kitchen table math, the sequel: Jean on Common Core in California and the history of us

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jean on Common Core in California and the history of us

I have a Common Core math question. My 8th grader daughter (a homeschooler) is taking algebra I this year. She was talking with her friend, who is in 7th grade and wanted to take algebra this year but was not allowed--for the first time they were only letting 8th graders take it. (This kid btw is older than her classmates, owing to a late birthday and having started school in another state with an earlier cutoff date.) So she wants to take it next year, but now they won't let her do that. From now on, algebra I will only be taught at the high school. This is said to be a CC thing.

We are in CA, and for years they've been pushing algebra in 8th grade. I am, of course, against kids taking it if they're unprepared, but I can't see why they won't let prepared students do it. Does anyone understand this?

At dinner tonight, we were joking that my husband should start an underground algebra class...
I wonder whether the history of 8th-grade algebra in my district is scattered across the two ktm blogs? It might be.

I first got into the afterschooling business when I discovered, at the end of the school year, that Chris had flunked a test on fractions in 4th grade. I found a crumpled test in his backpack. (I was working under an insane deadline -- actually, an insane missed-the-deadline-by-a-mile-and-now-everyone-wants-to-kill-me deadline, which is worse -- so I found out after the fact.

As it turned out, he hadn't just flunked a test. He had flunked a unit. And it wasn't just one unit, it was two, both involving fractions, as I recall. (I discovered the crumpled test from the other unit at least a year later, maybe longer -- short attention span theater.)

The school had told us nothing about any of this, and intended to do nothing about it, a fact I simply took for granted at the time. Why would our fantastically well-funded suburban school district concern itself with whether children actually learned the math teachers were teaching?

Not only had the school told us nothing, but on the one occasion I did acquire evidence, in real time, that Chris was collapsing in math his teacher told me, "Don't worry about his grade. He understands." That sounded wrong to me, but, on the other hand, what did I know? His teacher said he understood, so fair enough.

But now it was summer, and I was in possession of a test on fractions with a grade of -- was it 39?


Pretty sure the exact numerical grade is findable via the About Kitchen Table Math link.

So I decided to teach my child fractions, not knowing that 4th-grade fractions are the math cliff; that's where all the kids plummet off the ledge to the rocky math shoals below. Ignorance being bliss, I sallied forth .... and I discovered right away that teaching fractions is not easy, especially when you had a mediocre education in math yourself. (I still remember feeling enthralled when I read H. Wu saying a fraction was a number! And I vividly recall Carolyn writing a post or comment quoting a boy who said a fraction was a division problem he didn't have to do.)

That was the genesis of kitchen table math: I needed help teaching Chris fractions. (Carolyn Johnston -- who co-founded the blog with me -- was in the same boat, except she happened to be a mathematician, so she did the rowing.)

Within a few days of discovering that I was not an elementary school math teacher, I had in my hands a copy of Wayne Wickelgren's Math Coach, and it was from Wickelgren that I learned that teaching algebra 1 in the 9th grade is not one of the 10 Commandments. After that my goal was to get Chris into the 8th-grade algebra class, which I did, but given how horrifically bad the teaching was in 7th and 8th grades, and how horrifically over-accelerated the curriculum was, that was probably the wrong way to go, in hindsight.

(On the old blog we used to call that class the Death March to Algebra, which should give you young 'uns some idea.)

Then again, the other kids who dropped out of the accelerated class fared poorly in the non-accelerated class, too. I was then in close contact with a mom who had been fighting the math wars for years; by the time her daughter was in 6th grade, she already had an appointment with the superintendent to discuss the situation.

Ed and I didn't make it to the superintendent's office till 8th grade.

(Have I mentioned our new superintendent isn't panning out, either?)

The other mom finally gave up the ghost. The daughter was desperate to get out of the accelerated class and her mom finally consented, and then promptly discovered that the kids who had moved down were struggling in the new class, too.

So the real hindsight question is: better to learn next to nothing in the accelerated class or the non-accelerated class?

I probably can't answer that, and having Chris take algebra in the 8th grade meant that he had me re-teaching nearly every concept, doing all of his homework sets every night myself (the publisher wouldn't sell me the Teacher Edition), and going over all of his homework and having him re-do problems he'd missed. I don't think I would have done that with Chris in 9th grade, especially not since he had by then enrolled in Hogwarts.

