At a joint House and Senate Education Committee today, State School Superintendent John Barge said that he expects the Georgia high school graduation rate — now at about 80 percent — to dip at least 10 percentage points this year when Georgia adopts a new federally mandated formula to count dropouts.
As did Senate Education Chair Fran Millar, in making the same prediction of a lower high school grad rate earlier this month, Barge emphasized that Georgia has been making steady progress.
On top of the formula dip, Barge warned of another possible plummet next year in grad rates because of the extreme failure rates of high school students in the new integrated math.
He outlined several ways to allow kids to pass the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test, including breaking the test down to its domains/components — algebra, statistics, geometry and numbers and equations — and letting students only retake the parts that they fail. The state may also seek permission to use passage on the End of Course Test to count for the GHSGT math test.
Barge also wants support classes in Math I and Math II to count toward the math requirements that a high school student must have to graduate in Georgia. Those support classes do not count now, which means there are high school students who have yet to amass a single math credit toward their graduation requirements as they haven’t been able to get through Math I or II and are in support classes, Barge warned. (Barged said there are both sophomores and juniors in this predicament, but a poster questioned whether you could be advanced to your junior year without a math class under your belt.)
Barge also elaborated on his plan to allow systems to continue to teach the integrated math — where students are taught math across domains in a single class, advancing in complexity and rigor — or return to traditional math, algebra, geometry, for example, instead of Math I and II
Yes, there are many critics of the new math, but there are also many proponents. I have been hearing from them since Barge made his announcement of a dual math tracks last week at a state board meeting.
(In comments here in the committee, it appears some lawmakers regard the state board as an obstacle to changing back to the old math. Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams asked Barge how open the board was to his plans. “We’re getting there,” said Barge. I think it will interesting to watch the unfolding of the relationship between Barge and the board, a group with whom I have been very impressed because of their focus on students, their grasp of education issues and their lack of personality clashes.)
After the meeting, I talked to folks who wondered if Georgia teaches two forms of math whether one of them, likely the traditional format, eventually will be viewed as the dummy track.
Barge didn’t seem to think there would be any shadow over either math program, that would be essentially be the same content delivered in different vessels.
“We have found with the integrated math curriculum for a number of students, it’s the delivery. It is not the rigor,” said Barge. “The students tell me they don’t have time to focus on a single concept before they move onto something else, making it difficult for them to have a firm foundation of any of it.”
“Some systems are doing a very good job with integrated math and their students are being successful,” Barge said. “We want to offer flexibility to systems that are struggling by allowing them to offer the traditional approach. We are not talking about reducing rigor.”
Barge said a single school system could offer both forms of math. “We will leave that up to the systems,” he said.
Barge reiterated his plan to create “career clusters” in which there will still be a single diploma but vocational tracks in place to get there. Geometry could be taught through construction, which offers the hands-on approach and real-life relevancy that some students need, Barge said.
Now, lawmakers are asking Barge questions about whether the changes to math will maintain the rigor and whether vo-tech will again be seen as a less talented stepchild of the college prep courses. “I am concerned that we might fall back to bad old days when kids taking vocational tracks need easier civics classes to pass,” said state Rep. Ed Setzler.
Barge assured the committee that the vo-tech tracks will not be neglected stepchildren and will incorporate tough courses.
He also told the committee that we test too much in Georgia. Get Schooled posters who would like to see Georgia schools use the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and abandon the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test will appreciate Barge’s response to a question on preferred testing approaches.
“Me personally, I would agree with you that a norm-referenced test is preferable than a criterion-referenced test. ”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog