The state’s new math program: “Kids are failing left and right”

The AJC has a long story today about the slippage in math grades in the state, which the state Department of Education attributes to the higher standards. Some posters here attribute it to the state adopting an unproven and unworkable math curriculum.

Many of the critics here on the blog have researched this issue and raised compelling arguments about whether Georgia adopted successful math program ingredients from other states or threw a lot of ideas in a pot and produced a foul stew all of its own.

But the state appears determined to stay with the program. The most valid concern to me is whether there was adequate training of teachers before the state rolled out the new math, which introduces tougher concepts earlier and integrates math instruction across disciplines.

The real question is whether the new state school superintendent will agree. With the resignation of Kathy Cox, I have no idea who will be our next school superintendent. I do think how Georgia teaches math will be one of the big issues during the upcoming campaign in which many newcomers will have to introduce themselves quickly to the voters.

According to the the  story: (This is only an excerpt. Check out the whole story.)

“In my classes, I have 60 kids and only 17 are passing. You know how stressful that is on me?” said Donna Aker, a veteran math teacher at South Gwinnett High School.It’s a problem common to many metro Atlanta schools. Nearly one in five ninth-graders in metro Atlanta last year got an F in Math I — the first year of the state’s new math curriculum in high school.

The math failure rate was more than double that experienced by the same group of kids in the eighth grade the year before.

The tougher curriculum is already forcing some of the area’s better students to reconsider signing on for another year of bench-pressing binomials. Some switched to general math their sophomore year, afraid of getting another low grade.

Jessica O’Brien was a straight A student with hopes of going to Harvard University.

Those hopes grew a little dimmer after she got a D in math as a ninth-grader. She opted out of the accelerated program.

“I’m worried I’m going to almost fail again,” said Jessica, now a sophomore and cheerleader at Campbell High in Smyrna. “I’m so used to being good at math.”

Jessica’s mother, Susan O’Brien, backed her all the way.

“Kids are failing left and right, I’m talking your high achievers who never fail,” said O’Brien, who is concerned about Jessica’s shot at Harvard. “My daughter loved math and had been on the math team but only got out with a D in Accelerated Math II. My biggest fear is that it is going to hurt her when she applies for college.”

Starting with the Class of 2012, every Georgia student must pass four years of math to receive a college prep diploma even if he or she plans to attend a technical school or enter the work force after graduation. Special needs students can appeal to opt out after completing Math III if they stay concurrently enrolled in math support classes and a review of their education plan makes it clear that the course would be the highest level they could achieve.

Aker says the program is so accelerated that upperclassmen who used to help her tutor can’t do the math the freshmen do.

“The algebra in Math I is as advanced as what I was teaching to students in Algebra II junior year,” she said. “Some of my juniors in the National Honor Society and Beta Club haven’t even learned it yet.”

When the state initiated this new era of souped-up instruction in math, pushing students to grasp complex concepts in algebra, geometry and statistics sooner than ever before, the goal was to produce a new generation of college-ready teens to compete globally.

By prolonging the exposure of all students to complex math, the state expected to help increase Georgia’s average SAT score, which ranks near the bottom among states.

“On the SAT, when we looked at all of the kids who have taken math at different levels, we found that even our high achievers are still performing below the rest of the country,” said Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. “Our kids are just as smart as any other kids. They need to be able to compete with students around the world for jobs and college.”

The math overhaul was pushed by state Superintendent Kathy Cox. Now that Cox has announced she will not seek a third term, some parents and teachers wonder whether the program will continue at the same accelerated pace, be diluted or scrapped altogether by her successor.

For students, the program got off to a rough start.

In 2009, nearly 20,100 failing grades were handed out to high school freshmen in Georgia — about 17 percent of all grades given in the new Math I course. That’s more than double the percentage of failing grades given in the eighth-grade preparatory class the previous year, according to state statistics obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In metro Atlanta, nearly 19 percent of Math I grades were F’s.

It’s also tough on teachers, including some who say they were not properly trained to teach the new content.

“You have to cover everything. It’s a lesson a day,” said Aker, who is co-president of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators. “There is no time to get them to master each section.”

Janet Davis, the state’s math program manager, believes that “as students, teachers and parents become more comfortable with this curriculum we will see the scores increase.”

At Duluth High, the 2009 math grades concerned principal Jason Lane so much that he developed a plan to give 100 select freshmen flexible block schedules next fall so they can have 90 minutes of math instruction instead of 52 and earn more credits.Now, as students take End of Course tests, the state will soon have its first progress report on how well students are performing under the increased demand.