So, given the realities of an unreal situation, our decision to keep him in the accelerated track was either the right decision or 6 of one, half dozen of another. Plus, think of the grit!

(Which reminds me: I don't think I've told you Chris's story about unit multipliers. Unit multipliers were another revelation for me, writing the first kitchen table math. Will get to that later.)

So there I was, sitting at the kitchen table picnic table outside the kitchen, trying to teach fractions --  and then, 5 seconds later, trying to accelerate my 4th-grade son by a full year so he could take algebra in the 8th grade.

Without knowing a lot of math myself, and without hiring tutors.

The 5th-grade teachers were warm and on-board for the quest, and one of them told Ed and me that the middle school would not move Chris no matter how well-prepared he was. (She was right about that.) If we wanted him moved, she needed to move him up then.

So she did.

He wasn't ready. We needed the summer to work on math so he could move up come fall, a plan that made sense and had the potential, at least, to work beautifully. But, again, my extremely well-funded, nominally high-performing suburban school district does not concern itself with the fates of individual children. There will always be 10-year olds, and they will always score better on the state tests than underprivileged black and Hispanic children living in the city. So good enough.

Sometime during the move-up period I discovered how my district was handling acceleration.

My district was handling acceleration by having the 4th grade kids skip the entire 5th-grade textbook and, when they started 5th grade, go straight to the 6th-grade book, without telling the parents. All the parents knew was that suddenly their mathematically talented kids were struggling in math--for no obvious reason they could see--so they hired tutors. (I learned about the tutors from a math-teacher dad in town who told me the 5th-grade accelerated class was a disaster.)

Even without knowing a lot about math, I knew that skipping an entire year's worth of material was a terrible idea, so I went to talk to the interim principal about it.

He told me I was wrong. The 5th grade kids hadn't skipped an entire book, he said. Yes they did, I said. No they didn't, he said.

A couple of days later he called me in to his office and said, "You're right. They skipped an entire book."

Then he told me the class was a disaster, too. He didn't actually use the word "disaster." He used the nonverbals. His wife was a high-school math teacher, and he was obviously aghast.

Which brings me to the present.

I would like to know how my district is handling acceleration now that we have engageny math.

I would like to know, but I don't know. Finding out is going to take a lot of badgering of yon superintendent.

Fortunately, I'm good at that.

Funny how you never hear "badgering the superintendent for a straight answer" mentioned as a 21st century skill.


Anonymous said...

Schools are blaming all sorts of stupid things on the Common Core, when it's not at all CC's fault. You can read the math CC at:

It is basically a list of things like, "Compute fluently with multi-digit numbers and find common factors and multiples." The CC really doesn't say anything about *how* the schools should be teaching, just a big list of what the students should be able to do.

Anonymous said...

"A fraction is a division problem you don't have to do."

That's actually kind of funny and not completely wrong-headed. It reminds me of the annoyed look I see when students enter "2/7" into their fanciest graphing calculators, only to be told that the answer is 2/7. Still, I would say that a fraction is the answer to a division problem you already did.


Jean said...

Badgering superintendents as a 21st century skill: I love it.

When I started math with my kids, I had NO IDEA how important fractions are. Boy, do I know a lot more about fractions now. And thanks to Allison's comments here, I have made absolutely sure that they understand division of fractions and a bunch of other stuff. (Well, my 11yo has probably forgotten the whys of the division again, but we've at least illustrated it a zillion times and will again.)

I sit there with my kids and watch them do the work, so I know pretty well how they are doing. I wonder constantly how their friends are really doing, with a K-6 Everyday Math experience and this bait-and-switch in junior high. Do the kids who took algebra I in 7th, and are now taking geometry, *really* have a good understanding of what's going on? I have no idea, and I'm not sure their parents do either.

I'm telling you. Underground algebra in homes. We can organize cells around talented math tutors and meet in the evenings.

Auntie Ann said...

As I understand the California situation: the enabling legislation that adopted the CC was worded badly. It flatly stated that the CC's recommendations for what to learn in each year would be adopted for every student. That meant that slower students had to catch up, but also that faster students had to slow down.

I remember a hue and cry about this at the time, and that people were trying to fix it, but I've never seen actual follow-up to whether the legislature changed the laws.

