New Kent Public Schools is introducing a new accelerated math program, starting in 2014-15 with 5th graders.

NEW KENT – An upward trend of Standards of Learning (SOL) math scores has prompted New Kent County school staff to promote advanced learning, starting at the fifth grade level.

"We have seen a lot of our students excelling in the upper elementary and middle school math SOLs," Ross Miller, director of instructional technology, testing, and accountability explained to the School Board Monday night.

"These young students could benefit now from a slightly faster pace, so we've come up with this blended model," he said.

This upcoming school year, approximately 20-30 fifth-graders at George W. Watkins and New Kent elementary schools will become the first class of accelerated math students, learning more advanced math skills.

To qualify for the accelerated track this year, fifth-graders must have a grade of 90 or better in fourth grade math, pass the advanced fourth grade math SOLs, and have a teacher recommendation.

Although staff will identify the advanced students, they will not be isolated from their peers, Miller said.

"We didn't want to section off the accelerated students because being blended gives the students an opportunity to collaborate and interact," he added.

"Kids of all levels thrive and learn best from each other and some learn best by teaching others," echoed superintendent Dr. Dave Myers.

As the select fifth grade students move up in grades, and if they remain qualified, they will stay on either the advanced or accelerated instruction model.

Under the advanced model, seventh-graders will move up to algebra I in eighth grade and seventh graders will move up to geometry.

Miller said that the schools are promoting the accelerated math program to better prepare students for more advanced high school classes, such as algebra II, trigonometry, calculus and advanced placement math.

According to Miller, fourth grade students will become part of the accelerated math program in the 2015-16 school year.

The grade level, not the individual student's abilities, currently determines the math curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels.

"Until eighth grade, these students are in the same courses and study the exact same material," Miller said.

"We had a committee look at models in neighboring counties and came up with one we thought would best fit New Kent," he added.

Miller said that the schools will be providing professional development to math teachers, especially those teaching the advanced program, and that a middle school geometry teacher or additional certifications will be needed in 2017-18 when the fifth-graders reach eighth grade.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.