kitchen table math, the sequel: Debbie Downer, Nervous Nancy, and Unprofessional Sally

Monday, November 10, 2014

Debbie Downer, Nervous Nancy, and Unprofessional Sally

From the latest installment of Barry's "Conversations on the Rifle Range":
Like many school districts, mine instituted “late-start Mondays”, in which school started an hour later and periods were shortened from one hour to 47 minutes. We reported at 7:30 (as always) and had to attend a meeting or other activities as announced. On one of my first late-start Mondays, the math teachers were told to meet for a discussion of the upcoming parents’ “math night” scheduled for later that week. The District would present and discuss the various pathways in math under Common Core and answer questions. There was growing concern among parents regarding the increased limit on the number of eighth grade students who can take Algebra 1, and questions about how students could progress to calculus in twelfth grade.

We met in the core area of the module my classroom was in—a hallway/workspace common to all the classrooms in the module. Sally, the District person I had met at the high school earlier, led the meeting. Her talk was similar to what she told us when I last heard her at the high school in the fall: Algebra 1 for eighth graders would be limited to the “truly gifted”.

“I imagine we’ll have the usual Debbie Downers and Nervous Nancies in the audience on ‘math night’. We want to make two things clear: that there’s no shame in taking Grade 8 math; under Common Core it’s equivalent to the traditional Algebra 1. And secondly, placement in eighth grade Algebra 1 will be more difficult. Fewer students will qualify—Common Core is very challenging.” Which all sounds plausible but leaves open the question of why an elite corps of students is then allowed to take the traditional Algebra 1 course in eighth grade.

Conversations on the Rifle Range 14: Late Start Mondays, Debby Downers, Nervous Nancies and a Tiger Mom
Time for a parent uprising.


froggiemama said...

I can remember being gatekeepered out of 8th grade algebra back in the 70's, and the memory still makes me boil. In my case, I was a year younger than the other kids, so the teachers said I wasn't "developmentally ready" for abstract mathematics. So I wasted a year in consumer math.

Fast forward to today - I was utterly shocked to find out that my kids school gatekeepers 8th grade algebra (as well as a whole slew of other "advanced" courses). I had thought gatekeepering at such a young age had been discredited in the 80's. Why are they still doing it? We end up with a school system that is as tracked as the German system. And worse yet, in my district, the tracking criteria has nothing to do with whether a kid is good at math or not. It is all based on whether they are diligent at submitting homework that is neat and organized according to teacher standards.

However, this has nothing to do with Common Core in our district. They have been doing this for eons. At parents night at our high school last spring, the principal was complaining that we don't send enough students to schools like MIT and CMU. Well, you know, if you gatekeeper out all your most talented students in 8th grade, the messy, creative, smart ones, you won't have much talent left in the 12th grade.

Crimson Wife said...

CCSS Grade 8 math is *NOT* equivalent to the old Algebra 1 in my district. CCSS is the new name for the old "Algebra Readiness" (aka pre-algebra) class that the standard college prep kids used to take in 7th and the below-level kids used to take in 8th (the accelerated track kids used to skip it entirely, going from 6th grade math directly into Algebra 1 in 7th).