Here's my blog post on the original problem. I haven't seen any other reporting on this.

Catherine Johnson said...

There's no question we need underground algebra.

Also underground science, history, English literature, and composition.

(Not to slight your point at **all** -- you're completely right.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Allison and Phil and others will know these things better than I, but my understanding (watching videos of Jason Zimba) is that CC deliberately slowed the math track to algebra in 9th grade for everyone.

Obviously a district doesn't have to adopt the slower path, but there is a huge incentive to do so when everyone else is doing it, when engageny provides a free math curriculum predicated on algebra in 9th grade, and when CC says it's fine to teach everyone algebra in the 9th grade.

Parents don't cut any ice against Common Core or anything else.

Auntie Ann said...

There's no question we need underground algebra.

Also underground science, history, English literature, and composition.

I keep thinking we need a summer camp which will fill in some of the blanks left behind the rest of the year. What could you do if you had kids working on academics 3 hours a day for a month or two?

kcab said...

Actually, my district (in CA) says it is going to continue teaching algebra and geometry classes at the middle school. They initially planned on eliminating the 8th grade geometry class, but parents did actually force a reconsideration. (I guess via picketing, a petition at, and probably a lot of badgering the superintendent.) Part of the consideration is keeping pace with neighbor/like districts. Also, the high school district announced that it planned on continuing to offer basically the same tracks that it currently does and that local kids would just have to figure out how to catch up on their own time if the elementary/middle district changed what it was doing.

SteveH said...

".. the other kids who dropped out of the accelerated class fared poorly in the non-accelerated class, too."

That should have been a big clue for them. That indicates gaps, not speed of coverage.

As I said elsewhere, everyone in our high school knows that CC is a minimal standard. Everyone in K-6 thinks it's a high standard. The high school teachers just made up some sort of calibration of what they teach with the CC and continue to do what they've always done. The K-6 educators did the same, but maybe they were more sincere about the process, thinking that what they are doing really makes a difference. It does not. Seventh and eighth grades are like a never-land cross between fuzzy talk and direct teaching and higher expectations for high school. That's where we heard the most talk about "grit". Kids have to make the nonlinear jump from fuzzy-land K-6 to the more traditional, direct instruction, grades matter high school. For us, it was like night and day going from K-6 to high school. However, if you can't make the transition, you're screwed.

SteveH said...

"I found a crumpled test in his backpack."

I remember the old days.

What's different now? As I mentioned to Barry, we've won. When was the last time we had a big fight on KTM about constructivism? When Barry's most recent article received so little argument, I knew we won. Die-hard opponents are reduced to pot shots and attacking newbies.

So what's happening? They ignore us because we're less than stakeholders. We have no influence. At best, we help some other parents - not to fix the schools, but to save their kids.

I can point to proof that PARCC does not support a STEM curriculum starting in the earliest grades, and I don't get disagreement from anyone.

"They do what they do."

Anonymous said...

The major problem with the Common Core is that they have a lot of items that say that the students will "understand" whatever it is. The issue is that if the standard says the students will "understand" then the tests need to test for understanding specifically--not just getting the right answer and assuming understanding from that. So a huge amount of energy is going into teaching students to demonstrate "understanding" in a way that is acceptable on the tests.

Other than that (and the issue that kids don't get to algebra until 9th grade), the major problem with the Common Core is how it's being implemented.

Jean said...

Hm. My next question: if no one gets to algebra before 9th grade, how the heck does anyone take calculus in high school? Haven't they been talking about the dire need for more STEM education, and more STEM majors? IIRC, colleges expect engineering types to have some calculus under their belts before they get to the college.

As far as I know, the sequence goes: algebra I, geometry, algebra II, trig/pre-calc, calculus--and if we're all going to march in joyous CC lockstep, calculus will be impossible to do in HS. Is Darren going to be out of a job?

No calculus would seem to be the logical conclusion to the new sequence, but I can't quite believe in it. Somebody explain to me how we are going to make this work.

SteveH said...

" the heck does anyone take calculus in high school?"

