For the decade before the adoption of Common Core State Standards in 2010, the policy of the State Board of Education was to make Algebra I the standard course for 8^{th}-graders so they could progress to Calculus in high school. California was distinct among states to do so, and results were decidedly mixed. The number of students taking Algebra I soared over that period, mostly among Hispanic and African-American students, with nearly two-thirds of students taking Algebra I or Geometry (about 8 percent of students) by 8^{th} grade.

The proficiency rate on the state standardized test for Algebra increased to 46 percent in 2012. But that also meant that over half didn’t pass the test and 28 percent of students scored below basic and far below basic******– evidence that they were assigned Algebra I before they were ready. Reassigning them the same course in 9^{th} grade didn’t work: only about one in five tested proficient the second time around.

They’re among the students whom Barabara Schallau, the math coordinator for East Side Union High School District in San Jose, predicts will do better in high school math under a new sequence of Common Core courses. After getting a grounding with elements of Algebra in Common Core 8^{th} grade, they will take the first of three integrated math courses in 9^{th} grade that combine Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, statistics and functions (the study of operations using variables to produce a single result).

With the switch to Common Core, the State Board of Education eliminated the policy – what state board President Michael Kirst characterized as a “minor branch of theology”– that it was critical in 8^{th} grade to propel the majority of students toward advanced math. The state board’s neutrality, however, didn’t end the debate over acceleration – it just shifted it from Sacramento to local districts, where some districts are continuing what they’ve been doing, and others are experimenting with options in different grades, with more reliable criteria to determine who’s ready to accelerate.

The committee of California educators writing the math frameworks for Common Core, which the state board adopted last year, has strongly cautioned districts not to push students into accelerated courses in middle school too soon. Common Core 8^{th} grade math is more rigorous than the pre-Algebra 8^{th} grade math under the California standards, it noted.

“Decisions to accelerate students into the Common Core State Standards for higher mathematics before 9^{th} grade should not be rushed. Placing students into an accelerated pathway too early should be avoided at all costs,”the appendix on course options reads.

Parents not familiar with Common Core may not understand the rationale for a more measured course progression in middle school and the differences in rigor between 8^{th} grade Common Core and the old 8^{th} grade math. “There needs to be more communicating with parents,” acknowledges Pamela Seki, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and professional development at Long Beach Unified, which is among the California districts furthest along in implementing the Common Core.

Last spring, 900 parents in the Los Gatos Union School District signed an online petition and jammed a series of board meetings when they heard the district was considering eliminating the option of taking Geometry in 8^{th} grade. “If current and future students do not have it available, the lack of this program could affect the reputation that Los Gatos has for its commitment to top-quality education,” read the petition, pushed partly by realtors, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The superintendent and trustees said that parents misunderstood their intent. The district eventually adopted a three-track plan that included offering Common Core Algebra I and Geometry, along with 8^{th} Grade Common Core, in 8^{th} grade.

Some sort of acceleration is the only way for students to take at least one year of Calculus by the time they are seniors. Double acceleration would be needed to enroll in the follow-up course, Calculus BC, the goal of students aiming to major in science and engineering at top-flight colleges.

High school districts are considering a range of acceleration options for students to take calculus by their senior year or sooner: compacting three years of integrated math into two or offering double periods of math, such as Geometry and Algebra II for those districts offering the traditional sequence.

Under the new standards, it’s likely fewer students than before will end up taking an accelerated course in middle school, and that’s appropriate, say Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, and other Common Core advocates.

East Side Union will take another tack. Integrated math courses include optional “plus standards,” designed for science and engineering majors. By adding an extra daily mini-course to teach those standards, students will bypass pre-Calculus after taking Integrated Math III as juniors and take Calculus as seniors, Schallau said.

Unified and K-8 districts are exploring honors courses, which would compact three years into two years in sixth and seventh grades. Depending on whether a district offers an integrated or traditional sequence of courses, this would lead either to Integrated I or Common Core Algebra I in 8th grade. Long Beach also plans to give 7^{th }graders who didn’t start acceleration in sixth grade a second chance with a summer bridge program leading to Algebra I in 8^{ th} grade, Seki said.

Under the new standards, it’s likely fewer students than before will end up taking an accelerated course in middle school, and that’s appropriate, say Kirst and other Common Core advocates.

East Side Union’s seven feeder districts have agreed to offer the same Integrated I curriculum for accelerated students in 8^{th} grade that high schools will offer in 9^{th} grade. They will also use the same assessment, the Math Diagnostic Testing Project, developed by the University of California, to determine which students are ready for Integrated I in 8^{th} grade. In Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara-based nonprofit ALearn and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation are offering free summer acceleration and remediation courses to more than 2,000 minority and low-income students entering 8^{th} and 9^{th} grades.

“It’s an equity issue,” said Manny Barbara, a retired superintendent who is vice president of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. “Will students, no matter where they go to school, have the same opportunity as those attending the more affluent districts?”

