kitchen table math, the sequel: Draft standards released by Common Core State Standards Initiative

Monday, September 21, 2009

Draft standards released by Common Core State Standards Initiative

The draft standards by CCSSI have been released for public comment. Located here.


The press release states that "The NGA Center and CCSSO are encouraging those interested in the standards to provide feedback, which must be supported by research and evidence, by October 21 at www.corestandards.org."

So feedback must be supported by "research and evidence". Whatever that means.

33 comments:

SteveH said...

"...which must be supported by research and evidence..."

You need research and evidence to argue things that have been selected without research and evidence? You need research and evidence to argue assumptions?

SteveH said...

For example, here is their title:

"College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics"


Well, no, it isn't. This isn't what is required for getting into the engineering school of a top college. This is more like a minimum. The question is how it's done in K-12. Are these targets for the end of high school? If so, then the courses that meet these specific needs will define a terminal math achievement rather than a base.

Barry, are there any details about how these standards get translated into actual courses or a curriculum? You could meet these standards while taking algebra as a Junior in high school. You're at the top of your math curve rather than the beginning.

SteveH said...

Modeling - Core Concepts


"Mathematical models involve choices and
assumptions that abstract key features
from situations to help us solve problems."


Can you repeat that please? But what IS a model?

Please abstract me from this class.

Barry Garelick said...

They are very vague as you've picked up on. Your criticisms can just as well be applied to NCTM's standards which are similarly as vague.

As far as research and evidence, in my mind you don't really need evidence to prove that kids don't learn what they ain't been taught, any more than you need proof that jumping out of an airplane without a parachute results in death for the jumper.

VickyS said...

For those who haven't read it yet, it's a three part document. The first part, consisting of six "core practices" is all about the way students approach or think about math. The second part gives us the Ten Standards of Mathematical Content (no relation to the Ten Commandments, of course), and the third part consists of exemplary material.

Thankfully, it seems to me that the document improves the more you read. The introduction is pretty scary, but the meat of the document is better than I expected. Here's an excerpt from the very fuzzy introduction: "The Standards for Mathematical Content . . . surface the deep connections that often underlie mathematical coherence, such as the blending of algebra with geometry represented by Coordinates. These ten are not categories or buckets of topics to cover; they are standards. They describe the coherence students need and deserve as they go forward to their mathematical futures."

Yes, Virginia, the word "surface" is being used as a verb in this document. I had to abstract that from the context...

But speaking of verbs, the introduction also includes this curious comment:

"The specific verbs used to describe concepts and skills in these standards are not meant to limit or indicate levels of any taxonomy. Although using verbs to indicate levels of depth has been a common practice in this country’s standards writing, high performing nations do not use verbs in this way. They describe depth and practices first in separate sections of their syllabi. We have adopted the high performing countries’ practice of focusing on a clear statement of what mathematics should be learned when writing standards for knowledge and skills."

I took a quick run through the "standards" themselves. My first impression is that as an outline of minimum skills that students should have mastered by the end of high school, it's not bad. It does not seem to be overly prescriptive and there's a healthy focus on algebra. Maybe the fuzzies in the group were given the task of writing the introduction and the more content-focused members tackled the standards. But the devil is in the details, so maybe I'll think differently after studying it.

Certainly, though, these are meant to be minimum competencies? Kids who want to go to 4 year colleges and major in mathematical fields will need much more.

I wish committees like this would recognize that one size does not fit all. Why not include a parallel set of higher standards for kids who intend to pursue mathematical careers so that schools, students and parents are on notice that certain career and educational goals will require high school kids to go much farther than these standards?

Barry Garelick said...

I don't like their decision to de-emphasize the study of quadratics in order to spend more time on exponential functions. Nothing wrong with exponential functions but they openly admit that they want to see more time spent on those than quadratics. This seems to be going for the "conceptual deep understanding" by ignoring some of the basic skills and understanding you need to get there. Quadratics play an important role in understanding polynomials and exponential functions. Why give it short shrift?