Since almost forever, most schools have offered algebra in 8th grade (at least 2 tracks). I don't know what happened to our school or for how many years it happened, but they offered CMP. This changed back to offering a proper algebra I class a few years ago because parents demanded it. There are still two tracks, but the upper track is a proper connection to the calculus sequence in high school. As far as I know, this is the case in most schools, and few are (I hope) ignorant enough to let the CC force their curriculum backwards. In our high school, CC is a non-issue for most students and parents. It's business as usual.

Anonymous said...

"There's no question we need underground algebra.

Also underground science, history, English literature, and composition. "

We call that homeschooling. If you don't bother sending your kids to school in the middle of the day, there's plenty of time.

Catherine Johnson said...

My next question: if no one gets to algebra before 9th grade, how the heck does anyone take calculus in high school?

That's the $60,000 question!

The one my superintendent won't answer.

Which reminds me: I am falling down on my badgering to do's.

SteveH said...

"The one my superintendent won't answer."

Do you, or do you not have a proper algebra I class in 8th grade with a proper textbook? Our school uses Glencoe's Algebra I textbook. The course HAS to use the same textbook and cover the same material as the high school algebra I class - preferably the honors class.

If they don't have this, then they are not providing a curriculum path to calculus. This is ignoring whether on not students are properly prepared for this in K-6, but you have to start somewhere.

Parents in our town were able get rid of CMP because there was a curriculum gap between that and geometry as a freshman.

" the heck does anyone take calculus in high school?"

This is a clear and simple question that has to be answered and one that does not mix in any issues about pedagogy. If they don't support this class, then they are incompetent. This is not a problem for most school systems.

ChemProf said...

Jean, you are right. There isn't a path to calculus and Common Core standards don't include calculus at all. You can see for yourself here:

How they square that with STEM preparation is a really good question that the school probably really wants to avoid answering.

(I spent 20 minutes talking with another Mom in California about Common Core. Her first grader is getting really tired of drawing pictures for every basic addition problem and, surprise, surprise, that's being justified by Common Core. They do what they do.)

Jean said...

...I am gobsmacked.

I went and looked at the standards--thanks ChemProf--and it looks like they have set a standard that goes to statistics after geometry, instead of algebra II and so on. If that's the *lowest* standard then fine; I wouldn't want to make every kid in the US struggle through those higher math classes. But I'm amazed that anyone would take that as THE standard. Surely not?

What have colleges had to say about this? Shouldn't Berkeley and MIT and Caltech be screaming right about now?

I thought I had been paying a reasonable amount of attention to CC news. Good golly. Now I want to call up the junior high and high school and ask them these questions...but it's spring break.

Looking at all this, I'm amazed that this jr. high is choosing to drop algebra. It's a well-regarded school that is supposed to be quite good. It has an honors program. The high school it feeds into is far better than the one I went to and has sent a few kids to MIT. Has no one brought this up? Surely they have. I'm just gobsmacked.

Jean said...

You want to hear more about my rabbit-hole experience today, right? A friend of mine just dropped by. She, a former PTO president and dedicated school volunteer, pulled her kids out to homeschool this year. I asked her about all this, and it turns out CC is a big reason why she pulled them. She went to the principal of the junior high last year and asked him about the dropping of algebra (from ALL the jr. highs in town, I now learn), and got some hedging back about how it's all going to be wonderful.

Froggiemama said...

I posted this below, but I will say it again - my kid is taking CC-aligned algebra1 in 8th grade right now. We are in Westchester. There is absolutely no sign that they would get rid of 8th grade algebra, which is very popular here.

The norm in the US has always been that algebra is a 9th grade subject. Taking it in 8th grade is seen as an exception, for accelerated kids. It was like that even when I was in school in the 70's. I think CC is just staying with the US tradition. There is nothing to prevent a school district from offering 8th grade algebra as an accelerated course, just as they have always done.

When I was in high school, only one school in my entire state offered calculus, so the idea that high school calculus should be normal is a very new idea. Certainly in my day, lots of kids went into engineering without high school calculus. It was traditionally taken in the first year of college. That is still the norm at many schools now, including mine.

Jean said...

I have no doubt that many schools are keeping algebra in 8th, which is good. I wish mine were.

Jean said...

If kcab sees this, I'd love to know what school district he/she is in, and get email about the situation. My email is in my profile.

ChemProf said...

