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.


Nother Barb said...

Oh, dear, I've just been to a few "high school transition" talks, where they are very proud that the curriculum is becoming more "deep" than "broad and shallow". I didn't think about what that might do to gifted ed in the elementary schools. The common line of "we don't accelerate or grade-skip because we don't want to have any gaps" may become even more common: "Yes, she knows it and can do it six ways to Sunday, but does she UNDERSTAND it?"

And in our district, where the party line is "of course you can't identify giftedness before 3rd grade", it may mean that younger children will be left to shuffle their feet and twiddle their thumbs even more.

5th-8th graders are issued netbooks. Since it's the first year for my 8th grader's teachers, not much has been happening iwth them. But maybe all the teachers will figure out how to use them for adaptive digital learning for other kids, and get their money's worth out of them.

Lgm said...

Shrug. Honors math hasn't been offered here in decades. Accelerated math means your 8th grader takes integrated algebra In 8 instead of 9th grade. Everyone that is serious about math afterschools at their child's instructional level, at an appropriate pace and at the honors depth in order to get on the 8th i. algebra path.

The school math class is used as a g.p.a. booster and test prep since testing out has a lot of hurdles. This is a unionized state, so testing out in order to subject accelerate means the student has to take the exit exam and score at 95% or better (in terms of raw score), perform a project mutually agreed upon with the dept chairperson, and provide proof that the person who gave math instruction privately is certified to do so and on the dept's approved list. If the student takes an accredited course at a college and wants it on his high school transcript for g.p.a. purposes, he is limited by state law to 5.5 high school credits with approval from his principal. A semester of college equals a semester of high school here in credit.

I took the advice from Parents of math brains and high acheivers and followed same route...ace the school stuff, and dyi the real math. District hopping into a district that actually has calc 3 and above at a level sufficient for a math or engineering inclined student is very expensive, as these districts are few and far between. It costs much less to use other providers than pay the tax bills and increases housing costs associated with these districts, if one happens to fall within commuting radius. My school taxes would go up $12k annually and i would have to put $200k more in to purchase an equivalent property if I hopped and there is no guarantee of a seat...far better for me to find other qualified providers.

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