The geometry standard acknowledges that triangles, congruence, Pythagorean theorem are central to geometry. But so are circles; no mention of them. And why the emphasis on transformations? I realize Zal Usiskin believes that transformations should be used in lieu of Euclidean geometry and so did Jeanne Dieudonne back in 1959 when he made his famous speech about "Euclid must go". But really. Let's teach kids Euclidean geometry and how to do proofs and say that's what students should know. They pay lip service to proofs, but I've heard it before.

I agree with Vicky that they're "not bad" but these are just some things that leapt out at me. The intro is indeed scary.

SteveH said...

"..third part consists of exemplary material."

Where is this. I can't find it.




"Students reaching these levels will be prepared for non-remedial college mathematics courses and will be prepared for training programs for career-level jobs; however, the College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics should not be construed as grade twelve exit standards. Students interested in STEM fields, and those who wish to go beyond for other reasons, will need to reach these standards before their senior year in order to have time to include additional mathematics."


Bait and switch. These standards really should be named:

Vocational School and No Remedial Math in College Readiness Standards for Mathematics


Schools will still trust the spiral and parents will still tutor kids.

Whatever happened to a proper algebra course by 8th grade? By focusing on the end of high school, they avoid dealing with the big issue of K-8 math.

They can't just gloss over the problems of relating a curriculum to grade level. They talk about international benchmarking, but that's meaningless without a grade level connection.

Barry Garelick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Garelick said...

The standards just released are really high school "exit standards". Grade level connections, as Steve H mentions, will be in a separate document to be released in December. But Steve's comments are well taken. By saying these exit standards are not really reflective of the needs of students pursuing STEM fields, then what the hell are they?

Crimson Wife said...

Does every child *REALLY* need Algebra I by 8th grade? My mom never took calculus in high school OR college. It was only when she decided to get an MBA that she finally took it. She had majored in a non-technical field & had been perfectly successful without calculus until she needed it for grad school.

Plenty of college majors do not require the student to know calculus.

SteveH said...

"Does every child *REALLY* need Algebra I by 8th grade?"

No, but are you the one to decide and close the door?

OK. I will accept 9th grade. If you don't get to algebra by 9th grade, something is seriously wrong, and I'm not talking about the student.

Calculus? Who's talking about calculus in high school? I'm not. The key is a proper course in algebra. If this doesn't happen by 9th grade, it will probably never happen. Even if you can force the issue by the end of high school, it's likely to be their terminal course in math.


So what do these new standards do? They make it OK to continue to screw up K-8 math because of the attitude that not "every child *REALLY* need(s) Algebra I by 8th grade".

They talk as if these standards are better than what currently exists. No. They are just better than the awful slow track in math. If you get on the AP calculus track in high school, you have potential, even if you never get to calculus. If you get on the track defined by these standards, you are peaking far too early.

You may avoid remedial math in college, but you are not (or ever will be) properly prepared to get to calculus. You got off that track back in grammar school. These new standards don't define a slow version of the top math track. They are something else.


"Plenty of college majors do not require the student to know calculus."

And some of those students ended up there because they couldn't handle the math. Slam! Another door closes.

Allison said...

Of course there are many college majors that don't require the knowledge of calculus. But an 8th grader has no real idea which major they will choose in college. They may think they want to be an artist or a historian, but what if when college arrives, they want to study psychology, economics, business, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, physics, math, etc.?

A calculus ready freshman can choose a non calc ready major. But a non-calc ready freshman really can't. They will not be able to keep up with the requirements of their degree program if they need remediation in math from the outset.

If they aren't on the algebra I in 8th track, they are basically knocked off the college-calculus freshman year track. So without algebra-for-8th as a standard, you've slammed the doors on any STEM field. And as more degrees are becoming the standard, and more social sciences are becoming scientific, increasingly, the mathematical knowledge needed to participate is growing.

