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article: Why did San Francisco schools stop teaching algebra in middle school

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The key difference is that numerically-inclined students aren't tracked ahead of their peers until high school.

 

which stands in contrast to this claim:

 

 

Proponents of San Francisco’s current policy insist that delaying acceleration will have no effect on acceleration-ready students.

 

That makes no sense. How not? What about students who would be capable of completing a rigorous (think AoPS level) algebra in 6th grade? 

 

In practice, it has proven difficult to create separate classes of gifted students without removing pedagogical resources from their non-accelerated peers and without creating classrooms that are disproportionately white and Asian and relatively affluent.

 

and because of that, let everybody march to the beat of the slowest drummer so nobody can be accused of racial and socioeconomic discrimination. Problem solved.

 

Ask me again why I homeschool my gifted kids.

Edited by regentrude
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Mercifully I was able to get my son into one of the very few programs in the gigantic LAUSD that will allow him to take Algebra 1 in 7th Grade (next year).

 

And we're doing AoPS Introduction to Algebra this summer. 

 

Count me as "not a fan" of holding back students for no good cause.

 

Bill

 

 

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I would not want my math hating DS2 to hold back my math loving DS1 and DD.  It's pretty normal, even in ps, for kids to be in algebra before high school (in our school district, not sure about others). What are they teaching them instead? How do you deal with the very bored kids who can't possibly handle one more dumbed down math lesson?

 

 

"In practice, it has proven difficult to create separate classes of gifted students without removing pedagogical resources from their non-accelerated peers and without creating classrooms that are disproportionately white and Asian and relatively affluent."

 

 

Why does it always have to come back to this? Every child should be accelerated or held back based on their abilities, not their race or socioeconomic status. Does holding back an Asian student help a black student? They should both be able to thrive in the correct environment based on their abilities. And removing resources? There are x number of teachers now, use the same number of teachers but split the grade up differently than it is now.

 

Based on this article, I'm wondering... Do they not have TAG or GATE or whatever districts call it? DS1 was in TAG in elementary school, it set him up to take Algebra in 7th grade. They can't have a program that accelerates them in elementary school and then hold them back in middle school... right?

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In NL, afaik all students got algebra in 7th grade. Seems that would solve the problem too.

 

(okay, you'd have to provide adequate math instruction in elementary school, but, you should be doing that anyway...)

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Reverting to a one size fits all approach. Is that the best they can do after all this time and study?  Why don't they try meeting the needs of the individual students where they are instead of imposing dictates on them whether it be algebra early or algebra late? We have a proliferation of choices in just about everything else, yet in education,  they reduce the options for students and it's supposed to be beneficial for them. I guess that's why I'm homeschooling.

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....

 

(okay, you'd have to provide adequate math instruction in elementary school, but, you should be doing that anyway...)

 

You are so funny!   

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Our district allows Intergrared Math 1 in 8th grade. They also have a track to cover Integrated 1, 2, and 3 in two years instead of two, so you could be done with Calculus in 11th. I wonder how much longer that will last.

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I thought I was going to read some good reason that they have found not to push kids ahead or something that made sense.  That reasoning is ridiculous. Glad our schools here don't feel the same way.

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At our Middle School the Principal and the math teachers/program directors of the accelerated math program had to fight the school district hammer and tong to preserve a very successful accelerated math program. It took tremendous bureaucratic courage on the part of the Principal (who got a big hug from me).

 

While not "banned" in Los Angeles (yet), math acceleration is under attack by administrators in the school board, and they are as mad as hornets that they have been defied. They sprung all sorts of last-minute road-blocks in the way: mandatory parent meetings where we had to listen to an hours long harangue about what a bad idea it is, mandatory parent contracts to sign as a pre-condition, and a last minute entrance exam as a pre-condition (despite students having already taken a very challenging exam given by the school program) that had no published standards that needed to be met, no sample tests, no scope and sequence, no history of usage, or any other rational basis as screening mechanism.

 

When asked how he results would be applied, the district officials admitted they were doing to work backwards by denying all but their pre-designated quota to move forward.

 

Image how my questioning/grilling of this district official (at a packed gathering of parent) went down :D

 

Bill 

 

 

Edited by Spy Car
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Image how my questioning/grilling of this district official (at a packed gathering of parent) went down :D

 

Bill 

 

Would love to see the replay!

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At our Middle School the Principal and the math teachers/program directors of the accelerated math program had to fight the school district hammer and tong to preserve a very successful accelerated math program. It took tremendous bureaucratic courage on the part of the Principal (who got a big hug from me).