Under the California state standards, textbook publishers dictated what would be taught in accelerated courses, Seki said. Now, she added, there’s innovation, with different courses in different grades covering a range of standards, eventually offering lessons on what works best.

But the proliferation of options is also perplexing the state board as it considers whether and how to create standardized tests for high school. “We are grasping to think through all this,” Kirst said at the state board meeting last month.

**Correction:** An earlier version said that 29 percent of students scored far below basic. The correct figure is 28 percent scored a combination of below basic or far below basic. See comment by Ze’ev Wurman below.

## We need your help ...

Unlike many news outlets, EdSource does not secure its content behind a paywall. We believe that informing the largest possible audience about what is working in education — and what isn't — is far more important.

Once a year, however, we ask our readers to contribute as generously as they can so that we can do justice to reporting on a topic as vast and complex as California's education system — from early education to postsecondary success.

Thanks to support from several philanthropic foundations, EdSource is participating in NewsMatch. As a result, your tax-deductible gift to EdSource will be worth three times as much to us — and allow us to do more hard hitting, high-impact reporting that makes a difference. Don’t wait. Please make a contribution now.

## Comments (28)

## Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

Maggie4 years ago4 years agoI understand the need to address the needs of the students who aren't ready for Algebra in 8th grade. My father is a mathematician and my children are very gifted in math, but I couldn't make heads or tails out of Algebra I in 8th grade. I was in the course for a month and couldn't wrap my mind around letters being in math. Then I missed school for six weeks due to an … Read More

I understand the need to address the needs of the students who aren’t ready for Algebra in 8th grade. My father is a mathematician and my children are very gifted in math, but I couldn’t make heads or tails out of Algebra I in 8th grade. I was in the course for a month and couldn’t wrap my mind around letters being in math. Then I missed school for six weeks due to an appendectomy and was placed in Algebra 1/2 when I returned. I still couldn’t make sense of it. As a result, I was tracked to business math the rest of my public education. In college, Algebra made perfect sense, and I easily achieved 4.0 in all my math courses. My children attended the same school district I did, and they were all properly placed in honors and advanced courses at a young age and thrived. Good school districts are flexible to meet the needs of all students. If the course is available somewhere in the district, I see no reason some districts aren’t providing advanced instruction to talented students. One of my son’s 6th grade classmates was transported to high school for math classes, and the rare savants receive private instruction. Why can’t all districts provide the high quality education my school district provides to very economically diverse students? Don’t say money because it really comes down to logistics and transportation for the few students who need extreme advanced placement isn’t that expensive.

Carrie5 years ago5 years agoThank you for this excellent article. I took Algebra 1 in 8th grade in 1988, had no struggles, took advanced math track all through high school, Calculus in 12th grade and passed the AP test. My daughter is going into 6th grade, we just moved to a new state/district in 5th grade, they are putting her in regular common core 6th grade math next year in middle school because she is not in the top … Read More

Thank you for this excellent article. I took Algebra 1 in 8th grade in 1988, had no struggles, took advanced math track all through high school, Calculus in 12th grade and passed the AP test. My daughter is going into 6th grade, we just moved to a new state/district in 5th grade, they are putting her in regular common core 6th grade math next year in middle school because she is not in the top 5%, has not been tracked through this district’s one grade level up math system so can’t compete in standardize tests. We are angry and don’t understand it. At least this article provides some details on Common Core math and changes in the last 30 years.

Replies

Doug Liser5 years ago5 years agoThis is a huge step backwards in education policy and highly unfair to many kids who will be discouraged from STEM careers because they couldn't clear a high bar in 5th or 6th grade. What we've done here is not far off from the British system which separated 11 year-old kids into ones with academic futures vs vocational ones. Once tracked low, there is no obvious way to move up -- many districts have eliminated … Read More

This is a huge step backwards in education policy and highly unfair to many kids who will be discouraged from STEM careers because they couldn’t clear a high bar in 5th or 6th grade. What we’ve done here is not far off from the British system which separated 11 year-old kids into ones with academic futures vs vocational ones. Once tracked low, there is no obvious way to move up — many districts have eliminated summer school and offering placement exams often require almost divine intervention. My son is a bright student, good at math but not obviously in the 90+ percentile. We saw this coming so he spent almost two years in 5th and 6th grade with a tutor working through California 1997 Pre-Algebra. We just learned he was placed with about 20% of the class in accelerated math. Separately we learned that our High School district has started removing lower math tracks forcing the students that needed more help into the regular track. It’s hard to see any upside in this policy and as others have already commented, it’s particularly hard for those students who come from less wealthy households without tutors and parents with advanced math degrees.

Louis5 years ago5 years agoWe had a high ability student start 6th grade in a large SFUSD middle school. Despite his high ability scores, and our pleas, the school would not neither provide an accelerated math track nor advance him. He was bored out of mind even in “honors” math. So we changed to a charter school. They fortunately teach computer programming as part of the 6th grade math program which is helpful. Reduces the boredom.