Aker says the state should consider spreading Math I and Math II over four years to give students more time to understand them. “To have every child take this math, those who aren’t going to college, those who are special ed in self-contained classrooms, to me feels like a conspiracy on how to make kids fail.”

Davis, the state’s math director, however, says she is “pleased” with early results from End of Course tests given in December 2009 to students on block schedules taking Math I. Overall, 61 percent met or exceeded standards in Algebra I and 65 percent met or exceeded them in geometry, which is slightly better than under the old curriculum. Students still learning English, however, performed better under the old curriculum. She is counting on exam scores as well as SAT scores to improve over time as students move through school. The Class of 2019 will be the first to have had the accelerated math exposure from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I can’t see a benefit of offering a math program a student couldn’t use to go to college, technical [school] or the workplace,” Davis said. “… What we are giving our students who struggle is an opportunity to feel as successful as our students who are mathematically talented.”

220 comments Add your comment

Cobb Parent

May 21st, 2010
8:30 am

This article surprised me as I haven’t seen too many problems with the new math at my son’s high school. The material seems a little harder but one of my neighbors has a son in the new math program and he has told me that he loves the more challenging nature of the new math. According to him “real life problems are not presented to you as conics or matrices so you have to be able to recognize which math concepts to apply and how to apply them.” Also, I’m not entirely sure but aren’t many high school kids already taking Accelerated Math II as freshmen? Are there grade distributions for that? (I may just not be clear on this point).

Jennifer

May 21st, 2010
8:32 am

GIVE West, an alternative education school for students with disciplinary issues in Gwinnett County is on the top of the list for the highest % of students receiving A’s for new math.

Curious

May 21st, 2010
8:38 am

Regarding grades, does that really tell us everything? It’s pretty well known in the metro area that some schools have reputation for extremely rigorous grading while others are more lax. What were the eoct score breakdowns by county?

Brad

May 21st, 2010
8:41 am

Jennifer..honey…you may wan’t to go back and read that chart again…they have a 100% failure rate.

Jennifer

May 21st, 2010
8:46 am

Brad sweetheart….. Go back and check the list. GIVE East has the failure rate, and only one person took that test. GIVE West is on the top of the list for students getting A’s, with obviously more than one taking the test.

Bill Brasky

May 21st, 2010
8:48 am

If she can’t pass accelerated math, what did Jessica O’Brien think was going to happen when she got to Harvard and had to take accelerated everything?

I went to private high school here in Atlanta and when I got to UGA, I saw my new classmates from schools like Walton and Parkview struggling on subjects that I covered my senior year in high school.

If the state is serious about education, they need to step up the rigor in the classroom.

Brad

May 21st, 2010
8:52 am

My apologies Jennifer…..that 66.7 % means three kids took the test….wow…what a sample!

Patrick

May 21st, 2010
8:53 am

There is a problem when GIVE West in Gwinnett has 67% Math I students getting A’s and GIVE East has 100% Math I students getting F’s. What is GIVE West doing that GIVE East isn’t?

Steven Q. Stanley

May 21st, 2010
8:56 am

Took the words right out of my mouth Bill. I hate to laugh at a young girl with high hopes and worthy goals, but wow. How can you get into Harvard if you can’t handle more challenging subjects. While, per the article, A’s are down, some students are still succeeding and getting A’s in the new classes. Those are the ones who will be going to Harvard.

TAZ

May 21st, 2010
8:57 am

No state should dictate how to teach. States have every right to determine WHAT to be taught.

I wish they distinguish the standards from the frameworks. The GPS does NOT specify how to teach.

Attentive Parent

May 21st, 2010
8:58 am

Just finished reading that article on the new math.

Looks like if the high schools just make it easier to make A’s (collaborative group projects instead of tests, for example) and the state just sets the cut scores so that the %’s are greater than with the old curriculum, the DOE and the AJC can claim it’s a success by fiat.

The saddest part of this curriculum is hearing how many kids are being tutored. Many parents are now spending $4-5000 a year per kid for math tutoring. Talk about inequities.

It’s interesting to read that James Pratt thinks showing graphing of square roots is meaningful high school math for struggling students. It’s just a visual representation of an underlying concept.

A solid knowledge of percentages and fractions would be more helpful in their adult lives than pretending advanced math is about having an electronic tool draw a picture and then declaring that to be math.