 

While not "banned" in Los Angeles (yet), math acceleration is under attack by administrators in the school board, and they are as mad as hornets that they have been defied. They sprung all sorts of last-minute road-blocks in the way: mandatory parent meetings where we had to listen to an hours long harangue about what a bad idea it is, mandatory parent contracts to sign as a pre-condition, and a last minute entrance exam as a pre-condition (despite students having already taken a very challenging exam given by the school program) that had no published standards that needed to be met, no sample tests, no scope and sequence, no history of usage, or any other rational basis as screening mechanism.

 

When asked how he results would be applied, the district officials admitted they were doing to work backwards by denying all but their pre-designated quota to move forward.

 

Image how my questioning/grilling of this district official (at a packed gathering of parent) went down :D

 

It is mind boggling. What is their rationale against differentiation, political correctness, too?

Edited by regentrude

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What about students who would be capable of completing a rigorous (think AoPS level) algebra in 6th grade?

Grade skip was what was offered for my oldest. Another way was to just do your own thing quietly at your desk during math class.

 

What was made worse for San Francisco Unified School District parents was that school districts south of them are still offering algebra in 7th. I am about 40mins south in an average district and about half of 7th still gets to take algebra.

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Would love to see the replay!

 

I'd taken notes on all the idiocies and lapses of logic (and they were many) that were put forward in the hours long harangue. 

 

And when it was my turn to take the mic I made sure we addressed the points one-by-one to see if they held up to scrutiny. The district official's head looked like it was going to explode by the time we finished.

 

She truly hated me. Hard to blame her :D

 

Bill

Edited by Spy Car
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It is mind boggling. What is their rationale against differentiation, political correctness, too?

 

I tend to be an advocate for public education, as fellow forum members who know me are aware. However, one thing about the educational system that has bothered me from childhood (my mom was a teacher) was how the school district would—at regularly scheduled intervals—leap between pedological models, and often embracing diametrically opposed  ideas from one session to the next. 

 

Nothing has really changed in that regard. I tend to be in favor of Common Core reforms (certainly believing that students should both be able to understand concepts and explain their reasoning), but at the District-level is seems one needs to "drink the kool-aid." So instead of educational reforms being gradual and reasoned, they leap to extremes and those who question the fringe elements are treated as counter-revolutionaries. Crazy.

 

The questions I hammered the District official with about how holding back clearly able students comported with the goal of "differentiation" caused a booth deal of sputtering, and no suitable response. 

 

So yea, it is ideological. Fortunately there are teachers and school administrators willing to buck the system. Our Principal literally told me "this is my school, and I'm going to do what I want." Love that guy!

 

Bill

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It is mind boggling. What is their rationale against differentiation, political correctness, too?

"Social justice" apparently.

 

From KQED

"For years, all eighth-graders had to take Algebra 1. The vast majority, however, either failed or did poorly in the subject.

 

“Those students are now in a cycle of failure,†says Lizzy Hull Barnes, mathematics program administrator for the district.

...

 

Hull Barnes says exposing all students to high-quality math instruction is a social justice issue for SFUSD.

 

District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong."

http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/07/22/san-francisco-middle-schools-no-longer-teaching-algebra-1

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"Social justice" apparently.

......

Hull Barnes says exposing all students to high-quality math instruction is a social justice issue for SFUSD.

 

District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong."

http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/07/22/san-francisco-middle-schools-no-longer-teaching-algebra-1

 

The ironic thing is that not even the communist country in which I grew up ran the education system that poorly.

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Below is from the SFUSD dated 6/15/2016

 

"As a result of the math placement policy, students who have completed Common Core Math 8 (eighth grade) with a grade D or better and who have scored above the Not Met Standards level

on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) assessment will be placed in Algebra 1 (ninth grade).

 

Additionally, students who completed Math 8 with an F and scored at the Not Met Standard on the CCSS assessment will be placed in Algebra 1 and be offered the opportunity for support to bolster their ability to succeed in Algebra 1.

 

Students who have taken coursework covering all subject matter taught in CCSS Math 8 and CCSS Algebra 1 and received a grade of C or higher in both courses will be eligible to take CCSS Geometry in ninth grade if they pass the Math Validation Test (MVT)."

http://www.sfusd.edu/en/news/current-news/2016-news-archive/06/san-francisco-board-of-education-adopts-math-placement-policy.html

 

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When I've talked to middle school math teachers who are for dropping the push for algebra in middle school, it seems like it boils down to two concerns - one reasonable and the other just sad. The reasonable one is that it becomes a status symbol and a "need" for families and kids who just aren't ready as well as for the school district to be able to say they've done it, whether they can or cannot do it well. The sad one is that the math education leading up to that point isn't strong enough, so the push to do algebra is built on a weak foundation for the majority of kids.