Laurie5 years ago5 years agoI don't understand how no one realizes that "school districts MAY offer additional courses" so students can reach Calculus. doesn't mean that many of them will... Most districts, underfunded as they are, will drop advanced courses before they drop anything else. My kids school district is already eliminating all AP math and has said that they will be phasing all advanced math out of middle school - so getting to algebra 1 in 8th grade … Read More

I don’t understand how no one realizes that “school districts MAY offer additional courses” so students can reach Calculus. doesn’t mean that many of them will… Most districts, underfunded as they are, will drop advanced courses before they drop anything else. My kids school district is already eliminating all AP math and has said that they will be phasing all advanced math out of middle school – so getting to algebra 1 in 8th grade will not be an option, even for the smartest kids.

All of this nonsense means that unless you can afford private school or you can move to a school district offering advanced math, forget about a career in engineering 🙁

Jade5 years ago5 years agoI'm in 8th grade currently. In 6th grade I took pre-algrebra (7th grade class) and in 7th I took algebra 1 (8th grade class). And now due to common core I am taking geometry (9th grade) which won't help me at all in college or preparing for the SATs since the whole test is changing to fit the new common core. My sister who is in 9th grade is taking 9th grade common core. So … Read More

I’m in 8th grade currently. In 6th grade I took pre-algrebra (7th grade class) and in 7th I took algebra 1 (8th grade class). And now due to common core I am taking geometry (9th grade) which won’t help me at all in college or preparing for the SATs since the whole test is changing to fit the new common core. My sister who is in 9th grade is taking 9th grade common core. So why I can’t I take 8th or 9th grade common core even though I may have taken algebra last year the new common core is very different. While my sister is taking 9th grade common core I am taking 9th grade geometry. This doesn’t make any sense because we are learning the same grade material but she I learning something that will actually help with tests while I am taking something that will help very little or not at all. Also I think that the 7th grade accelerated math is taking 8th grade common core so why shouldn’t I and every other accelerated 8th grader be able to take 9th grade common core? This really confuses and stresses me out so much. I need this to be explained and hopefully fixed

SD Parent5 years ago5 years ago"Double acceleration would be needed to enroll in the follow-up course, Calculus BC, the goal of students aiming to major in science and engineering at top-flight colleges." Thank you for finally recognizing this fact. Students with an aptitude for math should not be held back, as these are our future STEM leaders. And frankly getting school our school district to acknowledge this has been a real challenge. By the same token, no student … Read More

“Double acceleration would be needed to enroll in the follow-up course, Calculus BC, the goal of students aiming to major in science and engineering at top-flight colleges.”

Thank you for finally recognizing this fact. Students with an aptitude for math should not be held back, as these are our future STEM leaders. And frankly getting school our school district to acknowledge this has been a real challenge. By the same token, no student should be accelerated unless they have the aptitude/capacity to learn the subject. It’s about best fit for each student, not “equity.”

The unfortunate reality is that access can become a challenge under best fit. If a student has a high aptitude for math but attends a school where the vast majority of students do not, it makes it more challenging to offer the best fit for that student (e.g. it’s not realistic to offer a separate accelerated math class for just four advanced students). The solution to this is often the same as what happened with my husband when he was in middle/high school–the four advanced students worked independently, ahead of the rest of the class, with some teacher guidance. The converse is also a challenge, when a student is placed in a course that is not a best fit because it is too accelerated or complex for the student to absorb and understand the material. As I said, it’s really about best fit for all students, from those who need to spend significant time grasping concepts to those who can grasp and apply concepts easily and are ready to move forward more quickly.

I also agree with Paul that it is important to have best fit testing that correlates with the materials a student has been taught. This is not just an issue of what “expected” material students should have learned in, say, 9th grade, but there is also the difference statewide now between students that are progressing through single-subject math (Alg, Geom, Alg II) versus integrated math that combines these courses. Both of my children took accelerated math pathways, and the teacher ended up spending several weeks out of the pre-Alg course of study to review the “grade 6” math materials (which were more centered on Geometry) in advance of the CSTs. I would hope that in the future we design math tests that don’t force classes to mold course material to adapt to ill-fit testing rather than spend that time covering the actual course concepts in more depth and/or skip concepts altogether.

Replies

FloydThursby19415 years ago5 years agoDon is right. I can tell you why most of the engineers making good money in the Bay Area are foreign born, mostly Indian, Chinese and Russian, but not insignificant numbers of French, Polish, German, Korean, Vietnamese, and others. In the U.S. if you're ahead in math, you are made to feel guilty and told you have an advantage due to racism and should not challenge yourself but should patiently listen to something you know … Read More

Don is right. I can tell you why most of the engineers making good money in the Bay Area are foreign born, mostly Indian, Chinese and Russian, but not insignificant numbers of French, Polish, German, Korean, Vietnamese, and others.