Janet Davis makes it clear that the real agenda is to have everyone able to do the same math. That may be a well intentioned fantasy but it’s a fantasy nevertheless. There are real differences in intellectual ability and willingness to apply oneself pretending these do not exist merely hurts the most able students.

It ends up changing the nature of Algebra so that it becomes a graphing calculator exercise more than an analytical discipline.

Reality Check

May 21st, 2010
8:59 am

I don’t want to kill any dreams but is Harvard really the right choice for Jessica if she’s struggling so mightily in math freshman year? I’m sure if she has other outstanding qualities, Harvard could very well accept her but I don’t think Harvard classes are going to get any easier. And, from what I know, Harvard and many of the other ivies have core curriculum requirements that require you to take a number of math classes. Maybe if parents weren’t so dead set on sending their children to the Harvards and Princetons of the world, lower grades wouldn’t be such an issue.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:00 am

This new math program was written by people who clearly have very, very little understanding of child brain development.

Some basic facts of brain development that the new math curriculum ignores:

1. Brains develop at different paces. The new math program, by forcing ALL kids (even sped!!) into algebra-level Math I freshmen year is, indeed, setting many kids up for failure. They simply aren’t ready to tackle the concepts yet.

2. Not all students understand abstract concepts at the same time. Some students are ready for algebra by age 12 or 13, hence the classes of algebra I offered at nearly all middle schools. Other students are not ready to understand “x” (literally, solving for “x”) until age 15 or 16. This is why the traditional math programs offer a pre-algebra year in 9th grade for those who need it.

3. Some kids will NEVER be ready for abstract math concepts. If you don’t understand what an IQ of 50 means, in terms of intellectual capability, then you should leave the curriculum planning to someone who does!

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:04 am

All of you criticizing Jessica have NO CLUE what the new math entails. It’s presented in a very abstract, higher-level thinking format, more suited to upper-level college classes. Not only is it not appropriate for most high schoolers, it’s also counterproductive.

I can’t tell you the number of kids who’ve come into my English class, in tears over their math grades! I’ve never seen anything like it. These kids (and their parents) hate this new math curriculum with the passion of a thousand suns. Our math teachers are highly qualified and well-trained, but the program is simply not workable for the vast majority of students.

Cobb Parent

May 21st, 2010
9:06 am

I would caution people not to rush to judgment regarding Jessica’s future. As a parent myself whose son is going to one of the ivies, I think it’s important to realize that colleges are looking at the whole picture. My son had excellent grades, test scores and ecs but it is not uncommon for schools like Harvard to accept students that aren’t perfect in every which way. As a matter of fact, I happen to know some that got into Harvard despite mediocre freshman records because they went on to become supremely accomplished in their areas of strength (i.e. olympic level athletes, playing before Carnegie Hall, Intel Finalists, etc.) Jessica may indeed be supremely accomplished in other areas – we just don’t know. So let’s not assume that Harvard is not a possibility.

Jack

May 21st, 2010
9:06 am

Wow!! Funny how it’s always someone else’s fault….

“What we are giving our students who struggle is an opportunity to feel as successful as our students who are mathematically talented.” – Janet Davis (State math program director)

WOW!! That statement says it all about government schools!! Words like “GIVING” and “FEEL SUCCESSFUL” is typical for government ran schools. How about words like “EARN” and “ARE SUCCESSFUL”.

GET YOU KIDS OUT OF GEORGIA GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS!!!

Another Cobb Math parent

May 21st, 2010
9:07 am

My sophomore is just finishing Accelerated Math III. I have mixed feelings about the program. On the one hand, the class of 2012 has suffered from being the guinea pigs for the new curriculum – particularly the leading-edge group of advanced students who are now completing Accelerated Math III. It’s been tough, and a lot of the comments in the article resonated with me.

On the other hand, I am sympathetic with the original objective of improving the curriculum based on the models used in other states and countries whose students are more successful at math. Some critics of the “new math” write as if everything was rosy back in the day of Algebra I, Algebra II, etc. Apparently they’ve forgotten that Georgia students studying under that curriculum have been producing lousy test scores.

Finally, I am exasperated by the ignorance of many of the critics of “new math” (how I hate that expression) who evidently know next to nothing about math at all, since they think the content of the curriculum is “new” and we aren’t teaching algebra, geometry and trigonometry any more. In reality, the content of high school math curricula hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years or more. Whatever we call the courses, they have to cover polynomials, sines, cosines, etc. The content of the integrated math curriculum is essentially the same as the old curriculum. What’s different is the order and style of presentation, also some more advanced topics have been added.