 

I have heard the social justice argument, but not as much, perhaps because teachers I know are in mostly affluent districts where it's less of a concern.

 

I think there may be good reasons to dial back on algebra in middle school, but any time the policy is that no one can get ahead, I find that pretty obviously negative.

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I think the title of the article is wrong. It's not that San Francisco stopped teaching algebra in 8th grade, it's that San Francisco stopped teaching the course called "Algebra I" in 8th grade.

 

We have something similar going on in our town and I have a feeling that the complaints are from parents who don't understand that the algebra is in fact integrated into the math program.

 

Our district has a middle school program (Core focus in mathematics) that has all kids doing integrated courses called math 6, 7, and 8 . The classes are *Not* called pre-algebra and algebra 1 as they were when I was in jr. high. It sounds to me very similar to what SFUSD is doing. The important thing is that the name of the course is not reflective of anything. I've been quite impressed at the depth of the program that are district uses. The common core standards have brought a lot of algebra and geometry into middle school math. The books that our district use have lots of additional activities that dig deeper into topics and my math-loving 12 yr old is being challenged just fine. The scope and sequence is quite similar to, for instance, Singapore Discovering Math. It's kind of silly to complain that a 7th or 8th grader using Singapore isn't doing Algebra because the book isn't called that. They do plenty of work with linear equations and polynomials and functions and problem solving. College prep math students from our middle school go into 9th grade geometry, average students move into Algebra 1 for more work and remedial students into Algebra 1A (a slower paced algebra program).

 

I don't have that much experience with other countries, but when I taught in Poland in th 1990s, there was no acceleration or differentiation at all in middle school and the math courses were completely integrated with algebra mixed in with other math topics. Obviously Singapore also integrates, as does Galore Park maths in the UK. I suspect most countries don't pull out algebra and geometry as a separate course and students are learning just fine.

 

I don't think a course entitled "Algebra 1" in 8th grade is essential. It's just a name -- math is math and there is plenty to learn regardless of how the course is titled.

Edited by Momling
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I don't have an issue with Algebra in Middle School if there has been a strong foundation in elementary which is sadly not the case.

 

The battle I'm fighting right now is that my son, first year in public school finishing 7th grade, has been accelerated in science but not math b/c he was not in the district for 6th grade where the math testing is done to determine who  goes on the accelerated track. So now his science will be ahead of his math instruction. His math teacher said that the 7/8th grade math only covered 3 more "strands/topics" than the 7th graders covered. She felt I could easily teach him those topics this summer but head of the math department said no way. So my son who would have done AoPS algebra 1 in 8th (we got a bit behind b/c I was dealing with my chronically ill teen) will now spend all year learning three new topics rather than doing algebra 1. So I suppose 3/4s of the year will be review.

 

Capt_Uhura

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I have two uncles who taught in SFUSD as math teachers. One is still doing it. The other retired the minute he qualified for his pension because of the previous older policy of everyone takes Algebra 1 in 8th grade. There were tons of kids that had no business taking that in 8th grade. Now the pendulum has swung the other way which I know are driving both of them completely bonkers. There are tons of Asian families who are incredibly angry about this new policy. 

The well off have their kids in private school which is HUGE business in SF. When I was practicing as a CPA, I audited many of these schools. It's a big business in the City. You are often paying more than what university would cost. The middle class are leaving the City for the suburbs because the lottery system in SF can have you shuttling each of your kids to different schools all over the City. There are no guarantees that you get to go to the school in your neighborhood or for your kids to attend the same school. This contributes to an amazing amount of unnecessary traffic IMO. If you are lucky enough to get into a charter school then those are the middle class families that stay. It's a terribly broken system. I say that as the majority of my family lives in SF. The only ones doing public are the ones that lucked out with getting into a charter or decent school through the lottery system. Otherwise, they are shelling out bucks for private school.

It's really ugly in the City...huge disparity between the haves and have nots. 

