Herricks schools map better math prep

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The Herricks school district is in the second year of a revamped math program to ensure elementary school students have the same background and basic skills when they move to middle school, district administrators told the school board on Thursday.

While math instruction for each grade typically builds on the preceding year, the program aims to ensure this is consistent throughout the three elementary schools and that students make a smooth transition to middle school, said Geetha Murthy, Herricks’ director of math curriculum.

Teachers at the different grade levels now meet three or four times a year to do so.

“They discuss what they are teaching, what is expected, why we have to teach a certain way,” Murthy said. “You have to know what students learned in the previous year, what are they expected to learn next year.”

To help achieve this, last year the district introduced the GoMath! program in kindergarten through fifth grade, supplementing textbook lessons with online, interactive resources.

Each student can log on to the program from home for access to the online resources.

Murthy and Neepa Redito, Herricks’ elementary math and science coordinator, said the New York State math tests showed 74 to 80 percent of Herricks third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were performing at or above their grade level, compared with about 60 percent for Nassau County and about 40 percent for the state.

Afshan Khwaja, whose daughter is in third grade at the Denton Avenue School, said the math curriculum has increased her daughter’s understanding of math concepts such as how multiplication relates to addition.

“It’s December and she’s doing two-step problems in third grade,” Khwaja said.

The new math program “is working well but it is still an ongoing process,” Murthy said.

The pacing may need to be adjusted, as there may be certain concepts that students need more time to understand and master before they can move on, she said.

“We are defining the curriculum, meeting with teachers to see how we can improve the sequence,” Murthy said.

Also on Thursday, the school board formally accepted the result of the Dec. 6 bond issue referendum for capital improvements.

Voters approved the first $28.3 million in funding for the $29.5 million initiative with a vote of 676-165. District Superintendent Filo Celano thanked the community, saying the board was delighted with the result.

“This is great for Herricks,” he said. 

Before work can begin, the state Education Department must approve the plans and bids must to be sent out, said Lisa Rutkoske, the assistant superintendent for business. The first phase of the renovations could start by the end of summer, she said.

Celano also said work was progressing on revising the school calendar to include four Hindu, Muslim and Chinese holidays while keeping 180 days of instruction and four professional development days.

Opening the school year before Labor Day and keeping schools open on Election Day are among the options under discussion, he said.

Changes to the calendar will also depend on the state Regents exam schedule that will be released in January.

“The pieces are falling into place,” Celano said. “Once we have the Regents schedule we will draft a calendar.”

By Samuel Glasser

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