Calc in high school may be a new idea, but even in the late 1980's, my own school (Harvey Mudd) didn't offer first semester calculus. If your high school didn't offer it, you had to take it in the summer (so at least there was an alternative path).

And I wouldn't be surprised, Jean, if there was a parent uprising and if things changed, but again am not surprised. In my local East Bay high school, I know there is a lot of hostility to any kind of tracking (which many teachers see as demanded by the "wealthy parents"), which starts in 7th grade algebra. That in turn means they have to offer 8th grade geometry (which means an extra class for the "privileged"), so I would be totally unsurprised if they used common core as an excuse to eliminate those classes entirely.

Jean said...

I went to a pretty terrible high school over 20 years ago, but even then the smart kids (not me) took calculus.

A big engineering university isn't necessarily the best place to take beginning calculus. Many professors don't like teaching basics to freshmen, it happens in giant classes with no individual attention--as opposed to taking it in a small class at a HS or CC with a teacher who probably likes doing it, or at least doesn't think the time would be better spent on research. (This is my husband's opinion--he's the one who actually lived through it, not me.)

Accidental Baker said...
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Auntie Ann said...

The science-oriented universities aren't screaming because they know they will always have students in their classes. If Americans aren't sitting there, there are plenty of people abroad who be happy, not only to take their place, but to pay full tuition to do it.

Anonymous said...

I took calculus in high school in 1970–71, without 8th grade algebra. But there were only about 5% of the high school class doing that. We has Algebra freshman year, geometry sophomore year, a combined algebra and trig class junior year, and a calculus class senior year.

I've never really understood the slow algebra 2+precalculus path that is popular now. If you understood algebra 1, then one year of algebra and trig is plenty of prep for calculus.

kcab said...

Jean - I'll send you an email.

In general terms though, this is a 'wealthy parents' type district, but I'm not sure the math push is coming from that quarter. I don't know, I moved here too recently and am too much of an outsider.

There are some local reasons for a push to keep the algebra in 7th track available - not worth getting into here. My opinion is also that it's better to get some exposure to calculus before encountering it in college IF a good calculus course is available (and it's taught well here).

The Common Core standard say, right there in the intro, that STEM students will need more than CC covers. Drat, can't find the nice copy of the standards that I used to be able to get to on-line - now it's all web-ified and bland. Will have to look sometime to see if the text is still available somewhere.

momof4 said...

My older kids' excellent HS' AP track still starts with honors algebra 1 in 8th, followed by honors geometry, honors algebra II/trig, honors elementary functions/analytic geometry (renamed because it used to be abbreviated as EFAG), and calc BC. From all college feedback,it's college-honors-level calc and feeds kids into Ivies and similar schools, including STEM programs. The kids wanting something less challenging go to the local CC for calc. Amazingly, the school still requires honors prereqs for all AP classes; honors chem B4 AP chem, honors physics B4 AP Physics (the top one) with AP calc BC co-requisite. All AP sciences are double-period every day. I don't think it's likely that CC will change anything at that school or its neighbors. The humanities are also excellent, as are the languages, where the top kids take two full years in MS and start HS with honors 3rd year, which allows both AP language and AP lit. AP Euro (honors world prereq) used to require a college-level term paper; I can't remember about AP US.

ChemProf said...

Here's a good summary of common core and high school math.

This makes it clear that for "mathy" kids, Common Core math would end in 8th grade.

"Based on a variety of inputs and factors, some students may decide at an early age that they want to take Calculus or other college level courses in high school. These students would need to begin the study of high school content in the middle school, which would lead to Precalculus or Advanced Statistics as a junior and Calculus, Advanced Statistics or other college level options as a senior."

ChemProf said...

Another tidbit from the same document:

"Decisions to accelerate students into the Common Core State Standards for high school mathematics before ninth grade should not be rushed. Placing students into tracks too early should be avoided at all costs. It is not recommended to compact the standards before grade seven. In this document, compaction begins in seventh grade for both the traditional and integrated (international) sequences."

So the high school cliff is still strongly in place.

SteveH said...

ChemProf - good find.

"So the high school cliff is still strongly in place."

They think that CC and STEM preparation are equal in K-6. The same old story. I've tutored smart kids in math in 7th grade and many are stressed out and think they are stupid, while their math teachers tell them to take responsibility for their own learning. They have to be toughened up for high school after 7 years of low expectation, playtime learning where kids will supposedly learn when they are ready.

