kitchen table math, the sequel: Algebra 1 in the 8th Grade (...or not)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Algebra 1 in the 8th Grade (...or not)

Boston Globe (North) Reading’s New Math Curriculum Runs into Protests The district has adopted a new sequence that leaves more than 80 percent of eighth-graders without a direct path to a high school calculus course. Only 18 percent will be enrolled in algebra 1, compared with 60 percent to 65 percent in previous years, according to Craig Martin, Reading’s assistant superintendent for learning and teaching. [Parents] have expressed concern that the school system’s departure from the traditional math sequence, which required a majority of students to take algebra 1 in eighth grade, may leave little room for a high school calculus class, a requirement at many colleges for acceptance into a science or engineering undergraduate program.


Dennis Ashendorf said...

Common Core teaches basic algebra in Math 8. Algebra 1 is in grade 9.

Anonymous said...

The important question is, was this school district getting bad results with its former emphasis on Algebra in 8th grade? were all of those students passing thru the math progression smoothly, or were some floundering in 8th grade Algebra and then having to repeat in 9th? or were they being passed on anyway only to find great difficulty in Algebra 2, Geometry, and College Algebra/Trig/Pre-calculus? In other words, were only 18% making it thru Calculus anyway?

SteveH said...

After reading through the links, I have more questions than answers.

The CCSS math framework is so vague that almost anything can be justified using it. My understanding is that MCAS is stronger than CCSS; that Massachusetts was one of the states to go backwards. They compare MCAS to PARCC (apparently the test they will be using) to (amazingly) show that the PARCC standards will be tougher than MCAS.

In general, all previous NCLB state standards were way too low when it came to preparing kids for STEM careers. Things haven't changed. PARCC specifically states that it does NOT deal with STEM requirements. PARCC's highest ("distinguished") level in math only hopes to prepare students to pass a course in college algebra. I'm not making this up.

This is really nothing new. Most parents figure out that state test results (NCLB or CCSS) are meaningless if you want your child prepared for an above average college. They are even menaingless in K-6. Schools know this (or at least I thought so). Most offer some sort of acceleration to pre-algebra in 7th grade and algebra in 8th grade, followed by a proper track to calculus as a senior.

I don't know what's going on exactly in Reading, but the link shows that they will offer acceleration in math starting in 7th grade. However, the sequence is given as follows for acceleration: Math7/8 in seventh grade, Common Core Algebra I in 8th grade, and Honors Geometry in 9th grade. The obvious problem is that there is no such thing as a rigorous "Common Core Algebra" anything, especially as defined by PARCC. The big problem in Reading, and something that is feared across the nation, is that rigorous math in 7th and 8th grades will be watered down because of CCSS. There is no such thing as a CCSS or PARCC STEM path.

Reading shows different acceleration paths for Math, but the issue is that you can define anything, but that doesn't make it workable. What Algebra I text in 8th grade are they replacing with a Common Core Algebra I something. It probably isn't a tradidional textbook.

I've been hoping that CCSS would show the disconnect between the low expectations of K-8 and the higher expectations of preparing kids for honors and AP classes. However, many are trying very hard to push fuzzy, low expectation K-6 pedagogy into the higher grades. Even Coleman at the College Board is stuck trying to figure this out. That's why they are floating trial balloons about AP Algebra. ACT is trying to figure out how to define an academic transition from testing in the lower grades to their popular college ACT test. The testing services should be looking at way of pushing higher rigor back into the lower grades, not caving in to the K-6 fuzzy talk of understanding. Our school got rid of CMP in 7th and 8th grades, but with CCSS, we, like Reading, might go backwards under the fallacy of high CCSS standards.

SteveH said...

"According to Martin, textbooks are “a 20th-century concept.” Teachers are now “finding their own resources and putting them on the website for students to access,” he said. “In almost every curriculum area, the investment districts used to make in textbooks is beginning to change.”"

I wrote something here and then deleted it. There is nothing to add.

Anonymous said...

"According to Martin, textbooks are “a 20th-century concept.”

Government-run compulsory schooling is a 19th-century concept.

So the point is ...?

lgm said...

The point is no child gets ahead. No text means the child cannot read or learn from the text on his own, as he did in yesteryear when bored stiff by the pace of the class.

The new elementary math books will be superthin anyway as so many units have been cut, compared to the units the 'high' groups were finishing before nclb.

momof4 said...

Precisely; I've been calling NCLB No Child Gets Ahead since its beginning. Between the "achievement gap" and the push to get the bottom to pass The Test, no one's interested in kids who will pass easily. They're even less interested in challenging the top kids because they want to depress the ceiling, made easy by testing that doesn't discriminate at the top.

concerned said...

Exactly Steve!!

"The obvious problem is that there is no such thing as a rigorous "Common Core Algebra" anything, especially as defined by PARCC."

"The testing services should be looking at a way of pushing higher rigor back into the lower grades, not caving in to the K-6 fuzzy talk of understanding."

Anonymous said...

"The new elementary math books will be superthin anyway as so many units have been cut, compared to the units the 'high' groups were finishing before nclb."

Nonsense, the math textbooks are getting fatter and fatter. The mathematical content may be shrinking, but the books are bloating.

Anonymous said...

Everyday Algebra will be three hundred pages, all of it multicultural essay questions.

Anonymous said...

"My main concern is that all of a sudden it’s no longer the case that the majority of kids get algebra in middle school and calculus in high school"

When was that? Did I miss that? Oh, right, that never existed.

There's a tension between two things:
1. Calculus in high school is needed for admission into many of the best STEM programs in college.
2. Most high school kids are not capable of or disposed to success in a calculus course.

Somehow the calculus class some kids (a minority of kids) need has to be restricted enough that they can have a real class without distraction of dumbing down, and also open enough that all the kids who need it and will benefit from it can access it.

Anonymous said...

True story: after acing Algebra 2 and Geometry (proof-based), I struggled with "College Algebra/Trig." Grades were OK; stress level was not. Was advised not to take Calculus in Senior Year. Never took Math again. Fast forward to the GRE: scored 760 on the Math section. I was just not mature enough for real Calculus at 17.