Kennewick School District is in the final stages of moving to an advanced math curriculum for middle school students beginning next school year.
Algebra is set to become the standard taught in eighth-grade math after a few years of transition. Next year's sixth-graders will be the first to experience a curriculum involving sixth- and seventh-grade math concepts in preparation for algebra.
District administrators said getting students ready for algebra by their eighth-grade year will have its challenges, but they are optimistic they will be ready and that math scores will improve because of the curriculum change.
"The anxiety level is a little high but most (teachers) feel it is very doable," said Kathy Fisk, the district's math and science curriculum specialist.
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The Kennewick School Board agreed last May to make algebra the standard math course taught in eighth grade. Students currently can take algebra in middle school but it is part of an advanced math curriculum.
Teaching algebra before high school will open students to more math courses later in their education, said Chuck Lybeck, associate superintendent of curriculum. The district also should see improved math scores as a result of challenging students rather than reviewing already learned concepts.
"Kids just haven't been given enough material to challenge them to show growth," Superintendent Dave Bond said at Wednesday's board meeting.
The change is requiring the district to compress the math curriculum for middle school students. Students will essentially learn in two years what they would have been taught in three years.
Fisk said the district has prepared for the transition by conducting professional development with teachers and visiting the Enumclaw School District, which uses a similar compressed math curriculum. The district also bought new books and other materials for teachers and students.
Parents of current fifth-graders are being notified of the curriculum change before they register for the next school year.
Lybeck said an increasing number of students in recent years have opted into an advanced math track, indicating a readiness for most students to be ready for algebra by eighth grade.
However, the district is allowing parents to "opt out" their child in regard to the new curriculum, allowing them to continue in the current system, during the transition years.
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