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Vee

May 21st, 2010
9:10 am

It certainly is alarming that so many students are failing. However, if the teachers are not adequately trained or prepared then this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think most people would be ok with any new curriculum so long as the teachers are trained and are given an adequate amount of class time to teach the new lesson. A lot of the teachers & students are failing due to the lack of understanding & time they are allowed to spend on the material in class.

Public education works but we (parents, teachers, students administrators) must work together & stop placing blame. Any teachers that have been laid off, be creative, reach out to the students in your communities, this is where your knowledge can be a blessing beyond the building that you work(ed) called school.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:12 am

@Jack–
Most of the “government school” teachers on here are also bashing Davis. She’s either an idiot or just parroting the party line to keep her paycheck.

Last night, I tutored an 11th grader whose parents are shelling out $10K a year for a tony Savannah religious school. He didn’t know what “area” and “perimeter” are. 11th grader… and these are middle school concepts! This is a hard-working student who cares about mastering the concepts. He explained that most of his math teachers had been lackluster and at least one was a foreigner who was very difficult to understand. I wonder how many of his math teachers are actually certified to teach high school math in the state of Georgia?

Gwinnett Parent

May 21st, 2010
9:13 am

My first grader loves the exemplars(word problems). She is a little upset however, because the class is still working on addition. It was strange when exemplars were introduced in kindergarten. I thought it was unrealistic to expect 5 and 6yr olds to do word problems and was surprised .

Jennifer

May 21st, 2010
9:20 am

Brad -
My whole post was tongue in cheek, Brad. You will find that I do not support the educational environment at the alternative schools in Gwinnett or most anywhere else in the state. I am a huge advocate of reform from the top to the bottom for students being pushed out of traditional school environments. The 66% could be of any number of students enrolled in that class. It doesn’t matter to me whether there were 3 or 30 – I am a believer that grade inflation is just the start of the problems in alternative education in our state.

Weary

May 21st, 2010
9:22 am

My son is a rising 9th grader. I am appalled at the new graduation requirements as well as the curriculum. One thing that should be understood is accelerated math is just that, accelerated. It was explained to me that they will learn the same thing as the “regular” math class but it would be at a faster pace so that the student would be elligible to take AP calculus their senior year. It’s also “Math” now. What happened to algebra, geometery, and triginomitry. Instead, you learn a piece of this and move on to a piece of that and never get to learn the entire subject. Yes, sometimes it is helpful to learn that algebra can relate to a geometrical problem but the students are getting whiplash from so much change. Math is a set of skills that are tied together. You learn how to work out a polynomial and then a trinomial, etc…. Instead we teach them a polynomial and then show them how to work a geometry proof and then throw in some basic multiplication so they don’t forget that too! No wonder we are failing students.

Forgive my thread drift but I would also like address two more things. First, why are we putting the same kids in class together. What happened to low level, mid level, and high level. When we throw all the kids together and teach them the exact same thing at the exact same pace most are going to fail. Why? The top acheivers are bored and start to coast by and the lower skill sets are struggling to keep up. Let’s teach everyone according to their ability then maybe ALL will learn the skills they need. Secondly, why is a foreign language no longer a requirement to graduate? It is a requirement to be accepted to any college in Georgia and to receive HOPE but it is not required to graduate high school??? Nonsensical! Instead my son is forced to have 7 periods now, one being the required Study Skills class?????

Once again I feel like I send my kids to public run daycare and homeschool them when I arrive home from work!

Ps. I appreciate the teachers who are trying their best with this crap they have been given. I pray that you may once again have the freedom to use your personal teaching talents in the classroom instead of teaching the garbage the government spews out!

Jack

May 21st, 2010
9:28 am

@ Booklover

Good point…I am sure there are private and home schooled children in our state that are being taught by teachers that are not “certified”. The teachers are not the problem. It is the administration above the teachers that is the problem. I hope and pray that all the public school teachers that lost their jobs end up at private schools. It would be a win/win for all involved. Great teachers in a private funded environment would be wonderful for all our kids.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:31 am

@Weary–
You bring up some good points, and rest assured that most teachers agree with much of what you have to say.

