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MARICOPA — Students in Maricopa Unified School District schools will see a revamp of their science curriculum valued at $1.7 million in time for the 2021-22 school year. On Wednesday night, the board set aside the funding for a new curriculum for grades K-12.

Board member Torri Anderson was excited about the new science curriculum but stressed the importance of a K-12 system, citing previous curriculum issues.

“I’m all for purchasing curriculum but I want to make sure it’s continuous K-12 so we don’t (have) any gaps in the learning system — that it builds on from one year to the next,” Anderson said. “We’ve gotten into trouble in the past by only doing elementary or secondary and there wasn’t a cohesive blend.”

The district is considering three different vendors: McGraw Hill, Savvas Learning Company and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Late last year, the MUSD Teaching and Learning Department met with the prospective vendors and were given sample materials that were distributed to schools for staff and teachers to review. Teachers were given additional presentations on the materials in December and February.

In March and early April, community members, parents, teachers and MUSD staff were invited to fill out a rubric scoring the programs for content and organization, quality of teacher and student instruction, assessment materials and alignment with state standards. The district asked reviewers to look for material that encourages student participation, provides support for different learning styles and uses modern tools to apply the curriculum.

“Maricopa Unified School District needs (an) updated science curriculum that matches the current Arizona State Science Standards. If teachers are to teach to the standards and students are to meet the level of rigor of the new standards, new curriculum must be purchased,” says the description of the agenda item. “New curriculum will better allow for teaching of the standards and ultimately result in higher student achievement.”

New curriculum for all grades can be pretty steep in price, which can contribute to how often the district is able to purchase these new programs. Watson said it’s been 14 years since the last science curriculum was purchased, and the current social studies curriculum is around 13 years old. Other programs have been updated more recently, with the math curriculum getting an update in the 2017-18 school year, and the English/language arts curriculum adopted in 2018-19, both being K-12.

“We haven’t done an adoption in a while, so we want to have regular adoptions — close to five-year adoptions if we can, but you have to plan for that,” said Watson during the meeting.

The board will meet for a work session later this month to hear the feedback from staff and teachers and go over the finalists before the formal adoption of the curriculum in May.

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Katie Sawyer covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at ksawyer@pinalcentral.com.