ETA: Under the intergrated math model, parents are upset because there is no way to get to AP Calculus by or before senior year unless 2 or 3 years of math are compressed in high school which makes the course load more onerous during say a heavily loaded junior year for example. They attempting a strategy of getting more than the 4x5 core course load by front loading what they can so that their student has more than the 4x5 and thereby demonstrating a rigorous course load. I know the Asian parents are in complete freak out mode because their student is going to look less competitive in the already hypercompetition to somehow stand out among other Asian applicants.

 

Edited by calbear
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I don't think a course entitled "Algebra 1" in 8th grade is essential. It's just a name -- math is math and there is plenty to learn regardless of how the course is titled.

 

I do agree with this, in principle.  There is lots of math to learn, especially outside of the traditional sequence taught in public schools.  However, preventing an accelerated/gifted math student from moving according to his/her pace is just not acceptable.  It's just one more way of trying to keep all students within the same category of mediocrity, to make sure no one is offended.

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ETA: Under the intergrated math model, parents are upset because there is no way to get to AP Calculus by or before senior year unless 2 or 3 years of math are compressed in high school which makes the course load more onerous during say a heavily loaded junior year for example. 

 

This.  What's happening is math is being compressed/accelerated at the more complex levels than at the lower middle school levels, which doesn't really make sense.  

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I do agree with this, in principle.  There is lots of math to learn, especially outside of the traditional sequence taught in public schools.  However, preventing an accelerated/gifted math student from moving according to his/her pace is just not acceptable.  It's just one more way of trying to keep all students within the same category of mediocrity, to make sure no one is offended.

 

This is the point. For students who are not ready to take Algebra (or other higher level courses) there ought to be other paths. I think we've lost our way, for example, by not offering vocational training that includes developing skilled labor and math skills that are integrated into real word applications. And not "dumbed down," because many skilled labor jobs require reasonably sophisticated math and problem solving skills. Just true differentiation that will serve student's differing needs.

 

One size does not fit all.

 

Bill

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This. What's happening is math is being compressed/accelerated at the more complex levels than at the lower middle school levels, which doesn't really make sense.

Saratoga is still offering double period math at 7th to finish CCSS 7&8 and CCSS algebra. 8th grade would be geometry. Kids do AP Stats and/or dual enrollment in 12th.

 

7th is still a light academic year so it make sense to do double math then instead of during high school years.

 

Source: page 15 of PDF http://susd.schoolwires.net/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=875&dataid=2114&FileName=Math%20Placement%20and%20Pathways%20Presentation%20%203.10.16.pdf

 

FYI: Singapore additional mathematics which is for 9th and 10th does precalc and intro to calc, similar in scope to MEP maths. Singapore does double period math for 9th and 10th grades.

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DoDEA schools sent out a very specific flyer about how math will be instituted in their schools the coming year:

 

1) Absolutely no acceleration during grades K-6

2) Students who pass the placement test in grade 6 *may* take Algebra 1 over two years during grades 7-8.

3) Students who are not able to take Algebra 1 over two years during grades 7-8 may take Algebra 1 & Geometry in 9th or Geometry and Algebra 2 in 10th.

 

This is how it was spelled out (nearly word-for-word).

 

While *some* schools may do an integrated math -- that is completely different in schools which follow the Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 sequence.  The middle school is not teaching the equivalent of "Algebra 1" in Math 7 and Math 8, some topics may be introduced, but it is more along the lines of two years of pre-Algebra with some additional Geometry and a bit of basic Algebra thrown in.  It is two years of review.  

 

DoDEA schools have fully implemented CC here, and it has come with a side helping of a lot of heartburn.  Bright students are bored and frustrated.  Kids who loved school or math now hate it.  The only path to acceleration is grade-skipping -- which, imho, does not always benefit the child overall.  (I use CC aligned math materials, so I do understand most of the heartburn is how these things are implemented vs. the actual methods/concepts being taught).

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NZ has an interesting approach.  They only have 4 grades: excellence, merit, achieve, and not achieve. These are not percentile scores, but rather a representation of the level of thinking demonstrated.  Achieve is regurgitation and conceptual understanding.  Merit is relational thinking. And Excellence is insightful thinking.  In general for any highschool class, 25% fail, 40% achieve, 25% get a merit, and 10% get an excellence.  So imagine calculus with all those smart, dedicated kids, and only 10% of them get the highest mark.  This means that the tests are really hard, hard enough that only 10% of the kids can get the equivalent of an A.  You have to put in the additional time to make the cut.  You must show insightful thinking about a problem to earn excellence points, and you need to figure out what insightful looks like because the teacher is not going to teach to that level because the rest of the class is not aiming for it.  This means that you can put lots of kids of different levels into the same classroom.  The teacher teaches to achieve and merit level thinking, but if you want an excellence you need to go beyond the call of duty and figure it out yourself. You can work independently during class on excellence level thinking by bringing in practice exams or other published workbooks to work on. If you talk to the teacher, they will allow it. And some of the school supply the booklets for the kids that want them.  I don't think that it would work in the grade-inflation USA, but it is a different approach that has some merit.

