Monday, December 10, 2012

Montgomery, acceleration and the Common Core

We've covered Montgomery County, MD a few more times on this blog than seems probable, but the issues there seem to reflect the challenges and thinking in many other "good" school districts around the country. So here we go again.

According to a Washington Post article, the district has revamped its math curriculum. Tied to the new Common Core standards, the curriculum aims to cover fewer topics in more depth. The curriculum should be more challenging at grade level, which means that fewer children would need to be accelerated in math. The article says the district claims they'd over-accelerated in the past, with high school math teachers needing to re-cover material that children should have been exposed to before, and with some families needing to hire tutors to help kids keep up in the alleged pressure-cooker.

Of course, the side effect of this, according to some parents, is that it's now harder for kids to accelerate at all. So kids who could zoom ahead are bored, and to add insult to injury, the tone seems to be that frustrated parents just don't "get" the new math emphasis. It is true that some people like to race through things without any understanding, but there are certainly highly intelligent kids who understand pre algebra concepts quite well and deserve to be challenged. This move away from acceleration is putting multiple issues in the same bucket.

I know I sound like a broken record about adaptive digital learning, but one of the reasons I do hope we move toward that system is that kids will ideally be able to move at their own pace (particularly in subjects like pre-algebra math, for which there is a lot of software already). Then acceleration won't mean scheduling issues and sending kids to different classes, which for whatever reason makes a certain proportion of educators go nuts.