'Everyday Math' found lacking; Laconia designing its own new curriculum

LACONIA — It was about four years ago that education specialist Mahesh Sharma came to the city with him the message that mastering numeracy is the key to mastering mathematics.

After his first evaluation — three intensive days of working in elementary classrooms with teachers, students and curriculum directors — he brought some bad news to the School Board in October 2011.

Only six students were taking calculus and many of the younger students had not learned enough basic mathematics to accomplish more complex tasks in later grades. More importantly, elementary teachers didn't feel "Everyday Math" — a curricula concept developed at the University of Chicago in the 1990s — was working for them.

"With Mahesh," said Laconia Curriculum Director Gail Bourn, who began her career as a K through 4 teacher. "We learned the non-negotiables that include the standards of teaching and the expectations of what the vast majority of students will master by the end of each school year."

"Children were coming into Middle School still counting on their fingers," said Woodland Heights Principal Eric Johnson yesterday. The former principal at the Middle School, Johnson taught fifth and sixth grade in Arizona before deciding on going into administration.

"There was no mastery," Asst. Superintendent Kirk Beitler added. "Mahesh believes in mastery."

Beitler was a physical education and health teacher for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Johnson, Beitler and Bourn are three of the the key partners on the School District's math team — a group that includes Middle School Academic Coordinator Alison Bryant, Elm Street Elementary School Principal Tara Beauchemin and six teacher representatives from all three elementary schools.

Their mission: to create a new School District-wide elementary math curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core standards and more in keeping with a core mastery of numeracy as defined by Sharma.

Beitler explained that after the decision was made to stop using "Everyday Math" — a decision that mirrored that made by other districts and the entire state of Rhode Island — the team initially looked a four different possible math-program successors.

A "canned" math program is one like "Everyday Math" and often involves a significant financial investment on the part of a school district. Beitler said a district the size of Laconia would easily spend $100,000 for the program itself and then have to pay for the company to come in and teach the teachers how the teach it and then pay for workbooks.

"We're talking 10 workbooks per year per student and replacing them with new ones with in every successive year," said Beitler.

Johnson said workbooks have a place and the group will be creating its own teaching tools but "getting the kids to apply the facts" is what he wants.

The math team is using a concept based on a development tool called "Understanding by Design", meaning that established and specific goals will be identified by the team as well as be aligned with the Common Core.

An example is that first graders know how to add, second graders will know how to subtract, third graders will know how to multiply and fourth graders will master division.

The teachers will define how to implement their goal using accepted standards with a core-curriculum that means, for example, students in the first grade throughout the three schools will be learning the same thing at the same pace.

"We understand that there will be children that will learn differently, said Bourn who said there will be remedial help and specialists to help these children, just as there is now.

Students will required to perform tasks that demonstrate their knowledge, they will discuss topics will be relevant to them and have real-world applications and there will be presentations by both students and teachers at all levels.

To date, the team has completed math instruction programs for K to 5 that centers on counting in kindergarten, addition up to 20 in Grade 1, addition and subtraction in Grade 2, multiplication and understanding of 2, 5,and 10 in Grade 3, multiplication and division in Grade 4 and fractions and proportionality, decimals and fractions in Grade 5.

The above is unit 1 or will be accomplished in the first 45 days of a school year.

Three advanced units in all grades will be developed by the team over the summer and will be ready to be taught to the students by the beginning of the school year.

In the fall of 2015, the team will complete the fifth unit for all grades that will take the students through the end of the 2016 school year.

The team will also develop evidence of competency — tests and quizzes — to measure student progress individually and collectively.

All three administrators said the teachers involved in developing their own curriculum are excited about it and have considered it a "great learning experience so far," said Bourn. "Before they would have been swayed by the glitz but the professional development gained by developing their own curriculum has raised their expectations.

"I have to give them (the teaching team) a lot of credit," said Bourn. "They will know what they're teaching."

"This is something I've always wanted as a principal," said Johnson. "this is what you have (for student knowledge) and this is what the kids should have after completing the units."

Johnson said that the curriculum will be a "living document" and the teams and teachers will quickly be able to identify what works and what doesn't work.

The School Board has given its blessing to the new math curriculum and is expecting periodic updates from the math team administrators.


CUTLINE: (Math Curriculum) Asst. Superintendent Kirk Beitler looks on as Curriculum Director Gail Bourn reviews a portion of the elementary math curriculum the math team is creating. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo - Gail Ober)

CUTLINE: Laconia School District K-5 mathematics curriculum map outlining the non-negotiables that must be taught for each levels. (Courtesy of the Laconia School District)

Transformation: Wait is over for opening of restaurant & pub in circa 1836 Laconia church

LACONIA — The Holy Grail of the Lakes restaurant and pub has opened in the former Evangelical Baptist Church on Veterans Square after a renovation project which took over a year.
''It was a big project. We gutted everything and had to put in new plumbing and electricity and had to upgrade the gas line. We recycled the pews and used some of them for the bar top. We built a choir loft which seats 70 and put in stairs to the third floor,'' says Khalid Farid, co-owner with David Kennedy of the Holy Grail.
''David and I were here just about every day working on the project,'' says Farid, noting that it was a long drive up from Hampton for both of them.
Kennedy says that their goal was to preserve the character of the historic two and a half story wood frame church building, which was built as a Congregational church in 1836 and moved from its Church Street location — to its current space in Veterans Square after it had been purchased by the Baptists in 1903.
The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985 and Kennedy and Farid said that they preserved as many of the features of the church as possible.
The second story dining room features the stained glass windows from the church and seats 180 diners, some in booths fashioned from the pews from the church, beneath the original tin ceiling, painted to mock copper. The bar, serving 34 draft beers and seating more than two dozen, is situated where the church sanctuary was. The menu features traditional Irish food.
''We wanted it to be as comfortable and relaxing as possible. The natural light from the windows helps achieve that. We want or customers to feel at home here,'' says Kennedy.
He says as part of the project an addition was built at the rear of the church on the second floor to provide space for a modern 700-square-foot kitchen.
It is the second restaurant Kennedy has built in a former church. In 2008 he built the Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub in the former St. Joseph's Church on Main Street in Epping, which has twice been chosen as the state's finest Irish pub by New Hampshire Magazine.
Kennedy says the lower level will house a cafe, bar and prep kitchen with seating for patrons having drinks and snacks and picking up take-out orders.

CAPTION: pix slugged holy grail

David Kennedy stands in the choir loft at the Holy Grail of the Lakes Region, a historic church which he and his partner Khalid Farid have converted into a restaurant and pub. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

'Goodly' amount of pot said found with young man near Kingwood High School

WOLFEBORO — Police arrested 17-year-old Bradley Smart for allegedly possessing a "goodly" amount of marijuana while driving on an access road behind Kingswood Regional High School on Monday.

Smart, of Ossipee, was observed driving his car without wearing a seat belt by an officer who was on duty courtesy of a "Ticket or Click it" safety grant.

The officer smelled marijuana and searched the car finding e-cigarettes, a marijuana pipe packed with marijuana, a glass mason jar with marijuana broken down into individual sales amounts, assorted paraphernalia, and two partially-filled gallon bottles of alcohol.

Smart was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of marijuana, transportation of alcohol in a car, transportation of marijuana in a car, and felony possession of marijuana in a school zone. The later charge comes with enhanced penalties upon conviction.

Smart was released on bail and given a court date in June in the 3rd Circuit Court, Ossipee Division.