 

Now, saying all that, some of you might know that my ds at age 15 just made the National team of 6 for NZ, and will be attending the IMO (International Math Olympiad) two weeks from now in Hong Kong.  He *invented* algebra at age 6.  Clearly, it is impossible to design a public school curriculum that could have accommodated him; however, why would it be in the public's interest to hold him back?  I have often thought about how he would have done in a standard curriculum with a standard time frame.  By age 9, he still did not know his math facts. There is no way he could have done well on a speed test in school.  In addition, he really struggled with basic calculations and getting the right answer because his error checking was not very good.  He was also SLOW.  As in really slow.  It took him 3 years to get through the AoPS intro Algebra book, and if I am not mistaken, that is the longest anyone has ever posted on this board to get through that book.  Yes, he was young, but he was talented (clearly) but SLOW.  To suggest that all kids start algebra at 14 is ridiculous.  My ds would have not only hated math, he would actually have been pretty bad at it by traditional measures.  Now he on NZ's IMO team.  You just cannot say that all kids tread the same path on the same timeline.  It defies logic, and undercuts students that could actually make a difference in their field and to the economy.

Edited by lewelma
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Saratoga is still offering double period math at 7th to finish CCSS 7&8 and CCSS algebra. 8th grade would be geometry. Kids do AP Stats and/or dual enrollment in 12th.

 

7th is still a light academic year so it make sense to do double math then instead of during high school years.

 

Source: page 15 of PDF http://susd.schoolwires.net/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=875&dataid=2114&FileName=Math%20Placement%20and%20Pathways%20Presentation%20%203.10.16.pdf

 

FYI: Singapore additional mathematics which is for 9th and 10th does precalc and intro to calc, similar in scope to MEP maths. Singapore does double period math for 9th and 10th grades.

 

Now, this does not seem unreasonable to me.  Double periods for math seems more logical than what is happening in the schools I am familiar with in my area.  What these schools do is have all 9th graders do Integrated Maths I, and then by 12th grade, they are in precalc.  There is an honors path called Integrated Maths I-III "Honors" where the students study an extra chapter at the end of each year which covers some precalc concepts.  Then, after the third year, the schools send the students to calculus.  I'm definitely not crazy about this approach, especially because I've seen the textbooks and they are pretty bad.  Nothing like Singapore.

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Here the regular Public MIddle School track is the CC integrated Math 7 and Math 8.  The honors track is Pre-Algebra in 7th and Algebra in 8th.  There is also a remedial level math but it is very small with a handful of students that often receive other services as well.  The 8th grade honors students then vie to be placed in Geometry on 9th or honors Geometry depending on their grade and teacher recommendation.  

Edited by Library Momma

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Also, remember that science follows the math level. A child that is able to handle higher math earlier opens up higher science later on.  This is the premise behind our district's policy of accelerating math in upper elementary, then accelerating science in middle school. To allow more options for both in high school.

 

(As a math person, I was utterly bored with math in 6th and 7th grade.  I was given the chance, in 5th grade, to work at my own pace.  I went so far that the next time I learned anything new in math class was 8th grade Algebra 1.  By 7th grade, I regularly got in trouble in math for reading other books, not concentrating in class, etc. (And I was NOT disruptive, like some would be when bored).  I wish I'd been more forward like my husband who, after 1 week in the regular 7th grade math,  went down to the office and asked to be allowed to take Algebra 1.  Instead they put him in the Gifted 7th grade class.  He was STILL bored. So after another week or two went to the office and this time they put him in the 8th grade Algebra class.  And even starting 3 weeks late, it took him just a couple of days to catch up.  That level of assertiveness would have stood me in good stead.

 

 

Edited by vonfirmath
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One size does not fit all.  In any direction.  This helps no one.

 

Such a simple idea, yet full of truth.  I agree.