At least they admit that two tracks are needed starting in 7th grade but then advise schools to advocate against it ... until it's too late for the student.

When I was growing up, tracking didn't start until 7th grade, but then again, my schools didn't lower K-6 expectations with full inclusion and non-working differentiated instruction.

SteveH said...

From that same document:

"Some students may not have the preparation to enter a “Compacted Pathway” but may still develop an interest in taking advanced mathematics, such as AP Calculus or AP Statistics in their senior year. Additional opportunities for acceleration may include:

• Allowing students to take two mathematics courses simultaneously (such as Geometry and Algebra II, or Precalculus and Statistics).

• Allowing students in schools with block scheduling to take a mathematics course in both semesters of the same academic year.

• Offering summer courses that are designed to provide the equivalent experience of a full course in all regards, including attention to the Mathematical Practices.

• Creating different compaction ratios, including four years of high school content into three years beginning in 9th grade. • Creating a hybrid Algebra II- recalculus course that allows students to go straight to Calculus."

These recommendations put the onus on the student to accelerate and recover during high school. Some are probably not workable for schools because of scheduling issues. K-6 educators and curricula are completely let off the hook. They have no clue that K-6 math is causing many problems.

Jean said...

Thanks for the pdf, I will be reading it. I found this document about the question of algebra I in CC math in California:

As far as I can see, my local school district doesn't have a leg to stand on in claiming that dropping algebra in jr. high is mandated by CC. No such thing. CC in CA gives two possible math pathways, one STEM path with algebra in 8th and leading to calculus, and one less intense path for those of us who don't want to go that fast or far.

I called up the district office to ask about this. It's spring break so no one is around; I talked with the superintendent's assistant, who said that yes indeed they're dropping 8th grade algebra. She sort of implied that they haven't decided what to do about calculus? Or maybe she was just hedging? She said that CC is national and "colleges will have to revamp their expectations." O.o Yeah, like that will happen. Should math drop off in local schools, local students just won't get into big colleges. There will always be lots of other kids with the qualifications.

Anyway, it turns out they haven't made decisions about the high school yet. And that is on the agenda for next week's school board meeting. I think I'll attend...

Jean said...

Dang, what happened to that link? Sorry. Here it is in full:

momof4 said...

K-5 is married to the happy-talk, full-inclusion fantasy. Unfortunately, that's where the problems start.

My kids went to a high-performing ES (first k-6, then k-5) in the affluent, highly-educated suburbs - with the pretty-academically-homogeneous school population that would be expected. There was no ELL, no spec ed beyond the mild level (so no full-inclusion etc) and kids were still grouped by level at least by 3rd grade (can't remember if it happened earlier), by subject. The top groups were significantly ahead by the time they entered 6-7 (the JHS became a MS). Pre-algebra in 7th and algebra in 8th were honors only, starting the HS path to three sections of AP calc (~36 each), in a grad class of about 400. The kids who took the AP cal/AP science track were those aiming for STEM (including premed) and those aiming for Ivies or other highly-competitive schools who used those courses as sorting devices; those who didn't have, didn't get admitted - even if not heading to STEM. That was true even for kids aiming to the flagship state U. I'm sure the latter is still true and the foundation for that must start in k-5 - with more/deeper material and a faster pace. Leaving it up to the kids/parents is massively unfair and pedagogically unsound.

SteveH said...

"colleges will have to revamp their expectations."

Them are fightin' words.

Accidental Baker said...
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Auntie Ann said...

If college is the new high school, this will make grad school the new college--at least for science majors, who will need more time to master the basics.

Crimson Wife said...

My DH attended a selective-admissions Catholic prep school where Algebra 1 in 9th was standard but they combined Algebra 2 & Trig in 11th so students went directly from that into Calculus 12th grade. There was a dual-enrollment class at local college for students who had taken Algebra 1 in 8th grade. My DH had not taken Algebra 1 in 8th but he doubled up on it and geometry in 9th so that he could take the DE class senior year.

SteveH said...