In the U.S. if you’re ahead in math, you are made to feel guilty and told you have an advantage due to racism and should not challenge yourself but should patiently listen to something you know explained to someone who is not any less hardworking than you, but who is a victim of racism, classism, etc. You get bored and don’t push yourself.

In other countries if you do well, no one says it’s due to advantage. You are praised for your hard work and encouraged and told if you work hard, you can move to America and make a good income. Then when they come here, they end up making more than the Americans who held back to be nice to the kids who weren’t doing as well.

This is due to Sandra Fewer eliminating honors because it is racist in her view. This is due to the whole focus on gaps, not overall achievement. Since we are not willing to let the fast excel until the slow catch up, we need to push for universal decent parenting, focused parenting, and provide tutoring at a young age to kids who are learning slowly. We have to go at it with a you’re only as strong as your weakest link strategy, which is why Amy Chua has been promoting the idea that all parents should try harder. I don’t agree with her verbal abuse but if every parent in the US spent as much time as her teaching their kids one-on-one, we would have very few problems in this country academically and economically.

Don5 years ago5 years agoFloyd, people reading this blog have the good sense to evaluate commentary of.their own accord without you telling them who and what is right or wrong. Whether you agree with me or not is of no value and adds nothing to the conversation. On the other hand, facts, figures and some well-reasoned analysis is of value in a conversation of this sort.

Michael G5 years ago5 years agoMy mother fought this low expectations attitude in the grade schools she taught at, I continued the fight in the high schools. I have taught and tutored math to kids in inner city schools, tribal lands, and upper middle class suburbs. I cannot see any difference in innate math ability. The main determinant is confidence. If the teachers, and parents think they can, then they can. If not, not. … Read More

My mother fought this low expectations attitude in the grade schools she taught at, I continued the fight in the high schools. I have taught and tutored math to kids in inner city schools, tribal lands, and upper middle class suburbs. I cannot see any difference in innate math ability. The main determinant is confidence. If the teachers, and parents think they can, then they can. If not, not. They may need help to overcome some misunderstanding in concept or manipulation, but with a little effort, anyone can succeed.

There are public high schools in CA where over half the kids have completed geometry when they enter 9th grade. They go on to finish AP Calc and AP Stat by HS graduation. Unless you want to argue they are genetically superior that demonstrates one level of math achievement that is attainable by at least half the population.

The Japanese school curriculum requires all students to have finished calculus, or statistics (or both) in high school. As a result, Japanese factory workers can hold weekly meetings to discuss how to statistically diagnose manufacturing problems. Once they work out the problems, the cars are made in “screw driver” assembly plants in South America, and the US. Superior Japanese DNA?

US High School and college attainment rates are low and falling relative to other countries despite relatively high levels of US spending. There are many reasons for this, but partly it is lower expectations here.

To the low expectations crowd – you’re winning. Congratulations. Enjoy.

Replies

Don5 years ago5 years agoYour sarcasm aside, high expectations will not magically qualify students for advancement in math or any thing else. Academics improve through the delivering of appropriate content, high quality instruction and student effort. There's an implicit notion being perpetuated in this thread that mistakes equal opportunity for equal performance. The facts are that low test scores among historically underperforming groups are even lower in math than ELA . To rectify that students need … Read More

Your sarcasm aside, high expectations will not magically qualify students for advancement in math or any thing else. Academics improve through the delivering of appropriate content, high quality instruction and student effort. There’s an implicit notion being perpetuated in this thread that mistakes equal opportunity for equal performance. The facts are that low test scores among historically underperforming groups are even lower in math than ELA . To rectify that students need to be met where they are with appropriate content and not with coursework for which they are unprepared. Such developmentally appropriate instruction has little to nothing to do with innate capability and I don’t know why you are even discussing that other than to try to use the race card in an obtuse fashion..

Ze'ev Wurman5 years ago5 years ago(continued) But John and Mike Kirst are happy to replace all this with “accelerated courses,” “doubled up HS courses,” and “summer and mini-courses” that are supposed to be taken by students on their own initiative and push. After all, the new Framework warns teachers that “Decisions to accelerate students … for higher mathematics before 9th grade should not be rushed. Placing students into an accelerated pathway too early should be avoided at all costs.” Guess how … Read More

(continued)

But John and Mike Kirst are happy to replace all this with “accelerated courses,” “doubled up HS courses,” and “summer and mini-courses” that are supposed to be taken by students on their own initiative and push. After all, the new Framework warns teachers that “Decisions to accelerate students … for higher mathematics before 9th grade

should not be rushed. Placing students into an accelerated pathway too earlyshould be avoided at all costs.”Guess how many of the doubled-up classes, accelerated courses, and summer mini-courses will be filled with those disadvantaged students that our new (old?) leaders spill crocodile tears over?

Welcome back to the 1999 California.