Consider psychology, increasingly influenced by neuroscience/neurobiology in which understanding the firing of neurons and the drop off of chemical activation in synapses requires understanding of at least a homogenous 2nd order differential equation. That means getting through multivariable calc. Solving any optimization problem in business requires some linear algebra, also requiring at least multivariate calc. Real econ requires limits, derivatives, integrals. Modern finance theory uses stat mech and fluid mechanics. Even properly reading a balance sheet and computing present value of future cash flow requires calculus.

There's nothing wrong with saying "I don't want to study that material". But given where we are as a society, not equipping every child to be able to choose that path is closing off too much of their future way too early.

VickyS said...

The web-based "Examples" (the third component of the document) are little doodads that you click on while you are going through the standards; they say "see examples."

Here is an example of an example...

Consider the following statement about a positive integer n: The sum of any n consecutive
integers is divisible by n.
For which values of n is the statement true? For which is it false? Prove that your answers are
correct.
—Shell Centre for Mathematical Education/Mathematics Assessment Resource Service
(MARS)

I'm going to defend these standards (generally) as being pretty decent exit standards for non-STEM kids. Keep in mind their stated purpose: entry level jobs, or college without remedial work.

Someone quoted above their own admission that kids going into STEM fields will need more. That's an honest assessment and true. I don't buy the door closing argument--I think it's perfectly okay for kids to graduate from high school with more or less math as long as we define a decent floor, which these standards probably do.

They are not tied to grade level, I presume, because they are, in effect, minimum exit standards.

I'm glad they are not too prescriptive with regard to *how* the concepts should be taught, or with regard to the details. But neither are they wishy washy and full of a lot of edubabble.

Sometimes I know I knee jerk to a critical mode but I'm okay with these, for what they are. That said, I agree with Barry's comments and I'm sure there is room for improvement. But really, they could have been a lot worse.

PhysicistDave said...

Crimson Wife wrote:
>My mom never took calculus in high school OR college. It was only when she decided to get an MBA that she finally took it. She had majored in a non-technical field & had been perfectly successful without calculus until she needed it for grad school.
>Plenty of college majors do not require the student to know calculus.

True.

But, calculus was created by Newton to understand the physical world.

All of science – astronomy, geology, chemistry, and even biology – is now based on physics.

And you cannot understand physics if you do not grasp calculus.

It is not simply being able to solve specific calculus problems: indeed, few engineers that I know really solve calculus problems in their daily work. Rather, it is a matter of grasping the basic ideas of calculus – differentiation, integration, etc. (and grasping those ideas does require working problems).

No calculus = no real grasp of science.

And natural science is the most certain, most well-established knowledge of reality that humans have yet attained. People who do not understand science might as well be living in the Middle Ages.

Of course, intellectually speaking, quite a few Americans do live in the Middle Ages: people who seriously believe in “young earth creationism,” astrology, pyramid power, homeopathy, etc. are still living in, as Sagan put it, a “demon-haunted world.”

It is no accident that the European Enlightenment came after Newton; as the poet Alexander Pope said:

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night/
God said, ‘Let Newton be!’, and all was light.”

Calculus is not primarily about getting into med school or dentistry school. It is about being an educated human being, a person who can grasp the enormous progress that has been made in the last five centuries in understanding the nature of reality.

Dave

SteveH said...

"pretty decent exit standards for non-STEM kids."

I guess I'm still very cynical. I see the standards as better than what they had before for non-STEM oriented kids, but who are these kids and when and how is this decision made? Do these standards help create non-STEM kids or do they provide a better base on which they can build? It seems to me that they still don't own up to the problem and will continue to place the onus on the kids and their parents.


The problem is that if you are not on the top AP calculus track, you are nowhere. It doesn't have to be this way. Will these standards change that? I'm skeptical. A lot depends on whether or not they fix math in K-8. They claim that these are not high school exit goals, but that's what they are. If you want a STEM career, you better be on a different track.

It's like Everyday Math. I can open one of their workbooks anywhere and see reasonable math problems. That doesn't tell me that mastery is getting done.

How they tie these standards to grade level and how they ensure mastery will be critical. If they don't admit that there are fundamental problems in math in K-6, then this will never be done properly. Kids will get to high school with all sorts of gaps and they will struggle to meet these standards by 12th grade. This is a terminal condition, not a proper base camp for climbing the mountain of calculus.