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When I was a kid in the 1980s there was a group of us who, from about 1st grade or k, were accelerated in reading, and eventually took algebra in 8th grade. There was some movt into and out of the group but it t was mostly the same kids (and most of us at this small rural school were there from k-12.). We were also mostly the ones who went to 4 year college straight away. We were the "smart kids." Did our presence and ability make other kids feel bad about themselves? Probably. But we did/ do exist. And if my boredom and the behavior problems of other kids is I saw when I had to take social studies with the other kids is any indication of what it would have been like to take reading or math with them, no thanks!! It would have only brought us down and not brought them up--probably have made things worse since we'd be in there staring them in the face all day bringing attention (not out of meanness, just out of the fact that we learned more easily than they did, and were more serious about school than they were) to their problems.

 

When I worked as a social worker in a time of inclusion, long before kids, I decided then that if my kids seemed gifted, I wouldn't want them in mainstream classes, because I saw my clients raising heck and totally disrupting the learning of everyone else as they were included in the class. In general I liked the inclusion for my clients, but felt very very sorry for the sweet innocent children in the classes who could have been my kids. Of course the included kids always knew they didn't learn as well as the others, or many times had such trauma that they couldn't. Kids know the differences, even if no one is ever mean to them about it.

 

I homeschool my kids because of many of the above reasons. I intend for my kids to take algebra in 8 th grade, if they are able, and I think they will be. They aren't mathematical geniuses, but they are probably gifted and will probably be able to handle it.

 

Like it said in the article, do I want MY kid to take algebra in 8th? Yes, it's good for them. Is it good for ALL kids or NO kids to take algebra in 8th? No way. Some kids will not ever be able to make the cognitive connections for it. Accepting them where they are, within reason, is the best thing for everyone. And holding back the bright ones so no one has their feelings hurt is idiotic. Thank you homeschooling.

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This. What's happening is math is being compressed/accelerated at the more complex levels than at the lower middle school levels, which doesn't really make sense.

j

 

The group of us that took algebra in 8th did a compressed year of 5/6th grade math so we were ready for pre algebra in 7th. It was difficult. And I was a lazy student who completed algebra 2 in 10th grade and took no more math. i took the course s required for state college admission. But I can't imagine trying to accelerate algebra 2 or geometry or God forbid, pre calculus. That policy really does make sure only the very brightest math kids will make it through ap calculus. I could have done ap calculus, but I didn't want to. Not necessarily the best decision to make, but I have no major regrets. I have a masters in social work, knew I was headed that direction, and knew I didn't need calculus.

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Well I can speak to TX and what I've seen is that mathematics instruction is sub par. So even if the students came into the class prepared to do Algebra, the teachers didn't teach it well. At the university, we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why the students' math skills were so poor. We conducted a longitudinal study and implemented a campus math placement test; because students were coming in with good standardized test scores, but poor math skills. 

 

I had mainly taught Calculus, but finally it was my turn to teach College Algebra -- the college freshmen. I saw it on my first test. Many of the students had used test taking strategies to solve the problems on my test. That's not algebra! I encouraged the students to use algebra bc test-taking strategies wouldn't get them far. I would say most of those students did make a D, one made a C barely. None of them would get passed Calculus if they needed it. And if I had a dollar for every student who told me how good they were at Math in high school or how they were in honors math or AP this. All I could say to them was that this wasn't high school anymore. That college algebra required a higher level of thinking and it wasn't enough to just memorize the steps to solve a problem; you had to actually understand why you were doing the steps. One was a senior nursing student and she had failed every year; I told her to consider taking it at a community college since it wasn't in her major field of study --- because, she would not be passing it at the university level (I didn't tell her this part).

 

So from my perspective, I am more concerned with how Math and Algebra is being taught at the secondary level, than when it is taught.

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Well I can speak to TX and what I've seen is that mathematics instruction is sub par. So even if the students came into the class prepared to do Algebra, the teachers didn't teach it well. At the university, we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why the students' math skills were so poor. We conducted a longitudinal study and implemented a campus math placement test; because students were coming in with good standardized test scores, but poor math skills. 

 

I had mainly taught Calculus, but finally it was my turn to teach College Algebra -- the college freshmen. I saw it on my first test. Many of the students had used test taking strategies to solve the problems on my test. That's not algebra! I encouraged the students to use algebra bc test-taking strategies wouldn't get them far. I would say most of those students did make a D, one made a C barely. None of them would get passed Calculus if they needed it. And if I had a dollar for every student who told me how good they were at Math in high school or how they were in honors math or AP this. All I could say to them was that this wasn't high school anymore. That college algebra required a higher level of thinking and it wasn't enough to just memorize the steps to solve a problem; you had to actually understand why you were doing the steps. One was a senior nursing student and she had failed every year; I told her to consider taking it at a community college since it wasn't in her major field of study --- because, she would not be passing it at the university level (I didn't tell her this part).

