The Pasco School District’s efforts to adopt new math and language arts curriculum are moving along, though school board members raised concerns last week about the cost of the process.
District officials told the board during a public meeting that curriculum committees are expected to finalize their top three recommendations for teaching materials in the two subjects by Dec. 15.
That will give the district time to acquire copies of each, so they can begin distributing to schools for teachers to review beginning in mid-January.
They did not provide cost estimates for the materials being considered, saying they are still working with publishers. They did say that there are a range of prices, though, prompting a few board members to note that they wanted that information as soon as possible.
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“This is kind of like medical care where we want the best but we have a budget,” said board Vice President Steve Christensen.
Curriculum was a key issue in protracted contract negotiations between the district and its teachers union, culminating in a strike that delayed the start of school by more than a week.
Under the new contract, the district must provide recommendations for new language arts and math curriculum for students in all grades to the board in spring 2016. Recommendations for science and arts curriculum are due to the board by spring 2017. The contract includes a strict set of deadlines for the district to meet throughout the process.
Administrators Carla Lobos and Suzanne Hill said the recommendations for elementary student classrooms have already been determined, and the committees are finishing up the selections for middle and high schools.
The committees have also developed a rotation schedule for teachers to review the materials at each school. An online survey tool is being designed to receive their feedback.
Board member Amy Phillips wants the district to ensure teachers can give general comments about the materials and not just answer specific questions when providing feedback, she said.
The district needs to make sure the survey results from teachers and parents are available to the public, said board member Aaron Richardson. Administrators said that information will eventually be provided on the district’s website.
The sources of the material under consideration range from nonprofit organizations to large corporate publishers, Lobos said. While buying curriculum is estimated to cost in the millions of dollars, she added that even the review process could have its costs, as not all publishers offer samples for free, even if just for consideration.
Phillips also had concerns about how long teachers would have to give their thoughts on the materials, noting that there was only about a three-week period when materials will make the rounds to schools, she said.
“It’s an atypical number of materials, but a typical way to review them,” Lobos said.
A call seeking comment from the Pasco Association of Educators on the process was not immediately returned. Union President Greg Olson said in a recent letter to union members that the union has worked to fill its positions on the committees and that they are well-equipped.
“There are specific deadlines that need to be met to remain in compliance with the contract, so we have been working to make sure that teachers serving on the curriculum committees have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions about what will best meet the need of our students and staff,” the letter said.