I also don't like how these standards are portrayed as better. Better than what? Better than stinking lousy? Better for non-STEM students? Rather than take existing AP math track courses and slow them down with more mastery, they want to define something else.

Anonymous said...

Panic.

Despite all my reading on the math wars, back-to-school night for my fourth grade son was the first time I'd really felt panicked.

The teacher went on and on about how she had experience training kids to do well on the ASK test (NJ's state NCLB test), and how she wanted to make learning easy and fun. There were student-made posters around the room displaying little mnemonic rhymes to memorize the multiplication tables. A stack of new TERC Investigations books filled one shelf. When one parent asked if manipulatives were going to be used, the teacher happily gestured to the extensive set of little blocks (provided by the school). She's a third-year teacher, and you can practically see constructivist ed philosophy leaking out of her (she is very nice, sweet, and attractive, though; unfortunately, just very, very wrong). This is in a school that probably ranks in the top 10% in New Jersey.

My son has an intense interest in science and technology. He watches the science channel almost exclusively. He knew the multiplication tables to 10 before first grade. He did long division during second. I was hoping that the public schools would move at a bit brisker of a pace after they got to multiplication, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Though I'm not thrilled about it, I can accept that the public schools essentially will not be teaching my son any math. I guess my issue is trying to know what the proper progression is for a child who likely will pursue a STEM field? Do we continue to push or do we slow down and let the curriculum catch up so he isn't quite so bored? Does anyone know if this kind of a set of standards exists?

SteveH said...

California has reasonably good grade level standards. I don't have a chance now to dig up the link. Singapore Math is what many of us used to supplement or use as a parallel track. However, the key is to get on the algebra in 8th grade track and the AP calculus track for high school. If your school doesn't offer real algebra in 8th grade, you have a lot more work to do.

If your child is even ahead of the algebra in 8th grade track, maybe the school will give you options. My son skipped 6th grade Everyday Math to get to pre-algebra and now he is taking geometry in 8th grade. The school offered an online course (that I didn''t like), so I am teaching him math at home. During his math class time, I have him do the homework problem sets.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

Does your school have a gifted program or a gifted teacher? I'd start there if possible. If your school is in the top 10%, I'm guessing there must be a gifted teacher at least in the district.

If your son is doing division in the second grade, my guess is he should be accelerated in math, either by being pulled or placed in a higher level class. I had a similar situation and I met with the principal and teacher and basically said that they had to teach him at his level or we had to go elsewhere. They need to get out of his way.

You can also look into getting an IQ test independently, or if you're near Northwestern, Duke, Johns Hopkins, or Stanford, they will test him for a fee. It gives you some ammunition when dealing with public schools.

I wouldn't let him languish, though. Bright kids can come to despise school and even get very depressed. For his mental health, you need to get in there and find out what they do with these situations. Sometimes kids are really nice and well-behaved. Those are often the ones that get overlooked.

SusanS

Barry Garelick said...

Anonymous,

If he's interested in math and science and you're afterschooling him with various programs, just keep it up. If he's bored at school, better that than confused. Stay ahead of the train wreck.

If you haven't yet started with providing him what the school is not, now is the time, and there has been plenty written about what programs are good here at KTM.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. He's not well-behaved, which has kept him out of the gifted programs (b/c they need teacher recommendation). He's not bad per se, but he will sometimes either not pay very much attention to the teacher

Yes, we've been afterschooling, currently with Kumon. I'll look at the other programs written about here.

I emailed his teacher and said as nicely as possible that I thought the level of teaching was simply too basic for him. She's an LTS, so I copied the regular teacher, but no one else. Not sure if I should go higher yet.

Hainish said...

He's not well-behaved, which has kept him out of the gifted programs (b/c they need teacher recommendation).

O. M. G.

That is just so very, very wrong.

Anonymous said...

I love when they keep them out of the gifted program because of behavior problems. Talk about being clueless. There's a good chance the behavior problems stem from being bored out of his mind. It's about the appropriate placement.