It's clear that states will start defining these paths as cover for CC. However, without fixing K-6 math, this will work for only very few students - fewer that those who might have done it years ago. Besides, many students are ready for advanced classes early, where it's a whole lot easier to skip or compact material. Why isn't that allowed with differentiated instruction? As it is now, Algebra II is the hardest class for high school kids. It's when they have to make sure they know what they are doing for any complex equation, and too many kids have big gaps. Simple understandings don't translate into more abstract ones without a solid mastery of the basics.

SteveH said...

Everything in K-12 education seems to be built around protecting K-8 pedagogy. I'm surprised that high school teachers protect them too. They see the bad math skills coming into high school. They know these kids are not that dumb. When my son was in 6th grade, I emailed the head of the math department of our high school to talk about how Everyday Math was hurting students. (I had also heard that some high school math teachers trashed the abilities of students from our middle school - in our CMP Math days.) Her response was that students needed to step up to the plate and that middle school teachers should not allow so many "do-overs." Even though the educational philosophy and expectations change completely in our high school, nobody there is willing to challenge basic K-8 pedagogical beliefs.

Although it's one thing not to complain, it's quite another to completely protect them from any criticism. That's what CC does. It institutionalizes their beliefs. K-8 is let off the hook, but still, many K-8 schools are screaming like weenies about any sort of expectation. I can understand the dislike of trying to get a full inclusion variation of student abilities up to fixed grade level skills when you have no control over what walks into the classroom, but that's a teacher-centric view of the problem. Change the model! No. The solution is to put the onus on the student. Go ahead and compact high school, but don't touch the full inclusion, differentiated instruction, and low expectations of K-8.

It's right there in black and white. The emperor has no clothes.

Catherine Johnson said...

kcab wrote: Also, the high school district announced that it planned on continuing to offer basically the same tracks that it currently does and that local kids would just have to figure out how to catch up on their own time if the elementary/middle district changed what it was doing.

Your high school is a separate district?

lgm said...

>>Froggiemama said...
I posted this below, but I will say it again - my kid is taking CC-aligned algebra1 in 8th grade right now. We are in Westchester. There is absolutely no sign that they would get rid of 8th grade algebra, which is very popular here.

NY State requires each district to offer at least high school math course in 8th grade. From the state regs 100.4: Grade eight acceleration for diploma credit.1.Public school students in grade eight shall have the opportunity to take high school courses in mathematics and in at least one of the following areas: English, social studies, languages other than English, art, music, career and technical education subjects or science courses.

It does not say that the elementary or the middle school has to prepare the students to be successful in these courses during their time in K-7.

kcab said...

Your high school is a separate district?

Yup. Weird, isn't it? Quite common in this region (SF Bay area), though not the only place I've seen K-12 split between districts. I have family in a Chicago suburb and each of their schools (elementary, middle, high) is in its own district.

District lines here don't necessarily correspond to town lines and the patchwork is different for elementary/middle and high school districts. Complicates moves quite a bit.

Crimson Wife said...

So I went last night to the "Common Core Night" put on by the school district at the town library. I had to bring my oldest and youngest because my husband was off with my middle child so I could only stay for 2 presentations. I chose middle school and high school math since that is the area where I'm most concerned about CC implementation.

The current sequence has 75% of students taking algebra 1 prior to 9th and 20% taking geometry prior to 9th (for reporting purposes they only list the number of end-of-course exams given but not grade level). The high school offers up through post-AP math but I don't have numbers on how many students take that course (enough for at least one section since they don't just send kids over to the community college).

So at the middle school math presentation, the teacher was going on and on about "real world" word problems, depth rather than breadth, making sure kids master topics in the proper grade rather than spiraling around year after year, making sure kids can explain each step and not just the final answer, etc. All things that are good in theory.

Then she mentioned peers learning from peers and group work (!) Then a passing reference to splitting the material in algebra 1 over 8th and 9th. At that point, I raised my hand and asked about whether algebra 1 would no longer be offered to 7th and 8th graders. She danced around the question and said that it was being discussed and no decision had been made yet.

So then at the high school presentation there was NO mention of the sequence. I asked the question about if students were no longer going to be taking algebra 1 in middle school, how were they going to get to calculus by 12th? Again more dancing around the question and talk of how students could always go to the local community college to take courses not offered at the high school, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I came away from the presentation VERY concerned about how my district is potentially going to implement CC and determined to keep my kids out of the district schools if at all possible (they are currently homeschooled and we hope to send them to private high school).