 

So from my perspective, I am more concerned with how Math and Algebra is being taught at the secondary level, than when it is taught.

 

I find - and I am pretty sure that would be your observation, too - that many math issues stem from the math education before algebra. I teach physics, so I don't get the students who desperately struggle with math, but we see our share of students weak in prealgebra, even among those who managed to pass calculus. They struggle with fractions, have memorized procedures without conceptual understanding (divide fractions? oh, I have to flip something, right?), and lack a number sense. The latter I blame on the early and excessive use of calculators. Many students do not recognize perfect squares and cubes and struggle to perform simple computations with one-and two digit integers quickly and accurately without a calculator - skills that should have been developed in K-5. 

So, I am also concerned how math is taught at an elementary level, because that is often the root of the subsequent problems.

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The ironic thing is that not even the communist country in which I grew up ran the education system that poorly.

Your quote made me remember something I heard a week or two ago. It was something about how the Soviet education system was much more democratic that the American education system has been since taking a progressive turn decades ago. Ugh- I wish I could remember where I read it. It was really quite interesting. It was on the one size fits all thing.

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To me, it reads that they don't have the resources to run tracks in a proper way and this is the hacked together poor compromise to deal with that.  

 

I know in the second high school I went to, in a very posh area where it was assumed all the kids had all the resources, students who could not keep up with the accelerated integrated math program had only two options: your parents paid for one of the maths teachers to teach you separately or you took community college classes instead. There were no resources for tracks in math and their poor compromise was kids who couldn't keep up had to have their parents pay to deal with it. 

 

I think a lot of these schools are having to make poor compromises because of lack of resources and system issues, it's just a question of who will have to pay until the system issues are dealt with. 

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To me, it reads that they don't have the resources to run tracks in a proper way and this is the hacked together poor compromise to deal with that.  

 

I think a lot of these schools are having to make poor compromises because of lack of resources and system issues, it's just a question of who will have to pay until the system issues are dealt with. 

 

I hear the argument often, but I don't understand it.

At our local middle school, we have 12 classes in each grade and 6 math teachers for the grade. It would not cost an extra dime to group students in three different levels per grade and use the available teachers and rooms.

 

If a school has multiple teachers and multiple rooms for math teaching, grouping students by ability does not use any more resources than lumping everybody together. I can see challenges in small rural schools with only one classroom per grade, where differentiation demands more of the teacher - but not in a large school that has multiple teachers and classes already. 

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I hear the argument often, but I don't understand it.

At our local middle school, we have 12 classes in each grade and 6 math teachers for the grade. It would not cost an extra dime to group students in three different levels per grade and use the available teachers and rooms.

 

If a school has multiple teachers and multiple rooms for math teaching, grouping students by ability does not use any more resources than lumping everybody together. I can see challenges in small rural schools with only one classroom per grade, where differentiation demands more of the teacher - but not in a large school that has multiple teachers and classes already. 

 

I agree.   And, often the school actively holds back a child, even within the classroom.  My personal theory is the hurt ego of the teacher.  A child who is working ahead during class and doing well obviously has no need of the teacher.   

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I agree.   And, often the school actively holds back a child, even within the classroom.  My personal theory is the hurt ego of the teacher.  A child who is working ahead during class and doing well obviously has no need of the teacher.   

 

I have not had that impression when my kids were attending school. The teachers were generally understanding and willing to accommodate - just unable to give any attention to a student who aced all tests and was behaving well and not disturbing the class out of boredom. DD's 5th grade math teacher was very willing to give her extra work - alas, he would have no time to talk with her about it or evaluate her work, because he was dealing with kids who were still adding using their fingers.

The best we could negotiate with all teachers was a blanket permission for DD to read fiction during class, which she did for five years.

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I hear the argument often, but I don't understand it.

At our local middle school, we have 12 classes in each grade and 6 math teachers for the grade. It would not cost an extra dime to group students in three different levels per grade and use the available teachers and rooms.

 

If a school has multiple teachers and multiple rooms for math teaching, grouping students by ability does not use any more resources than lumping everybody together. I can see challenges in small rural schools with only one classroom per grade, where differentiation demands more of the teacher - but not in a large school that has multiple teachers and classes already. 

