When new national standards for the high school curriculum were announced, the North Middlesex Regional School District faced a problem: There were no textbooks adequate to reflect the changes.
So Ed Logiudice, head of the math department, decided to get creative.
Instead of having the district spend money on books with insufficient information, Logiudice and a team of four other teachers decided to write their own.
It all began with Logiudice attended a conference last spring pertaining to the new national standards. The changes begin with the incoming freshmen, who will see them reflected in their sophomore year MCAS tests. They will now also be required to take a standard national test in 11th grade, which did not exist before.
“We realized we had to prepare a program for this incoming freshman class to prepare them for these two types of tests,” said Logiudice.
The new curriculum posed two options, or “pathways,” for teachers to follow when instructing on the material: Traditional and integrated, said Logiudice.
Although the term “traditional” implies that the pathway would essentially follow the same standards as past years, this was not entirely true, according to Logiudice, who has been teaching math for 19 years. Although, in old fashion, subjects would be covered one class at a time (i.e. algebra one year, geometry the next year, et cetera), the subject matter has intensified.
“Algebra 1 is what you would have called algebra 2. Geometry is now a lot of trigonometry, and what we now call algebra 2 we would have called pre-calculus,” he said.
The integrated pathway, on the other hand, takes the various mathematical subjects and spreads them out in smaller portions.
“What it does is it takes all of those topics…and divides them equally over three years so every year they do a little of each, and it gets more in depth each year and it’s not just book learning but learning how it applies in the real world.” he said.
The school decided on the integrated pathway. Still, there was an issue.
“What we’ve noticed is that textbook companies, no matter which pathway you choose, are not doing a good job writing books for these courses…We called textbook companies, and there wasn’t much that reflected the new standards. They told us that they weren’t going to update them, and left us with issue,” he said.
That was the catalyst for Logiudice’s endeavor in writing the curriculum text for the school.
“We wanted to do what’s best for our students so we’re currently in process of writing, not quite textbooks , but materials for our students on this pathway notes, homework, goals. We view it as living breathing textbook we can alter from year to year. We can update them ad need be. Right now we’re working on grade 9. Next year we’ll do grade 10, and the next year grade 11 so we’re not overwhelming ourselves all at once.”
Logiudice enlisted the help of his fellow math teachers, Wendy Orazio, Lisa Harris, Mike Parrish and Bryan Deshler.
“Knowing that something new was coming in, I wanted to be a part of developing what I am going to be teaching,” said Orazio, who has been in education for 22 years. “It’s nice to be collaborating because everyone has different ideas of how things work.”
“We’re not just slapping a bunch of stuff together. We’re really looking at the 14-year-old psyche,” said Parrish.
Because each school is allowed to use materials of their choice, the department didn’t have to have the process approved beyond getting the go-ahead from the administration, which was fully supportive.
“He’s taken on a tremendous project,” said Deborah Brady, vice superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “He does it because it’s what’s best for the kids.”
It also has enormous benefits to the school district, which has been dealing with budget cuts over the past several years. Textbooks cost approximately $150 per book, and at approximately 300 students in the first year alone, the district is expecting to save around $45,000 on the books, to be doubled, and then tripled, as the project continues to develop as the students go through school. In addition, the department is utilizing the internet to post their assignments and notes rather than making hundreds of copies, further saving on the cost of paper as well as being environmentally friendly.
But despite these perks, the true goal of the project is to benefit the students.
“Their futures ride on us doing the right thing,” said Logiudice.