As far as the foreign language requirement, it boils down to money and availability. Foreign language teachers are, for some reason, extremely hard to find in Georgia. My school was looking for a French or German teacher for a year and finally had to hire a second Spanish teacher because no one else could be found. I believe part of the reason is that anyone with that knowledge can find a higher-paying, more cushy job. Foreign language classes are also being cut to save costs. Many schools in Georgia only offer Spanish I and II now. That’s a shame.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:34 am

@Jack–
Thank you for the acknowledgment. I agree that much of the problem is at the higher levels. I have a great administration but they are hamstrung by people above them, especially the “experts” at the State DOE.

However, teaching at a private school is not necessarily a win. All but the very best (like the $30K/year) pay teachers much less than public schools. Personally, I couldn’t afford to teach at a private school!

EnoughAlready

May 21st, 2010
9:35 am

My child is a 9th grader and was very upset about the state test; however, her biggest complaint was about the teacher and what was not covered in class.

One of the issues we discussed was that they learned how to calculate standard deviation by using their texas instrument scientific calculators only. As a parent, that made me very angry. If I had known how much they were using that calculator in Accellerated integrated Algebra/Geometry; I would have complained. I will not make that mistake next year in Calculous.

This summer my child will be covering algebra and geometry mommy style, without a calculator.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:39 am

Student mobility is another problem with the new math curriculum. My district encompasses a military base, and we have very high levels of student mobility. This is great for classroom diversity and discussion, but horrible for kids who are thrown into the new Georgia math curriculum after having been in a traditional math curriculum at the other four or five or whatever schools they have attended.

I am also concerned about our students who leave Georgia and go to traditional math curriculums in other states. A student who passed Math I here is not necessarily ready to take Geometry in another state, because he didn’t get all of the traditional “Algebra I” information.

But of course, the state DOE is not at all concerned with these kids.

Jack

May 21st, 2010
9:40 am

@ Booklover

You have been mis informed about the pay scales.

Here’s the deal, I wishe the public school system was better. I wish I felt as if I could send my kids to public schools, especially since I pay for it :) but, the Geogia system is broke and must suffer to get any better.

..AND if more kids went to privately funded schools, the teacher pay would be much better. Free enterprise works! This is a complicated situation that must be corrected.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:44 am

@Jack–
Please tell me which private schools pay more than the local public schools. I have friends working (or who have worked) in many private schools, and as I said, they all get paid less.

The only exceptions would be the few expensive schools like Woodward in Atlanta, for example.

I know neither Augusta nor Savannah have any private schools where the pay and benefits are as “good” as at the public schools… which isn’t saying much!

clueless parent

May 21st, 2010
9:45 am

Well, Cobb parents (both of them) better be ready for an attack by Attentive Parent. She would claim that they are from the DOE and works for Kathy Cox, or maybe they are Janet Davis herself.

If the “new math” is so inferior in its complexity, how come so many teachers find it hard to teach and students hard to learn?

On the other hand, as Booklover claims, if it is so abstract, then how come there are so many contextualized problems in the frameworks? Booklover may be confusing the GPS with the old “new math” of the post-Sputnik era.

high school teacher

May 21st, 2010
9:47 am

“Some switched to general math their sophomore year, afraid of getting another low grade.”

I’d like to know which schools in the state are offering general math – there is no such course in our county, or in any other county that I am familiar with. There are math support classes, but students must get credit in Math 1, 2, and 3 in order to get a diploma.

clueless parent

May 21st, 2010
9:47 am

@Booklover,

Your ignorance is showing very clearly.

This year’s 11th grader is NOT taking the new math.

Tracey

May 21st, 2010
9:48 am

As someone who struggled with Math all through middle, high and secondary school I can understand the feelings of many who see high failure rates.

That being said, if math is your weak spot, concentrate on the weak spot. Study the weak spot more than the other courses. Even if you don’t have math homework, open the book and do problems from all the previous chapters you have already covered.

math is like a foreign language. There are rules of “syntax” that must be followed to solve equations. In order to become proficient in the language of math, I had to constantly practice in the language of math.

It’s not easy, but I can be done. Perhaps the issue is that the kids are assumed to have skills in math that they should have learned in grammar and middle school and oh darn, those skills are missing.

clueless parent

May 21st, 2010
9:49 am

Was Aker fired? According to the article, in the Metro area nearly 1 in 5 students are failing. In her class, more than 2 out of 3 are. Hmm… Is it just me who thinks maybe the problem is the teacher?