 

When I was in grades 7-9, I attended a junior high.  We had a bell schedule and students shifted from class to class and subject to subject.  It allowed for both differentiation and a solid group of common subjects.  For example, English and social studies were not accelerated until 8th grade.  All 7th graders took a trimester rotation of home ec/shop/choir.  All students took PE.  But it did allow for separate math classes, science classes and reading tutoring.

 

Many schools shifted away from a junior high model for grades 7-8 or 6-8 towards a middle school model in which students get put into a classroom and don't move to other rooms during the day except for an elective.  Or they have a team of 2-4 teachers who each teach a subject, but there are no levels or tracks for students.

 

I see this as being as injust as telling an at risk or LD student that they should just try harder without any specific support or remediation.  

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Your quote made me remember something I heard a week or two ago. It was something about how the Soviet education system was much more democratic that the American education system has been since taking a progressive turn decades ago. Ugh- I wish I could remember where I read it. It was really quite interesting. It was on the one size fits all thing.

Was this an Andrew Pudewa talk? He mentions the very thing (and that our democracy has socialist schooling).
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Was this an Andrew Pudewa talk? He mentions the very thing (and that our democracy has socialist schooling).

Oh it just might be! I did listen to a bunch of his talks in the last month. Thanks! I was driving myself nuts searching google. :)

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When I was in grades 7-9, I attended a junior high.  We had a bell schedule and students shifted from class to class and subject to subject.  It allowed for both differentiation and a solid group of common subjects.  For example, English and social studies were not accelerated until 8th grade.  All 7th graders took a trimester rotation of home ec/shop/choir.  All students took PE.  But it did allow for separate math classes, science classes and reading tutoring.

 

Many schools shifted away from a junior high model for grades 7-8 or 6-8 towards a middle school model in which students get put into a classroom and don't move to other rooms during the day except for an elective.  Or they have a team of 2-4 teachers who each teach a subject, but there are no levels or tracks for students.

 

I see this as being as injust as telling an at risk or LD student that they should just try harder without any specific support or remediation.  

 

 

Here grades 6-8 or sometimes just 7-8 are middle school.  They have the bell schedule, specials, differentiation and academic tracks but we call it middle school.  Some people use the phrase jr. high interchangeably with middle school but it not something you hear very often, and it doesn't indicate a difference in format.

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When I was in grades 7-9, I attended a junior high.  We had a bell schedule and students shifted from class to class and subject to subject.  It allowed for both differentiation and a solid group of common subjects.  For example, English and social studies were not accelerated until 8th grade.  All 7th graders took a trimester rotation of home ec/shop/choir.  All students took PE.  But it did allow for separate math classes, science classes and reading tutoring.

 

Many schools shifted away from a junior high model for grades 7-8 or 6-8 towards a middle school model in which students get put into a classroom and don't move to other rooms during the day except for an elective.  Or they have a team of 2-4 teachers who each teach a subject, but there are no levels or tracks for students.

 

I see this as being as injust as telling an at risk or LD student that they should just try harder without any specific support or remediation.  

 

Actually, nearly all the middle school model schools I'm familiar with *do* have tracking - the teams are tracked. There's typically a high team, a middle, and a low one for each grade (or several, depending on the size of the school). I'm also not familiar with any middle schools other than small private ones where students don't change classrooms within the team. The kids still move, not the teachers. A team has 4 teachers - I'm familiar with exceptions, like a school I knew where every teacher on the team taught social studies during the same period and a school where teams were English, Social Studies, and Science and all math was tracked and between teams - but those are sort of tweaks of the model for individual school needs and situations. The "ideal" set up is four teachers, one hallway per team.

 

Like I said above, I have mixed feelings about this change in general - I think there are reasons that having an algebra for all or even an algebra for most in 8th grade stance may not be good. Vocational tracks were mentioned above, but I would hope that kids who aren't academically ready or simply weren't prepared properly by not great schooling would still be able to take a college bound track of schooling in high school. Relegating kids to "vocational" (despite the fact that I'm 100% in agreement that we need to offer better vocational education) if they're not ready for algebra I in middle school seems too rigid. Some bright kids just aren't.

 

But... anyway... the middle school model isn't the issue. Thousands and thousands of schools have been using the middle school team model to track kids and have an algebra I course for some and not others just fine. And it also means that the limited resources argument shouldn't apply. If you have a team or half a team worth of kids ready for algebra, then it doesn't cost more, you have to have a teacher to teach math. Sure, there's marginally more materials needed, but not so much more money. It's clearly a philosophical shift, not a resources one.

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