Brainerd Public Schools: Board approves elementary curriculum changes

Teachers will begin using the updated curricula in fall 2020.

Washington Educational Services Building
The Washington Educational Services Building. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Curriculum updates in science, math and special education literacy are on the docket for elementary students in the Brainerd School District next year.

Tim Murtha, director of teaching and learning, and Patty Wallace, elementary staff development and curriculum specialist, updated school board members on the changes during a meeting Monday, April 27.

Special education literacy

The board first approved a Read Well literacy intervention curriculum for K-4 special education students, which outlines how teachers should work with students who need additional help. Murtha said the district has a long history of teachers at each elementary school solving intervention challenges in their own ways. This new curriculum is an attempt to make those tactics more uniform throughout the district.

“Knowing that special ed needs to align with core instruction but needs to be distinct from core instruction, we felt it was important to start with one comprehensive intervention and then start adding specific support pieces to it over time, which we will continue to do,” Murtha said. “This way, special ed teachers will have a menu of approved options to choose from in order to respond to the data that’s in front of them about the individual needs of their students.”

The new intervention curriculum, he said, aligns with current instructional framework and the nature of the district’s core curriculum.


Intervention tactics under the new curriculum include:

  • Guided reading and writing.

  • Pre-teaching and re-teaching materials.

  • Buddy reading.

  • Audio books.

  • Word games using Words Their Way framework.

  • Specific interventions guided at issues like high frequency words, handwriting, name writing and letter identification.

The cost for curriculum resources is $72,000, with an additional $7,000 cost for professional learning.

K-5 math

Board members next approved an updated math curriculum for students in grades K-5. Math Expressions 2019 is an updated version of the current K-5 math curriculum, which is the 2011 edition. Teachers and students were able to take part in a pilot program to test out the new features of the updated curriculum.

“It has a lot of enhanced technology features that, with the pilot going on right now, have really come in handy with distance learning,” Wallace said. “Some have been used more than others in the past, but now everyone is learning about those, and it’s really helped us during this time.”

The new version, Wallace added, was offered to the district at a lesser cost this year than the 2011 edition.

Standards for each grade level under the curriculum include:

  • Kindergarten: Read and write numbers up to 31; count forward and backward to at least 20; use objects and draw pictures to find numbers from 0-10; recognize, create and extend patterns; identify basic shapes.

  • First grade: Read and write numbers up to 120; compare and order numbers up to 100; use models and strategies to solve real world addition and subtraction problems; recognize, create and extend patterns; name and describe two- and three-dimensional shapes; tell time to the hour and half-hour using analog clocks; measure to the nearest inch; identify and count combinations of pennies, nickels and dimes up to $1.

  • Second grade: Read, write, compare and order numbers up to 1,000; understand ones, tens, hundreds and thousands places; fluency in addition and subtraction; add and subtract one- and two-digit numbers in real world math problems; identify, create and describe number patterns; solve equations with an unknown variable; name, describe and compare basic shapes; count pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in combinations up to $1; tell time to the nearest quarter hour using analog and digital clocks; measure to the nearest centimeter and inch.

  • Third grade: Fluency in multiplication; multi-digit addition and subtraction; problem-solving using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; place value; fractions; patterns, rules and number sentences with unknown variables; measure polygon perminiters, time and money; collect, organize and interpret data.

  • Fourth grade: Fluency in multiplication and division; multi-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; fractions and decimals; patterns, relationships and number sentences with variables; measure area of two-dimensional shapes; transformations (reflections, translations, rotations); collect, organize, display and analyze data.

Murtha said K-6 teachers, including special ed teachers, unanimously agreed they liked the updates and wanted to move forward with the new Math Expressions curriculum.
The total cost for curriculum resources is $543,312, or $67,914 per year for eight years, with an additional $5,000 for professional learning.

K-6 science

Lastly, board members approved an updated Full Option Science System curriculum for students in grades K-6.


Murtha said the curriculum will preserve hands-on learning experiences for students while introducing next generation science standards with instructional framework centered around core concepts.

Standards for each grade level under the Full Option Science System curriculum include:

  • Kindergarten: Differentiate between objects found in nature and man-made objects; monitor and summarize daily and seasonal weather changes; observe and compare plans and animals; differentiate between living and nonliving things.

  • First grade: Earth science — pebbles, sand and silt; life science — butterflies and moths; physical science — sound.

  • Second grade: Physical science — solids and liquids; earth science — air and weather; life science — new plants.

  • Third grade: Earth science — sun, moon and stars; physical science — light; life science — structures of life.

  • Fourth grade: Physical science — energy; Earth science — Earth materials and water; life science — environments

  • Fifth grade: Physical science — mixtures and solutions; Earth science — Earth and sun; life science — living systems.

  • Sixth grade: Earth science — weather and water, Earth history; planetary science.

Students will also learn to gather information about and communicate methods used by various cultures — especially the Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities — to develop explanations of phenomena and design solutions to problems.
The total cost for curriculum resources is $211,000, with an additional $5,000 for professional learning.

All three curricula will be implemented in fall 2020.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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