Common Core, love it, hate it, or just not sure. But there is certainly a ripple effect spreading through school districts statewide as they grapple with adhering to Common Core standards and balancing that against current offerings amidst existing school budgets.
This from a recent posting in The Daily Journal by Angela Swartz.
Reducing and potentially eliminating math classes such as algebra and geometry in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is sparking concern for parents who want their children to be prepared to take advanced courses in high school.
With the new shift to Common Core standards that focus more on the use of technology in the classroom and projects, the district said it is moving away from offering more advanced courses like introductory algebra and geometry courses. This is cause for worry for parents that want their children to move on to classes like advanced placement calculus courses.
Prior to the change, students frequently took geometry in middle school, but the majority of middle schoolers can only take algebra and there are significantly fewer students taking the subject. The pre-Common Core math track for an average student was sixth-grade math, pre-algebra in seventh-grade, algebra I in eighth-grade, geometry in ninth-grade, algebra II in 10th-grade, pre-calculus in 11th-grade and advanced placement math courses in 12th-grade.
Currently, there is a geometry class at each of the district’s three middle schools, Bowditch, Borel and Abbott. A fourth class of students from Abbott are going to Hillsdale High School to take geometry. There are 10 algebra classes being offered districtwide, said Molly Barton, assistant superintendent for student services.
The proposed common-core math pathway for an average student starts with Common Core math in middle school, then follows the algebra I, geometry, algebra II and pre-calculus pathway, leaving out the possibility of advanced placement math unless students complete geometry in summer school or a class that combines algebra II and precalculus.
“The shift down and removal of courses in middle school has a longer effect,” said Nancy Hsieh, a parent of third- and fifth-graders at Highlands Elementary School. “This is really holding the advanced kids back.”
Hsieh, who said she is not against Common Core standards, learned of the pathways change through a community website, but heard the district published the information on its website. For parents, this is a transparency issue since parents don’t tend to scan the district website for information.
Still, the district said the shift is coming with the new curriculum.
“The math pathways have changed because grade levels where certain standards are being taught is shifting quite dramatically,” said Heather Olsen, director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
Back in May, Phil Daro, who was on the writing team of Common Core standards, told parents at a community education night meeting in San Mateo that the old curriculum promoted students just trying to get answers to math problems. Common Core changes students’ ways of thinking from ‘if I get the answer right, I’m done’ to explaining how they got to the answer, he said, according to a meeting video. This method of studying doesn’t allow students in the United States to actually learn math, he said.
“Countries outperform us because more of their students learn mathematics,” he said.
Yet parents like Anne Pesquie, who has a 10th-grader at Aragon High School, a seventh-grader at Borel Middle School and a fifth-grader and second-grader at Highlands Elementary School, believes the district is limiting students options with the new pathway. Pesquie, a self-proclaimed math lover, tutors children in math, majored in math in college and received a master’s degree in computer science. Combining algebra II and pre-calculus into one class would make it very difficult for students who would be cramming two years worth of lessons into one, she said.
“I want my kid to have at least the same education I had,” Pesquie said. “The district should have informed the parents and asked, ‘what do you think?’ Common Core is fantastic. What’s the purpose of getting rid of geometry and reducing algebra?”
Pesquie wants to see more transparency in the math placement tests being given to fifth- and sixth-graders and notes that if a person has $25,000 their problem is fixed, as she knows parents who are sending their children to private school because of the lack of advanced math classes in the district. Previously, students just took math placement tests before sixth-grade. Her son, a middle schooler, has been so bored in his math class, she is teaching him algebra I at home.
“I don’t understand the purpose of what they’re (the school district) doing,” she said.
Audrey Ng, vice president of the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School Distinct Board of Trustees, explained students will still have opportunities to advance in math and that the school board is still working on these options. The possibility of offering geometry depends on if enough students advance to have a class.
“I hear the concern,” she said. “Because of the Common Core, there are shifts from the type of math courses offered at middle school level. … Because we’re transitioning to a whole new way of doing math, we want to make sure students are getting the support they need and they get all the math background they need.”
Currently accelerated sixth-grade math is only offered at Borel Middle School, she said.
“I hope in the future there will be enough students to offer advanced classes at the other schools,” Ng said.
Trustee Ed Coady acknowledges that many parents are concerned about advanced math being dropped.
“We’re not trying to hold anyone back,” he said. “We’ll always have something for every student to strive for. We do listen to the parents when they bring up concerns and we want to make sure we’re providing opportunities for every student.”
There will be a presentation on Common Core math 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25 at Highlands Elementary School’s LGI. Representatives from both the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary and San Mateo Union High school districts will lead the presentation. The school board will also likely be discussing the math pathways at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Go to smfc.k12.ca.us and click on “Common Core Parent Resources” on the left-hand side of the page for more information on the math pathways changes.
Original article can be found on The Daily Journal