Georgia approves dual math tracks. Or will they be dueling?

The state Board of Education voted this morning to approve dual math tracks in Georgia high schools, a decision that is bound to be controversial among math professionals, many of whom are bombarding me with notes that the problem is not the math but the lack of teacher training and resistance to change.

Here is the official statement:

The State Board of Education today approved the recommendation by State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge to allow four discrete math courses to be taught to students who may be struggling with the integrated math curriculum.  The four new courses – GPS Algebra, GPS Geometry, GPS Advanced Algebra, and GPS Pre-Calculus – are taught with a more traditional delivery. The board’s actions also allowed Math I-III Support classes to count as core credit rather than just elective credit.

“We have many students who are currently struggling with the integrated approach to the math curriculum,” said Superintendent Barge. “I applaud the State Board’s action to approve my recommendation to give students more options to master our rigorous math standards. We are seeing that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t in the best interest of of our students. Our systems need the flexibility to teach in the manner that best meets the needs of their students and local system leaders are best positioned to make those decisions. However, I want to be clear that this is not a retreat from the rigor of our Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). This is simply a restructuring of the GPS in a discrete fashion.”

Under the new rule, students struggling with the integrated curriculum will now earn core credit for support classes.  Students must receive four units of math in order to graduate.  Many struggling students are taking multiple math courses and, thus, not able to take other elective courses. Mathematics Support I, Mathematics Support II, and Mathematics Support III will now be counted as a core credit, giving students the opportunity to get the necessary credits needed to earn their high school diploma.

“We have approximately 17% of our current juniors that have one or no math credits, putting them at risk of not graduating,” said Superintendent Barge.  “I see no harm in giving these students the opportunity to learn the math curriculum in a more traditional delivery, without compromising the rigor of the standards.”

Georgia, along with 43 other states, has adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. This transition will allow the education community and the public to evaluate the delivery method of our math curriculum for the long-term.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get School blog

109 comments Add your comment

Interested Participant

March 14th, 2011
9:48 am

So, what happens to students who transfer between two districts with different math tracks?

www.honeyfern.org

March 14th, 2011
9:52 am

@Interested, that is a great question.

In general, though, I support more choices rather than fewer. Not every student learns best the same way. I agree with the math teachers (wouldn’t they know best?) who say that teachers need adequate training to implement any math curriculum!

Dunwoody Mom

March 14th, 2011
9:53 am

Will the school districts allow the choice to be made by the local school administrations or does an entire district have to go with one Math track or the other?

economy growing?

March 14th, 2011
10:04 am

Everyday I open the paper and see an article about state revenues being on the rise. So why are all the drastic cuts to education continuing?

amazed

March 14th, 2011
10:07 am

It looks like once again the school board is dealing with theory instead of individual students. Integrated Math was a great theory, but, at best, has been implemented in a disastorous way. At worst, it is something that simply doesn’t work for many students. Now they will ignore the thousands of students who move between districts that may have different tracks under the theory that the local districts know best, leaving the students to suffer.

Travis

March 14th, 2011
10:15 am

I think maybe we should go look at coutries producing some of the smartest young people and maybe model our education system in a similiar fashion. Japan and China produce some very brilliant minds. I am willing to bet that they don’t have several math “tracts”.

Ali50

March 14th, 2011
10:24 am

The new math stinks. My daughter is a junior and received 750 on her math SAT and struggles every year to keep a “B” in the integrated math. The first year she took it, the teachers had no idea what they were doing. Her teacher that year told me the Cobb teachers were meeting once a month to try to figure out what to do. The teachers bounce from one subject to another and the students never have time to obtain a firm foundation in any of the basics. The only ones doing really well are the mainly Asian students who learn the math outside of class. Math tutors are raking in the dough trying to help these kids keep up. Back to the traditional approach, please.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

March 14th, 2011
10:25 am

GODSPEED to Dr. Barge and his team in their efforts to move Georgia beyond “excuse-based” public education.

Socrates

March 14th, 2011
10:28 am

Just when the clouds were beginning to open on Georgia ignorance….The failure of American Public Schools comes back to haunt us. The ghost of parental pressure because their kids are failing and they sure don’t want to enforce their kids doing some homework; and the ghost of Political Idiots who cave in to parents rather than progress. We really are stupid.

Jean

March 14th, 2011
10:29 am

I agree that the main reason for such a large number of problems was teacher training – NONE of which was the teachers’ fault. Our state has a long (40+years expereince in math teaching here) with not training teachers well for changes. Heck – this time they changed the whole middle school curriculum ( for 3 grades) in ONE year. We alos have often used the throw out the baby with the washwater approach to chenges. If something is not working, just throw it out and try something new. No wonder the kids are failing. Try listening to the teachers next time – not administrators or college teachers who have never taught a whole course of anything at the high school level.

bert

March 14th, 2011
10:29 am

Intergrated math? Someone please explain? I graduated in 1986.

