Albert Hill Middle School, Wednesday at MLK Jr. Middle School and Thursday at Swansboro Elementary School. Those who can’t attend the meetings can still submit feedback online

Nabors says the administration plans to review public feedback next week, and will select a company - or companies - they want to work with by the end of the month. Ultimately, though, the school board will have the final say about curriculum adoption, which is expected to consider the issue this spring. Nabors says how and when schools roll out new curriculum will be decided once a curriculum has been selected, and could vary depending on subject and grade level.