When my son started acting out in the first grade, my attitude at first was that he needed to get over himself. Life it tough. Sometimes you're bored. That's just how I was raised. But, I saw it get much worse. However, I had already had Northwestern do their little test for grade schoolers, so I had some proof that there might be a problem with extreme boredom.

Every single class where a teacher has mentioned his behavior has been a lower level, slower class. In fact, I'm more worried about his easier classes in high school than the harder ones.

I would challenge the gifted program's criteria. Usually, they go by some kind of general IQ number, plus teacher recommendation.

I had a good friend whose son was always in trouble at school. He was pulled for different things, but because of behavior they would put him back in the regular class. The parents finally had him tested and his performance IQ was a 146. The verbal, however, was a 108, still above average, but a huge spread there.

The school was surprised by this and suddenly started treating him differently. They knew he was a bright kid that had some deficits. Needless to say, his behavior changed dramatically.

The problem with letting him stay in that slower classroom is that they're basically keeping him from being on a top track in math and science. They are determining his future now.

Definitely, start with the lower teachers, but when you hit a wall, go higher. Also, if the attitude seems off, you can check how other top grade schools handle their math/science kids. By letting them know that other schools handle this differently and get good results, it may push them to at least try it.

SusanS

Allison said...

Change schools.

Do not let your child languish bored in school. If he's "badly behaved" now, it will only get worse.

Because he's not badly behaved. He's not paying attention to the teacher because THERE IS NOTHING TO PAY ATTENTION TO! He knows more than she does! He can do more math than she can! The problems he's given in TERC are mindnumbingly awful, yet filled with make-work.

I meet a lot of people who seem to think "I was bored in school; so what's the big deal?" But the answer is: your child is SUFFERING. Your child is LANGUISHING. And maybe not today, but sooner or later, your child will be MISERABLE.

Please please please get them out of there. Try try try to find any way out of being that bored. Because the damage done by hating school now lasts forever. The damage done now by not learning how to work hard because you've never been given anything hard to work on lasts forever. The damage done by being miserable now lasts forever.

Children don't need to struggle; they do need challenges. Please help your son now. Teaching him that day to day, life is about being miserable and that authority figures have nothing constructive or supportive to offer a child, let alone a young adult, is really not the lesson he needs to learn in life.

Allison said...

To the question of how to know what the likely progression is for a child who wants to pursue a STEM field, you almost want to look at other countries, not ours.

In our country, the quality of instruction is so poor that there's almost no coursework progression variation available. There's just one sequence, and working backward, it's:
AP Calc in high school, preferably the BC test senior year. Which requires AP Calc junior year, or an honors pre calc; previous to that is Alg II ,Geometry, and Algebra 1. So that's really 4-5 years of work to do in 3-4 years if you start with algebra 1 in 9th grade. That's why the main path is Algebra 1 in 8th grade, or a high enough honors math class in 9th to get through Algebra 1, geometry, alg 2, and precalc before AP calc as a senior.

if you are not on that path, it's obstensibly over for someone wanting to pursue STEM. The problem is how to make sure that you are on that path when the elementary and middle school curriculum isn't aligned to get you there. (Saxon, Singapore, and others will get you there.)

The exceptionally good math and science high schools do more--they offer discrete math, number theory, more geometry, who knows what else. But almost no schools do that.

Another way to keep your child interested in math is to do what kids who intend to pursue a graduate degree in those fields do: attend math camps, summer programs, added acceleration/enrichment. Many of these are summer camp programs that are rigorous, and not merely math appreciation. Programs such as PROMYS at BU, Ross @ Ohio State, the one at Hampshire College, and others teach the kids number theory, group theory, real algebra, real analysis, and other subjects to high schoolers. You're in NJ--near Princeton? Rutgers? DIMACS is an institute for discrete math out there, and between the above schools and what's left of Lucent and AT&T, there are still a dozen programs to help STEM kids in that area of NJ. I bet you could find some math stuff for him that would keep him interested.