Replies

Don5 years ago5 years agoThere are those who call themselves proponents of social justice and they look in every nook and cranny for any chance to uncover inequity. In this instance, the lack of equal math programming is not a conspiracy to deprive some classes of students an opportunity to take advance math classes. The "inequity" by and large is simply the byproduct of the lack of readiness demonstrated by large portions of the student body. … Read More

There are those who call themselves proponents of social justice and they look in every nook and cranny for any chance to uncover inequity. In this instance, the lack of equal math programming is not a conspiracy to deprive some classes of students an opportunity to take advance math classes. The “inequity” by and large is simply the byproduct of the lack of readiness demonstrated by large portions of the student body. Most of the student struggling in math are struggling in reading as well. These social justice proponent now want to push these kids into classes they are sure to fail and all in the name of social justice. To those of you who support that route, let me just say that you are not doing these kids any favors.

Ze'ev Wurman5 years ago5 years agoI disagree with much of what is said here, and particularly with the way it glosses over serious problem with the new paths or the strong track record of the last 15 years under our own California standard. “The proficiency rate on the state standardized test for Algebra increased to 46 percent in 2012. But that also meant that over half didn’t pass the test and 29 percent of students scored far below basic – evidence … Read More

I disagree with much of what is said here, and particularly with the way it glosses over serious problem with the new paths or the strong track record of the last 15 years under our own California standard.

“The proficiency rate on the state standardized test for Algebra increased to 46 percent in 2012. But that also meant that over half didn’t pass the test and 29 percent of students scored far below basic – evidence that they were assigned Algebra I before they were ready. Reassigning them the same course in 9th grade didn’t work: only about one in five tested proficient the second time around.”

I take exception to these numbers. For example, START database shows only 6% of grade 8 of students taking Algebra 1 scored “far below basic” (4% of cohort) rather than the 29% John cites. For example, 55% of algebra takers by grade 8 scored proficient and advanced, and 77% scored basic and above (36.5% and 51% of cohort, resp.) rather than 46% John quotes. I don’t know where John picked his numbers, but I suggest he checks his data.

The bigger issue, however, is not even with his data, as wrong as it may be. The problem is he chooses to focus his gaze on the students who didn’t make it rather than on those who did, and he avoids comparing where we are to where we have been.

In 1999, before California standards were implemented, ONLY 16% of students took Algebra by grade 8. This is where the Common Core is leading us back – to California circa 1999, where early algebra taking was the privilege of the few and of the affluent. To put it crassly, 84% of the 1999 cohort performed “far below basic” on algebra – they simply never had a chance to take it.

In 2013 two thirds of our cohort took early Algebra. Over half did reasonably well, and over a third did very well. This translates, for example, to 170,000 successful students every year compared to only 52,000 eleven years earlier. And the biggest growth came from among disadvantaged students that grew by factors of 4X (Black) and 6X (Latino and low SES), while the successful white students grew by less than 2X. But John prefers to look at those who did not make it, forgetting that their ranks were decimated under the California standards. Perhaps not perfect, but certainly getting there.

Early algebra taking enabled our students to successfully take more advanced mathematics in high school. Successful Algebra 2 taking grew by a factor of 2.5X (5X for low SES and Latino, only 1.4X for white), 2X growth in successful taking of Geometry (4X for low SES and Latino, 1.2X for white). By every measure kids were successfully taking more high level math, and disadvantaged kids were benefiting the most. And the proof is in the pudding – CSU math remediation rates fell from over 50% to less than 30% over the last 15 years, while CSU freshmen enrollment more than doubled from 26,000 to 61,000.

(continued …)

Replies

John Fensterwald5 years ago5 years agoZe'ev, I double-checked and stand corrected: In 2012, 28 percent of students who took Algebra I in 8th grade scored a combination of far below basic and below basic, not far below basic alone. As I stated, the data on students taking Algebra I in 8th grade is mixed. The issue now is not whether it's a half-full or half-empty glass – characterize me as you wish -- but what's the best way to fill … Read More

Ze’ev, I double-checked and stand corrected: In 2012, 28 percent of students who took Algebra I in 8th grade scored a combination of far below basic and below basic, not far below basic alone.

As I stated, the data on students taking Algebra I in 8th grade is mixed. The issue now is not whether it’s a half-full or half-empty glass – characterize me as you wish — but what’s the best way to fill the glass higher. The Common Core math standards, which you oppose, do present an opportunity to re-examine course sequence and create new options for acceleration, especially in high school, such as East Side Union proposes, leading to Calculus in senior year.

A decade or so ago, the State Board of Education leveraged the push to Algebra I in 8th grade by discounting the test scores of students who didn’t take Algebra. It was a crude way to create policy, with good and bad results. The push for Algebra I in 8th grade did lead to larger numbers of students taking advanced math, with, surprisingly, even a slight increase in the proficiency rate in Algebra I on the California Standards Tests, compared with the unacceptably low numbers in 1999, as you point out. But there have been a number of credible studies documenting that large numbers of students were pushed into Algebra I before they were ready. They include a study out of the UC Davis School of Education, which I wrote about here; an EdSource study that I wrote up before I joined EdSource (see here), and the latest, an extensive study by senior WestEd research scientist Neal Finkelstein (here for the study), who tracked 24,000 students from middle through high school.

