Central York school board delays curriculum decision — once again

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Central York School District yet again put off a decision on its long-awaited curriculum update, delaying a vote on a proposed math program until March at the earliest.

"It is critically important if we are serious about moving forward with a math resource — and I say this with all due respect — we really have to make some decisions," Assistant Superintendent Kevin Youcheff said, at the committee's Jan. 10 meeting.

North Hills Elementary School principal Kevin Youcheff gives a presentation during a visit by Pennsylvania Department of Education Executive Deputy Secretary Dr. David Volkman at Central York Middle School Friday, Jan 12, 2018. Volkman met with staff and students there to learn about how the school is implementing personalized learning. Bill Kalina photo

But even with that sense of urgency, mixed reactions from board members Monday night resulted in the postponement of a vote for at least one more month.

"This board is not looking for reasons to not do a math program," said board member Vickie Guth, who has questioned the program since it was first brought to the board last year.

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The program in question is a kindergarten-to-sixth-grade math series called "Into Math" by the publishing company HMH. The program was introduced to the board in May and then tabled in June, mainly because board members were concerned by what they considered unanswered questions about the program.

Since then, the district created its curriculum committee as a way for the board to take a deeper look into curriculum improvements. Central York has been seeing declining math scores in their state assessments over the past several years, adding to the urgency behind approving a new program. 

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The committee heard an hourlong presentation on "Into Math" Monday night, with 27 slides detailing how and why district officials are recommending the program and answering many of the questions the board had last summer. 

The committee did not have enough time to hold a long discussion on the program before the main board meeting started. However, most of the questions members did pose were easily answered by the presenters. 

The main concerns about the program were brought up by board members Guth and Tim Strickler, who have both consistently questioned the program since June. Neither attended the full presentation earlier that night. 

Protesters listen to speakers during a rally outside the Central York Educational Service Center Monday, Sept. 2020, during a rally against the school board's failure to approve a social studies curriculum dealing with diversity.
The 100-person rally coincided with the board's scheduled meeting. Bill Kalina photo

Guth's primary concern was that there isn't enough data about how successful "Into Math" is performing in other districts that have adopted it. Because the program was only made available to purchase in 2020, and the latest state assessment data has not been released yet, Youcheff said that information is not available yet. 

"Even the people who have implemented it don't have results," Guth said. 

Guth suggested Central York send a team to sit in on another district's classroom to see how the program is implemented.

Strickler said he still had several unanswered questions, including specifics on what needs to be improved in Central York's math curriculum and how the district plans to measure the success of the program. Lauri Brady, who has written curriculum for Central York for 25 years, said staff members have already answered some of these questions. 

Superintendent Peter Aiken said district officials will work on all of the board's requests over the next month and provide more information in March, both for the board and the curriculum committee. 

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Youcheff said he hopes to have the program implemented in Central York classrooms by the start of the 2022-2023 school year. Even with the latest delay, that still could be possible. 

Board member Rebecca Riek, an educator who serves on the curriculum committee, warned the board against delaying the curriculum much further. 

"If we wait to find like the perfect thing, that's another year we're gonna lose having resources for the kids," she said. 

Central York still has four other curriculum updates that have yet to be approved since they were first brought to the board in August 2020. There was no update on those proposals Monday night, but Youcheff said in January that he also hopes to have the changes implemented by the start of next school year. 

— Reach Erin Bamer at ebamer@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @ErinBamer.