Grace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you, Allison.

I don't think getting out of the school is an option right now. This is at least better than his old school, where the teachers would encourage his classmates to ostracize him.

We're not particularly close to Princeton. We may have the option to get him into Bergen County Academies in high school, which is a top-level science/technology school. It's basically what we're shooting for right now. So I guess he has to be at least at Algebra 1 in 8th.

PhysicistDave said...

Anonymous wrote:
> He's not well-behaved, which has kept him out of the gifted programs (b/c they need teacher recommendation). He's not bad per se, but he will sometimes either not pay very much attention to the teacher.

What you have described is not really a behavior problem – it is just being a little boy!

My last two years of high school I scored highest in my state on the MAA math test, but in grade school I had a mixture of As, Bs, and Cs in math. I just could not see why it really mattered whether 8 time 7 was 54 or 56 – and I was actually a fairly serious, well-behaved kid.

A friend of our family gave me Irving Adler’s classic “Giant Golden Book of Mathematics” when I was eight or nine, and that helped me to see that math was not just the multiplication tables but actually interesting stuff. So, I got interested and eventually excelled in math.

As to paying attention… I remember one time in fourth grade when the teacher noted that I was twirling my Cub Scout ring on a pencil rather than paying attention: she warned me that I would be sorry the next day on the test. I was too polite to tell her that I already knew the stuff and would do fine on the test whether or not I paid attention.

Most of the bright male engineers and scientists I have known had a similar attitude – i.e., we’ll start paying attention to you when you show us that you have something interesting to say!

If there is any possibility that you could homeschool, I would seriously consider it. Otherwise, I agree with the other comments here: you have the classic example of a bright, motivated little boy who can do great things if you can keep adults from wrecking everything. Push hard on the school, change schools, find out what your state laws are (some states require by law an education appropriate for the child), etc.

The next ten or fifteen years are the main time in your son’s life when he will have a chance to learn at a very rapid rate – if ignorant fools don’t stop him. It’s worth fighting on his behalf.

Believe me – a lot of bright little boys are in the same situation as your son. They deserve to have adults fight for them.

All the best,

Dave

SteveH said...

"So I guess he has to be at least at Algebra 1 in 8th."


My rule of thumb is that if the textbook just has "Algebra" as the title, then it's probably OK. If it adds something like "Tools for a Changing World", it isn't. Most publishers have two textbook versions for algebra; the proper one and the dumbed down one. If your school's course doesn't use a textbook (just a workbook or something), then it isn't algebra.

Also, check to see if the 8th grade textbook and coverage is exactly the same as for the high school version of the course that leads to AP calculus. Amazingly, up until two years ago, our middle school used CMP which left kids with a big curriculum gap when they went to geometry in high school. It was incredible.

VickyS said...

To add to Allison's and Dave's comments, I believe I rescued both my boys from the brink, more than once.

In each case that rescue required a complete change of environment, either to a new school or a temporary home school environment.

Sad to say, I have never had meaningful success "working with the school."

School these days is, quite frankly, anti-boy in many respects, which just compounds the academic issues.

If you can keep a boy interested in school these days, it's a real victory. Just look at the high school graduation and college enrollment statistics. Our local newspaper did an article recently showing the gender of the top 10 students in all the local high schools. Let's just say, boys were not well-represented.

I have found that a change in environment is, in and of itself, stimulating. That stimulus lasts 1-2 years. Then the malaise sets in as they master the environment.

Now I have found a school that has an environment that itself that changes every year! Only 20% or so of the students return year to year since it is almost all foreign exchange students. Keeps things fresh and fun.

We are happily in year three...fingers crossed!

Anonymous said...

Looking up towards the 6th-8th grade teachers (it's a K-8 school), it appears there are two. One doesn't list the textbook but the homework she gives seems to include a lot of vocabulary. The other one seems to use a website for Math 6, pre-algebra, and algebra. Maybe I'll reach out to him and ask him how closely the curriculum is aligned to the high school curriculum, and use it as an opportunity to introduce myself and push a bit.

SteveH said...