About a third of students who took Algebra I in 8th grade have been assigned to repeat it in 9th grade, with dismal results. That’s a lot of frustrated students. And it’s not as if passing Algebra I is a pipeline to success. The 274,000 who took Algebra I in 8th grade dwindled to 131,000 who took Algebra II in 10th grade in 2012. Of those, 42 percent tested proficient or advanced in Algebra II. The number of students testing proficient was far higher than in 1999, true, and that is important. But the percentages of students who continue to fall by the wayside is too high. Is there a better way to achieve a higher passage rate? Perhaps Common Core and a different approach to acceleration will lead to it. We’ll see.

In predicting that we will return to the 16 percent enrollment in Algebra I of 1999 (do you include Integrated I in that number?), you don’t acknowledge that students who take Common Core 8th grade math will cover many elements of Algebra and will be farther advanced than students who took 8th grade math under the California standards. That’s an important distinction. Will they be more prepared for high school math, able to take the 3-course sequence in high school without repeating a course and prepared for UC or CSU without remediation? Or will students who accelerate in middle school be better prepared, through Common Core, to progress to Calculus? Again, we’ll see. Many math teachers I’ve talked with are enthusiastic about the new standards. So I am optimistic – but also realistic about the difficulties that lie ahead in coming years. There will likely be a rough transition.

Ze'ev Wurman5 years ago5 years agoJohn, I didn't argue that there were no students still falling in the cracks under the previous standards. I argued that their numbers were dramatically reduced since the 1997 standards, and the trends were steep and positive towards their further reduction. Common Core is NOT simply an "opportunity to re-examine course sequence and create new options for acceleration" as you present it -- it is lowering the floor of expectations for all Calif. students by about … Read More

John,

I didn’t argue that there were no students still falling in the cracks under the previous standards. I argued that their numbers were dramatically reduced since the 1997 standards, and the trends were steep and positive towards their further reduction. Common Core is NOT simply an “

opportunity to re-examine course sequence and create new options for acceleration” as you present it — it is lowering the floor of expectations for all Calif. students by about a year, dismantling much of what has been done over the last decade plus, andhopingthat it will all work out without harming students. I didn’t realize you had such an unlimited trust in the competence of our education system.But, you say, I

“don’t acknowledge that students who take Common Core 8th grade math will cover many elements of Algebra and will be farther advanced than students who took 8th grade math under the old Calif. standards.”Unfortunately, this is simply a lie spread by Common Core peddlers. Just look yourself at the old Calif. grade 7 content (our old pre-algebra, effectively also “Math 8” content) and compare it with Common Core’s grade 8 content. You don’t need a doctorate in Education (or math) to do that — HS diploma should do nicely. Our old grade 7 pre-algebra contains all the algebra content the Common Core grade 8 does, with a single exception of

Analyze and solve pairs of simultaneous linear equations.A nice but minor addition that doesn’t magically turn Common Core’s 8th grade pre-algebra course into an algebra 1 course.Please don’t buy into the sales pitch Mike Cohen or Bill Honig are trying to sell you — use your own eyes!I am predicting we will rapidly get to back to the days when early algebra taking was the privilege of the selected (and mostly affluent) few. You respond,

“we’ll see.”Unfortunately, it will take quite a few years before “we’ll see,” until the current 7-8 grade cohort will hit college. The CDE

removed our ability to track how many student take early algebra, how many take advanced math in high school, and what is students’ achievement in those course!This effectively happened when we switched from PARCC to SBAC,

which doesn’t have any end-of-course tests.Consequently, will will not have data about HS (or grade 8) course-taking rates or achievement, and the results will only come in 4-5 years when they hit college. You are basically gambling with the fate of 2-4 million Calif. students.So let me summarize. You are unhappy with the current system because a small and ever-decreasing fraction is still not making it. You support throwing it out and replacing it with lower-expectation standards instead, hoping that this will not only improve the lot of that failing fraction, but that it will also not affect the successful majority that strongly benefited from the increased expectations since late 1990s. And you are OK with blindly trusting the system for 5-6 years.

Really??

Michael G5 years ago5 years agoI see no reason why testing couldn't distinguish individual areas and those could be worked on separately. I taught lots of Algebra 1 & 2 and Geometry and there are many components that do not depend on each other and can be remediated separately. My kids and many others finished geometry in (public school) 8th grade, then AP Calc B/C in 11th grade, and AP Statstics in 12th grade. That is "normal" to me … Read More

I see no reason why testing couldn’t distinguish individual areas and those could be worked on separately. I taught lots of Algebra 1 & 2 and Geometry and there are many components that do not depend on each other and can be remediated separately.