Schools21

March 14th, 2011
10:33 am

Anytime you see wholesale freaking out over new curriculum implementation, it is almost guaranteed to be a reaction against change, but it may also be due to lack of comprehensive training of the teachers. Teaching any subject in an integrated fashion requires a significant rethinking of how to deliver instruction. If teachers don’t receive strong training, and if administrators are not committed to the change and provide a combination of support plus gentle pressure, then teachers will revert to how they are comfortable teaching and impose that onto the new curriculum. Recipe for failure.

Commonsenseagitator

March 14th, 2011
10:34 am

I operated successful businesses for almost 30 years and I can tell you that most of the new math is useless to most people. Why force students to struggle to learn something that has little, if any, practical application in the real world..

bert

March 14th, 2011
10:35 am

Nevermind, I looked it up. I don’t understand the integration. most collegiate courses are not integrated.

Dunwoody Mom

March 14th, 2011
10:37 am

This is not “new math” people. Math is Math is Math.

Way to use Common Sense

March 14th, 2011
10:39 am

Good use of common sense—my daugther is smart but was choking on the new math curriculum and getting horribly discouraged. Believe me, she was studying every night. This change will come as a breath of fresh air.

bert

March 14th, 2011
10:40 am

Dunwood Mom: So is the Theory of Relativity and String Theory the same?

confused

March 14th, 2011
10:43 am

I am really confused. Countries like Japan, China, England, and Germany teach to ONE standard. Those kids are doing Algebra by the 5th grade. Our kids are still learning to multiple. Find ONE standard and teach it. If the kids don’t pass them FAIL them, that is the way it is suppose to work. Stop passing kids just so they can be with their age groups. Parents need to get off their butts and help their kids at home with homework, like our parents did. That would be a novel concept. And if the parents don’t know how to do it, then I guess they need to get off their butts and go back to school and learn. Rembember education don’t stop when you drop out or graduate, it is a life long endevour.

D

March 14th, 2011
10:44 am

Our principal at our high school told us that leaving it to the local schools is all well and good, but if the only testing on the state level is still with Integrated Math, they will continue to teach that since they have to get the kids ready for the test. I haven’t seen or heard anything about that. Does anyone know?

Daine

March 14th, 2011
10:48 am

We keep addiing more to the plate in our GA education system, the system clearly needs less. We can blame the poor scores on the “system not the teachers and not the students”. We keep adding and we keep producing students and teachers who clearly do not understand the lessons that are being taught, At what point do we blame the system and the designers of the instructions that are being used.

catlady

March 14th, 2011
10:48 am

bert: Integrated math is where you have black, white, Asian, and Hispanic examples!

BTW, I think “integrated math” would be a great capstone math course, where the students, after learning algebra, geometry, etc, would practice applying those different sub-disciplines to real day math.

J. J.

March 14th, 2011
10:52 am

Come now, the kids in GA lag behind everyone because of the delivery packages approved by the state.
Students need the traditional tracks for all subjects, back to the basics worked then and it could work now if the leaders would wake up and realize that students are genenerally average or below average. TEACH TRADES AND SERVICES AND THE SKILLS TO MATCH…THIS THE REAL WORLD.
MOST STUDENTS IN GA ARE NOT GOING TO COLLEGE OR IFTHEY GO, THEY CAN NOT COMPLETE THE COURSE WORK….

Dr. John Trotter

March 14th, 2011
10:53 am

If you like the New Math, thank the educrats. I have told you many times that these educrats don’t know their butts from deep centerfield when it comes to public education. Professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools. What good does it do to attempt (note the word “attempt”) to teach any algebraic equations to a teenage who has never mastered the times table? (c) MACE, March 14, 2011.

bert

March 14th, 2011
10:54 am

catlady: funny.

Integrated math = multivariable calculus. Let’s be honest. how many of us actually remember anything past algebra. I haven’t thought about tangents, identities, or the length of an arc in ages. I Take that back, I always think of the distance lost when I hit a duck hook on the golf course.

foreignstudentsareheartlesszombies

March 14th, 2011
10:57 am

“Japan and China produce some very brilliant minds”

If I hear one more American crowing about how “brilliant” foreign students are I’m going to throw up. Why don’t you MOVE to China you moron?

Math change too late

March 14th, 2011
10:59 am

Too late for my sophomore daughter who has already taken Accelerated Intergrated Algerbra and now is taking Accelerated Intergrated Geometry. She has maintained a high B throughout, however the only B’s she has ever made have been in these courses – brought her GPA down and her class ranking. Now with the new HOPE requirements it really has hurt her. I should not expect our School System to do things in order, hopefully she will still get the HOPE!