Brad

May 21st, 2010
9:49 am

Jenn…we are in agreement on the grade inflation in “alternative” environments. All the kids do in my county is take tests on a computer….take it however many times they need to until they pass it…and the county gives them credit for the class. I had a junior leave my class to enroll in alternative school. In 8 weeks he had passed enough of those tests to GRADUATE from high school. All he has to do next year is take one PE credit. Ridiculous.

Public School Parent

May 21st, 2010
9:50 am

I don’t think comparing letter grades is meaningful because of the incredible grade inflation at many of the metro schools. So we are really left with standardized test scores, but the rampant rumor is that the state BOE reduced the cut scores for Math I and Math II to nudge up the passage rate. Maureen, can you obtain the cut scores for the math EOCT tests?

I believe the real problem with the high school integrated math curriculum is not only a lack of teacher training but a serious lack of highly qualified mathemeticians to teach the material. The integrated curriculum requires a teacher with a deep understanding of mathematics plus the ability to teach the different strands. The state of Georgia simply does not have sufficient highly qualified math teachers to implement this curriculum. If we can’t find enough qualified high school teachers in the metro area, just imagine how hard it must be to find these math teachers in rural areas.

The program should have been piloted for several years in a number of different high schools to work out the kinks, develop appropriate teaching materials and textbooks and cultivate the teaching personnel needed to make it successful.

high school teacher

May 21st, 2010
9:54 am

Public School Parent, we have plenty of highly qualified mathematicians teaching math. However, they don’t know how to TEACH math to others. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you’re good at showing someone else how to do it.

Jack

May 21st, 2010
9:54 am

@ Booklover

Trust me…call Westminster, Lovett, Pace, Walker, Whitefield, Mt Paran, North Cobb Christian, etc.. Send your resume and try to negotiate a competitive salary. Private schools are looking to upgrade right now. They all know that there is a large pool of great teachers available. Now, your are correct that ther total “benefit package” is not the same (retirement, tenure, etc….). But those items are some of the many reasons why the goverment system is broken. Those perks do not exsist in any profession anymore. Let’s build a incentive base system for higher pay. That will never work in the governmet enviroment. I challenge you to call the above schools and negotiate a deal!! Get into a free enterprise enviroment where you can freely make a difference.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
9:54 am

@clueless–
Sorry if I didn’t make my point clear. Some students are not ready for *abstract concepts*, such as “solve for x” in 9th grade. If you tell them “divide by 5,” they can do it, but until the light goes on as far as understanding abstraction, they can’t understand what it means to “divide by x.”

The problem with the Math I-II-III curriculum is that it expects ALL kids to get this concept in 9th grade. You can write a nice story problem about solving for x, but it doesn’t mean the student will understand the concept behind it.

I think the program is trying to force mathematical maturity on students simply by giving them more “exposure” to difficult math concepts. But until that “abstraction” light goes on, it’s all gobbledegook.

high school teacher

May 21st, 2010
9:57 am

Math teachers, please don’t be offended by my above comment. I work with excellent math teachers, and while our A’s have dropped, our F’s have also decreased from last year to this year.

I get tired of non-teachers assuming that hiring a math genius is the magic pill for having successful math students. It takes ability in both math and in teaching.

I also get tired of parents assuming that just because their child made all A’s in middle school means that they will do the same in high school (or else it’s the teacher’s fault).

Dunwoody Mom

May 21st, 2010
9:58 am

Depending on the diploma course a student is following, a Foreign Language is required. For example, a student in the College Prep with Specialization Diploma Study is required to take 2 units of a Foreign Language. A student in the College Prep with Honors/Distinction is required to take 3 units of a Foreign Language. Also remember, that in the Univ. System of GA requires 2 units of Foreign Language for admission to any school.

Northview (Ex)Teacher

May 21st, 2010
9:58 am

Been there, done that. I cannot tell you how many times parents of kids like Jessica O’Brien marched into my classroom demanding that their child be given an A for patently mediocre work. Otherwise, they might not make it into a selective college.

Somebody’s got to say it: maybe the problem is that parents overestimate the academic abilities of their children.

There are a lot of colleges in Georgia where students earning Ds in ninth-grade math can get a true secondary education. Look at some of those, Mrs. O’Brien. You’ll feel a lot better. So glad to know that it’s not your kid’s fault.