Our school uses those Glencoe books (but not the Math 6 book). Since my son is one year ahead (now in Geometry in 8th grade), the school allows me to teach him math at home. The Glencoe Algebra I text is what our high school uses and I like it. I suppose I could quibble about some things, but it's incredibly better than the old CMP.

This is how it worked for us. At the end of 5th grade we were looking at bringing our son back to our public school from a private school. One of the reasons we left in the first place was because of their use of full-inclusion and how differentiated instruction didn't help one bit for the advanced kids. They might argue this in public, but they know it's an issue. Parents catch on in the early grades and that is when many send their kids elsewhere.

Unfortunately, many private schools still use curricula like Everyday Math. They might set higher expectations, but parents constantly question cost versus benefit. In our case it just wasn't worth the cost and we weren't going to put our son on a bus for two hours a day to some other private school.

The other factor in our favor was that by 6th and 7th grade, our public schools started to realize that some kids weren't being properly prepared for high school. They were also very sensitive about the loss of many better students. They were showing some flexibility. They had to. They claim that they want to challenge all students, but that could not happen in a full-inclusion environment in the upper grades. The realities of high school expectations in currilum were pushing downwards.

So when we had a talk with the principal of our public school about bringing our son back, she was willing to be very flexible. It also helped that we had his transcripts, private school testing results, and other national testing results. You may not see it in public, but there is a lot of talk about who is coming or going from our public schools and why.

So when we had our talk about our son, one of the options even included skipping a whole grade. The principal left it up to us to decide. In the end, we decided to have him stay in his grade, but jump a year in math. This meant that in 6th grade his schedule got really screwed up to get him into pre-algebra. For seventh grade, we decided not to screw up his schedule, so the only two options were an online math course (ugh!) or to have me teach him, which I have done since then. The key is that they were willing to be flexible.

One of the reasons for this is that they have to live up to their own words. If they claim that they want to challenge all kids, they have to do that. It also helped that another student was two years ahead in math. Once the precedent has been set, it's hard to go back.

There is also the issue of competition with private schools and charter schools, even though we have very few nearby. Our public schools do not want to get any smaller, and that is the direction it's heading. They see many better students leave.

So, don't assume that schools won't try to be helpful if you approach them in a nice way. You can check to see if the 8th grade algebra aligns with the high school course, and you can ask exactly how kids are selected for this algebra track. Schools are very susceptible to the "challenge the student" argument. In my son's case, he just had to take the end of year 6th grade Everyday Math test to show the school that he could skip to pre-algebra. We just went over the material in the summer.

Redkudu said...

The full inclusion model is killing me this year. I have two classrooms with such a disparity in ability I'm trying to come up with a way to teach two different classes in one classroom.

On the one hand I have our "on-level" students who are very high needs due to the schools they're coming from. I always have to accommodate slightly for them anyway.

On the other hand I have a sizable minority of students in 2 classes who cannot function in a regular ed setting. For a 10th grade English classroom I'm being asked to allow these students to write three sentences in lieu of an essay, then find some way to justify that they are proficient at on-level tasks such as writing and vocabulary usage.

In one class I have a student with brain damage suffered just this summer and a student whose learning suffered when he became a paraplegic a few years ago and was out of school for extended amounts of time. The same student with brain damage is *supposed* to be in ESL classes, but they couldn't work them into his schedule. In another class I have a student who cannot control his motor functions and is so socially immature the kids refuse to interact with him. He also cannot read. I have a student who scored one point over mental retardation and has to have constant one-on-one support from another adult to complete tasks such as putting his name on his paper. Those are just the most extreme examples.

It's probably the worst I've ever seen of this. I've never had a year of students with such drastic needs - and I'm alarmed that they are being put in this position, much less me. The sadder thing is, if they put all these kids in one room with me and a co-teacher, I could teach that class just fine.

Anonymous said...

Do these kids have IEPs? It sounds like at least one of them should have an aide, which could be your ticket to the co-teacher you need. Talk with your principal or special ed. director about some creative collaboration--and good luck.