Richard Woods

March 14th, 2011
11:01 am

Maureen,

Will all students will still be required to take the four classes of math (Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra, and Pre-Calculus)? The choice will be either to be taught in a more traditional method or the current the integrated format.

Richard Woods

March 14th, 2011
11:02 am

The question should have been “Will all students still be required….”

bpcdogg

March 14th, 2011
11:04 am

When students don’t know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide while in elementary school, how do you expect them to do algebra and geometry, much less trigonometry and calculus in high school. The students don’t know the basics and the high scool curriculum will not change that. Ask your child to name some prime factors or do a factor tree. Better yet, ask them to work an addition or subtraction problem from scratch that has more than 3 digits and see what you get. One step to the solution is to eliminate the use of calculators in grade school and middle school. And I know, input of bad info in calculators creates inaccurate answers.

2 cents

March 14th, 2011
11:05 am

just spoke with a local school admin and the person said out of state colleges are hating the GA math ….. this person said they got a letter back from Wake Forrest wanting them to explain in detail what is GA Math I , II …….

Lynn43

March 14th, 2011
11:13 am

It is not the educational “tracts” that allows other countries to produce brilliant minds, it is the culture and emphasis on education. We are also producing students who are succeeding at a high level. Just in my little part of the state, I see brilliant minds-some who are going to schools known for high academic standards, Duke, Boston College, MIT, Harvard, Yale, etc. and many with academic scholarships.

My expertise is not math, but my friends who are knowledgeable of the curriculum, tell me that the difference is the way and sequence it is taught not a difference in the material. Let’s teach whatever way the student can best learn the material.

k teacher

March 14th, 2011
11:15 am

Hygiene, social skills, manners, appropriate behavior, bullying prevention, how to tie your shoes, Good Touch-Bad Touch, civil rights, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, sex education, abstinence, three sets of standards in 6 years (QCC, GPS, Common Core) … mandate after mandate taking away classroom teaching of the fundamentals and foundations for a good education.

Does China, Japan, et al have to teach all of this stuff and deal with constantly changing standards and mandates?

East Cobb Parent

March 14th, 2011
11:16 am

A step in the right direction, but we need to address the issues k-12 not just HS. Instead of titling worksheets as Algebra in ES, and patting yourselves on the back educrats, return to basics. Teach children their math facts, drill, drill, drill. Then you can move onto higher thinking. And enough with 4 different methods of multiplication! I don’t want to hear anymore discussions where 2nd graders are asked to decide if 6 is even or odd. TEACH the kids.

Scott Allen

March 14th, 2011
11:16 am

As far as the non-integrated track goes… I don’t have any real issue with it, except that people will assume that changing the format is going to fix things… and it won’t. Students will still be just as unprepared for high school math as they have been due to the rampant ignoring of CRCT failures.

In the past, Math 3 was required for graduation. I assume that the changes would allow “Advanced Algebra” to be the new requirement (excepting math support, mentioned below). Pre-Calculus will continue to be there for advanced students.

I wonder what this will do to the “Advanced” math tracks. Under the integrated, students could cover all of Math 1, 2, and 3 in two courses. Then they could take the equivalent of Math 3 as juniors and AP Calc or Stats as seniors.

I’m a bit puzzled by the granting of credit for Math support. A little bothered because I know from experience that those classes require almost nothing from the students… basically a study hall in most cases. Perhaps this is essentially a “low track” for vocational, non-college bound students, giving them an out to graduate with only Math 1 and Math 2 (or Algebra and Geometry)? But is there still a “math support” when changing to the discrete track?

atlmom

March 14th, 2011
11:17 am

The thing is, as mentioned above, the teachers aren’t given adequate training…but really…honestly – why would one deal with the administration, the constant changing of the standards, etc. etc. When one can earn more elsewhere? We SAY that math is important, but math teachers don’t make enough – so one with a good math background would probably do something else where they can make quite a bit more money and would get a lot more out of the experience.
So we always *talk* about how important math (and science) is – but we are unwilling to pay math teachers so we can get the BEST people teaching math.
Why should math teachers make the same amount as english teachers? It makes no sense.
As for ‘other countries’ they have it much easier. they have similar cultures/etc when coming into the classroom. here, we have people from all different backgrounds together.
Honestly, everyone learns math differently – so it makes absolute sense to have more than one way to teach it – unfortunately, many schools would probably choose ONE of the tracks, rather than having the kids have the option of both kinds of tracks, because those schools probably aren’t big enough to have both. It’s preferable to have both rather than changing the whole curriculum every 3-5 years because curriculum A didn’t work.

