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District 153 uses federal funds for new math books and programs

All students in Homewood schools will be learning math using new textbooks and computer programs next school year. 

The District 153 school board agreed at the May 10 board meeting to spend approximately $330,000 to update materials from Bridges and enVision for students and teachers. Federal CARES Act funds through the Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund will cover the cost.

The two packages the district is purchasing include materials such as games and activities, word resource cards and classroom manipulatives, textbooks, technology resources and professional development training for teachers and staff.

Kathy Schaeflein, curriculum director, said the district reviews its curriculum materials on a rotating basis over a five-year period. Last year the board approved a new English/Language Arts curriculum. This past school year the focus was on math.


District 153 started reviewing seven textbook products in 2019, and in June 2020 selected the final two products for teachers to test this past year.

Kindergarten through fifth graders will be using the Bridges series. Schaeflein describes the texts as “extremely challenging at the youngest grades because what we ended up with (Bridges) is very hands-on. There are a lot of manipulatives that kids can work with in the classroom.” 

Bridges works best when it’s a physical activity, so teachers in remote learning had to find interesting ways to demonstrate the math theories. 

The new program is “really going to give the kids those foundational skills, the numbers sense, practices and problem solving. Those are the big things they need,” she said.

For James Hart students, the district went with enVision, a program heavy on learning through technology. It also can give teachers and interventionists real time data to make decisions based on student needs.

Cathryne Czarnecki, District 153 math instruction coach, worked with teachers who were piloting the two options. The committee members were “looking at the technology as a big thing,” and some looked for remote learning assistance, but she had to stress that teaching in the 2020-21 school year wasn’t typical. 

“If next year is a typical year, what would we prefer?” Czarnecki asked when the final decision was being made. “At the end of the day, it was all about which program would benefit the students.”

Teachers will get hours of training this summer in preparation for the switch when class resumes in August. Summer school students also will be using the new materials.

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