My kids and many others finished geometry in (public school) 8th grade, then AP Calc B/C in 11th grade, and AP Statstics in 12th grade. That is “normal” to me and many others who see a competitive world where our kids need to be as good as kids coming out of Japan and China. The kids who emerge are usually very glad they got that stuff “out of the way” to make the college load easier. At worst they had to repeat a course in college but at least they had seen it before and it was usually an “easy A”.

AP Calc B/C is not a “follow-up” class to Calc A/B. Since B/C contains A/B (60% of B/C is from A/B) many students take Calc B/C straight from Pre-calc and do just fine.

The result of this mess will be to acheive equality by lowering the top rather than raising the bottom. The nation’s middle-class income level is falling behind as our younger generation is less well educated than our older generation. Correlation in this case *does* imply causation.

Replies

Gary Ravani5 years ago5 years agoThat's the way you see your kids? Really? Middle class incomes are falling because industry has been enabled (if not encouraged) by government policy to ship good jobs overseas where labor is cheaper. Cause and effect? Middle class consumer expendable incomes have declined and corporate profits continue to climb.Government policy since the 1980s has been to disempower private sector unions. The number of union (aka, well paid) jobs has declined and the pressure exerted … Read More

That’s the way you see your kids? Really?

Middle class incomes are falling because industry has been enabled (if not encouraged) by government policy to ship good jobs overseas where labor is cheaper. Cause and effect? Middle class consumer expendable incomes have declined and corporate profits continue to climb.Government policy since the 1980s has been to disempower private sector unions. The number of union (aka, well paid) jobs has declined and the pressure exerted by union wages on non-union jobs had disappeared.

The World Bank, as well as a couple of other organizations, ranks the competitiveness of national economies. For decades the US led the world. Then it dropped to #7 and has begun to rise again recently. You won’t find a word in the explanations for this about “poorly skilled workers” in anything but puff pieces put out by industry and a few self-styled education reformers. The loss of competitiveness of the US economy was due to “instability” in the financial sector. Instability being the euphemism for misfeasance and malfeasance in the financial sector.

Japan’s economy went into a recession a few years after the fantasy work, A Nation at Risk (1985), was released and only now shows signs of recovering. China has its own problems and presents no real economic threat to the US that is not enabled by our own corporations.

KCM5 years ago5 years agoI find it odd that equity and access aren't brought up in the debate about restricted school course offerings. Providing acceleration primarily through after school or summer courses results in a restriction of access to only students whose schedules can accommodate the extra class time and who have parents willing to pay/put up with the schedule. It's more equitable to offer classes and reasonable acceleration pathways in the regular school day without relying … Read More

I find it odd that equity and access aren’t brought up in the debate about restricted school course offerings. Providing acceleration primarily through after school or summer courses results in a restriction of access to only students whose schedules can accommodate the extra class time and who have parents willing to pay/put up with the schedule. It’s more equitable to offer classes and reasonable acceleration pathways in the regular school day without relying on extra-curricular arrangements.

Another point, which has only recently become relevant, is that the UC system has decided to make geometry a separate math requirement which must be satisfied through in-school classes or UC-approved online classes (SCOUT, I assume). Courses taken during middle school qualify, but apparently not summer courses (unless certified by the principal) or credit by exam. See Geometry Requirement Factsheet which is addressed to school counselors.

Replies

FloydThursby19415 years ago5 years agoThe problem with one-size-fits-all approaches to math is simply that some parents are extremely lazy and mediocre. Some are great, some teach their kids the alphabet by 2, reading by 5, read books with them, do math, get them tutoring, go to libraries, etc. There are some things which require a common sacrifice. It used to be bad parents were looked down on. If a guy left his wife or girlfriend to be … Read More

The problem with one-size-fits-all approaches to math is simply that some parents are extremely lazy and mediocre. Some are great, some teach their kids the alphabet by 2, reading by 5, read books with them, do math, get them tutoring, go to libraries, etc.

There are some things which require a common sacrifice. It used to be bad parents were looked down on. If a guy left his wife or girlfriend to be free, no other woman would date him. Now a guy who abandoned his kids (lowering their odds of a college degree by half and doubling their odds for homelessness) has friends, women, is respected. All he needs is an excuse. Really, any will do.

Many parents are together but just take kids to do what they’d do anyways. Many watch tons of TV with them. Some neglect their obligation to raise the best person possible to put into society.

So when you have your kid complain that other kids are asking dumb questions and holding back his or her learning, goofing off, not focusing, and dragging them back, you have these families to blame.

It should be seen as similar to littering. If one person just threw all their trash out into the street, everyone would say hey, you’re polluting the neighborhood. If a parent doesn’t teach their kids and do their best to help them be good students, they are doing the same, they are causing a person who could be good to be bad and hold your child back.

