Last year the Prince William County School Board passed a motion calling for “balance” in the county mathematics program. To support their “balance” initiative the school board purchased and provided a copy of the Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley homework master to every county teacher.
In addition to calling for a balanced program of instruction, the school board motion granted teachers the authority to depart from the mandated lesson pacing guides at their own discretion, although funds to purchase alternate instructional materials were not provided.
Teachers and parents looking for a more balanced instructional program waited for the release of the revised lesson pacing guides to see what changes might be reflected in them. Of particular interest were the new Investigations based fifth grade pacing guides as Investigations was not adopted by the state for Grade 5 because it met so few state standards.
The revised pacing guides are out and there are few changes. Computation and number sense, long considered one of Investigations weaknesses, is rarely supplemented beyond the core Investigations program – even in Grade 5. Long division is covered in one 75 minute lesson. Fractions, which had 4th grade students county-wide stumped last year, is unchanged.
The level of discretion afforded to teachers in adapting lesson pacing is summed up with the following statement which appears in the pacing guide for every grade, “Teachers may need to make adjustments based on their specific classroom needs and schedules. However, it is critical that teachers stay as close as possible to the pacing guidelines to ensure that all of the Standards of Learning (SOL) have been taught prior to the Virginia SOL Test, and that, as children move within the Division, their math instruction remains coherent”.
One new document was created over the summer, which bears mentioning. Each unit now has an overview which should have been provided to each teacher and, according to the PWCS web site, will be available online shortly. The unit overviews list the SOL objectives covered in each unit, provide suggested Investigations units for differentiated instruction, and lists the exercises from the SFAW homework master which correlate to the Investigations unit.
Unfortunately, changes to the actual lesson pacing guides are few and far between. Contrary to statements by county officials, the PWCS elementary math program continues to be virtually all Investigations all the time. About the only time balance appears is in promises by administration officials.