Dunwoody Mom

May 21st, 2010
10:01 am

I would rather my child earn an “B” in a Gifted/Advanced Class than have them lower themselves into a General class in order to get an “A”. Colleges will also question why a student, who was in a gifted class, all of sudden dropped down in to a general class.

King

May 21st, 2010
10:02 am

I applaud the state for adopting a more rigorous program. I think kids should be challenged and in most cases the program will be successful. What is going to kill the numbers is some of the inner city urban schools where math skills are low to nonexistent. It’s a simple case of statistics. Inner city urban schools where kids struggle with math are going to bring scores DOWN. I live it first hand everyday. I teach 7th grade math and most if not all my kids come to me lacking basic skills of math (multiplication, decimal operations, long division, etc) that they operate on about a 4th grade level. By the end of the year God willing I can get them to maybe a high 5th grade low sixth grade level. So high school math is going to kill them. Now before the naysayers rail on me, I am not racist. In fact I am a black man and I grew up in the same neighborhood that I teach in. I am just stating the facts. I understand not allowing them to get a college prep degree but i don’t think it should affect them going to technical school. Most have no aspiration of going to college anyway.

lyncoln

May 21st, 2010
10:02 am

I found the graph at the end of the article most interesting. The difference in passing/failing between freshman taking the different levels of mathematics was very interesting. It suggests that the students at the top of the skill curve aren’t having much difficulty with the new curriculum, but that weaker math students are.

The freshman this year who took Accelerated Math II received Cs or better 97+% of the time. They received A grades 40% of the time! I think this shows that the very high end math students are doing pretty well with the new math curriculum. The difficulty seems to be in the weaker math students taking less accelerated math classes.

I wonder how much that has to do with the math teacher’s being assigned? I would guess that the ‘best’ math teachers are being assigned to the Accelerated Math II classes because that is the most difficult course. I would bet that coupling the best math teachers with the best math students results in high pass and A rates like were reported. Slightly weaker math teachers are then teaching the weaker math students in the other classes, which would likely make it harder on the weaker students.

Am I wrong in assuming that it will be common for the stronger math teachers to be teaching the accelerated classes?

Attentive Parent

May 21st, 2010
10:04 am

Clueless-

Do not presume to speak for me. I am more than able to do that myself.

Janet Davis and I have spoken about the new math curriculum. While we do not always agree, she knows quite well that there’s nothing unsupported or poorly founded in my views on this math curriculum.

Booklover raised an interesting issue on brain development and this curriculum. If this were a sequential curriculum using worked examples and then related applications of the concept, students differ naturally in their ability to bridge these inferential gaps.

But the Georgia math curriculum is not sequential in what is covered. Instead of worked examples, the state is pushing a discovery first approach that learning is best produced through struggling with real life problems that have not been previously explained.

For too many Georgia students that combination is unbridgeable.

Booklover

May 21st, 2010
10:04 am

@Clueless–
No, your lack of reading comprehension is showing. The 11th grader I was speaking of attends a private school, which does not have the new GA math curriculum. I was answering Jack’s assertion that private schools were uniformly better than public.

Though I do think private school’s math curriculums are better than this Math I-II-III crap. The problem is the lack of qualified math teachers in private schools.

There are, indeed, public schools that lack qualified teachers to teach the new curriculum as well. One school I taught at had a math position open all year…well, to be more precise, two teachers quit that position within the year (one went back to being an electrician because he made more money and had less crap to put up with) and the kids were left with a series of substitutes.

teacher

May 21st, 2010
10:06 am

The problem is that kids do not have prerequisite skills to tackle the new math. It is a blend of all areas of math. A lot of the kids I deal with cannot even multiply without pulling out a calculator.
Perhaps with younger kids having a different kind of math preparation, there is hope in the future. But, for now, the state has set a lot of kids up for failure.

Public School Parent

May 21st, 2010
10:07 am

High School Teacher- I said that we need teachers who both understand high level mathematics AND can teach it. And we have a serious shortage of folks with those qualifications. My niece teaches in a rural county and they can’t find high school math and science teachers at all.

The whole idea of Georgia writing its own unique high school curriculum still burns me up. There were so many, many ways that Georgia could have improved and strengthened the traditional high school courses without scrapping them and starting from scratch. Go to the top private high schools and top public high schools with the highest AP and SAT scores- they haven’t rejected the traditional courses yet they still are excelling..

And the lack of transferability of the courses and the difficulty of placing private school or out of state transfer students is just another huge mark against it.