We need universal focused parenting to overcome this. We have to raise the standards. Bullying was once common, wife beating, kid beating, racism, homophobia. These things are now seen as wrong and rightfully so, but leaving your kids or parenting them with no energy should also be seen as unacceptable. The problem is that in any classroom is a kid who can barely focus because the parents use the TV as a babysitter, or video game system. We need to make this socially unacceptable again. We need to look at the practices of the parents of the kids with the top 5% in test scores and get all parents to emulate that model of childraising.

Paul Muench5 years ago5 years agoThis is key example where the current implementation, and maybe thinking, of standardized testing works against individual learning. I mean that as long as accountability tests take on a pre-packaged format, by grade, there will be pressure to make students conform to that pre-packaged format. Now that we have computerized testing it seems we could easily break free from the grade based testing and report test results by content. Maybe even break … Read More

This is key example where the current implementation, and maybe thinking, of standardized testing works against individual learning. I mean that as long as accountability tests take on a pre-packaged format, by grade, there will be pressure to make students conform to that pre-packaged format. Now that we have computerized testing it seems we could easily break free from the grade based testing and report test results by content. Maybe even break it down even further than a single class so everyone could see what specific areas are challenging to teach. Proactive parents could even help teachers out by addressing problem areas in advance. We should give our public education system whatever help we can.

Replies

Doug McRae5 years ago5 years agoPaul: I agree with you that standardized testing, particularly a one-size fits all grade level statewide test, does significant harm to the notion that different kids need different instruction at least beginning in the middle school grades. The notion that the testing system, even a computer-delivered testing system, can be totally individualized down to the student level is much more complicated than you suggest. The problem is that the statewide testing system has to yield … Read More

Paul: I agree with you that standardized testing, particularly a one-size fits all grade level statewide test, does significant harm to the notion that different kids need different instruction at least beginning in the middle school grades. The notion that the testing system, even a computer-delivered testing system, can be totally individualized down to the student level is much more complicated than you suggest. The problem is that the statewide testing system has to yield comparable results from student to student, from school to school, from district to district, across the entire state so totally individualized tests are problematic. Considerably flexibility of content can be achieved, however, by including common “anchor” items in the tests to generate the comparability needed. On a different level, though, is the primary importance of determining what you want to teach BEFORE implementing any given statewide testing system . . . . . the fundamental mantra must me Instruction before Assessment. Right now CA is planning to give a one-size-fits-all common core math test to all 8th graders, and that assessment design will have great influence over district-by-district instructional decisions for middle school math choices. That circumstance is simply poor implementation for a good standards-based instruction / assessment / accountability system . . . . .

Paul Muench5 years ago5 years agoHow does comparability work with adaptive testing? I’m assuming that is still the goal of smarter balanced tests.

Doug McRae5 years ago5 years agoPaul: Sorry for the delay in responding -- been out-of-state attending to family stuff. The primary advantage of adaptive testing is speed of testing within a limited range and content matter for the test. Go out-of-grade-level, for instance, or expand the content to be tested to several major strands of content, and the time advantage goes down. With Smarter Balanced, only @ 70 % of a given test will be computer-scored and thus open … Read More

Paul: Sorry for the delay in responding — been out-of-state attending to family stuff. The primary advantage of adaptive testing is speed of testing within a limited range and content matter for the test. Go out-of-grade-level, for instance, or expand the content to be tested to several major strands of content, and the time advantage goes down. With Smarter Balanced, only @ 70 % of a given test will be computer-scored and thus open to computer-adaptive advantages. If one stays with limited range and content and with computer-scored test questions, then there isn’t a huge comparability problem. But, if one wants to go outside the limited ranges, then to retain comparability one has to go to some form of “anchor” items to bolster the comparability and of course adding “anchor” items that everyone has to take for comparability purposes, that also reduces the advantages of computer-adaptive. I’m not against going to computer adaptive methods for statewide tests, but the quite a few things work against achieving the full time advantage which typically are not mentioned by advocates of computer-adaptive. As with a lot of things with large scale tests, there are pros and cons for computer-adaptive, and the advantages (when there are advantages) generally outweigh the disadvantages by relatively small margins.

el5 years ago5 years agoI really appreciate your taking the time to share your testing expertise with us here, Doug.

Paul Muench5 years ago5 years agoIn ESUHSD, how will the mini courses work for students that have completed math I by 8th grade? Also, I thought students could already skip right to taking calculus BC after math analysis. So does skipping pre-calculus upon completing the mini courses, mean skipping math analysis or calculus AB?

Replies

Paul Muench5 years ago5 years agoOops, overlooked the bottom sequence in the diagram. I see skipping pre-calculus means skipping math analysis. I assume students taking math II in 9th grade will take calculus AB as juniors and calculus BC as seniors.

John Fensterwald5 years ago5 years agoStudents from East Side Union’s feeder schools will be offering their own acceleration paths, Paul, and some students will be taking summer for=credit courses offered by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and ALearn (also offered in other primarily low-income districts throughout the Bay Area), so some students will take Integrated or Math I in 8th grade, leading to AB Calculus. There will be opportunities for the few who want to take Calculus BC to do so as well.