Concerned teacher

March 14th, 2011
11:17 am

How can you allow the students in the support classes to get core credit? With HOPE requirements going up, everyone will opt for the support classes (easier) than the regular one so that they don’t endanger their GPA.

AH

March 14th, 2011
11:23 am

Dual math tracks? One to teach boys and another to teach girls?

I swear the current way is better for girls. I find it amazing the number of boys that are struggling with Math these days, my son included. When Dad tries to help with Math, son laments that’s not the way they are taught in class. I (Mom) still can’t help! Dad gave up too, onto paying a tutor when we should be able to help our own child.

TeachMom

March 14th, 2011
11:24 am

Maureen, what happens to the students who were not in the Math Support classes and will not get an opportunity for an additional “core” math credit? It seems that if you are not getting support, you are not being helped.

atlmom

March 14th, 2011
11:25 am

@AH: I’ve said that for years. Back when Mr. Summers made a comment re: women in math/science he was fired, rather than starting that discussion – that math and science are typically taught the way that boys learn best, which is one reason why there are more men than women in those fields (I could go on, but I won’t).
Not that I am saying we should segregate students (but some times it seems a better way to teach) – but it is so against what institutions want to say, so rather than actually *study* the issue, we ignore it and just say that everyone is ‘equal.’

ArtsAdvocate

March 14th, 2011
11:27 am

Four years of math is unnecessary for EVERY student in Georgia. I took 3 years 20 years ago and have done just fine. Why force kids to take classes that are not needed. Everybody is not going to college. We need to focus on more than just a college prep track for students.

I’m glad to hear that the state has decided to allow school systems to choose. Unfortunately my child has gone through 3 years of this madness and it has been quite frustrating. I agree with many others that the teachers don’t know how to teach it.

Maureen Downey

March 14th, 2011
11:30 am

@TeachMom, I think those kids do lose out if they struggled in the core classes but were not struggling enough to get support. However, I have to wonder what the colleges are going to think about math support as a core math.
Maureen

Teacher and Mom

March 14th, 2011
11:32 am

I think there is a lack of understanding in regard to “new math” vs. “old math.” The difference lies NOT in the concepts being taught, but in HOW they are being taught. In the past, concepts were taught and students were able to sufficiently practice and master skills, and then progress to the next level by applying those same skills to a new, more complex task. They received a great deal more practice and repetition, thus helping to encourage mastery and understanding of skills and concepts. With the “new” integrated math, many students don’t have the opportunity to practice and master skills that are being taught before teachers are forced (by course outline) to begin teaching a completely different concept. It’s very difficult for many students to learn this way (in bits and pieces). Had we been forced to learn math the way the integrated curriculum dictates, I firmly believe that many of us would have faced the same graduation dilemma that so many of our students and children are facing today.

Political Mongrel

March 14th, 2011
11:32 am

The integrated approach is better than the old method, but it should not have been implemented until kids had been able to take advantage of the elementary approach first. It should have been done one grade at a time, one year at a time until the kids who began it in the first grade reached high school. This would have kept the approach consistent with each group of kids, would have given more time for teacher training and for developing curricular materials, and would have lost fewer kids than the ham-fisted approach that caused so many problems. This was a great idea that was handled very, very poorly. However, throwing out the entire thing because of the problems is a poor way to go, and this does nothing to cure problems in the elementary curriculum.

pot meet kettle

March 14th, 2011
11:35 am

You can change all the math, science, and language/grammar based curriculum all you want. Until you have teachers and administration that change the culture in the schools nothing will change. Granted, I graduated (loose term in Georgia) 20 years ago…..even then the culture was simple….if you were trying to be smart then you were “acting white” or put down in one way or another. This culture is not derided by teachers. In fact, many teachers in DeKalb county were not doing anything to reverse this trend. Now that we have kids in Gwinnett schools, we see regularly that this is the same as it has always been.
Now, more than ever, it seems kids, teachers, and administration are more and more apt to just blame others and lower the standards. Isnt it amazing how everyone’s GPA ran right up to where they ALL qualify for the HOPE scholarship?

I say set the standards for HOPE exceedingly higher and reward those who choose to work and study. Note to all the teachers and students: This is how the real world works outside the walls of your union protection. So when you wonder why all you can do is find a job for 35k a year….go look at your transcripts and wonder what might have happened if those Ds were Bs and wonder what if, just what if, that teacher had been more worried about pushing the ceiling higher for their students instead of pushing for more union protections. (oh, i can hear it now, “but *I* do, *I* push *my* kids. yeah, sure you do. And we are having this continued education problem exactly why?)

Until we start showing kids that you will be more rewarded (and faster) by learning more math than how many grams are in an ounce, or how to shoot basketballs, then we will continue to get the same garbage.

Greg

March 14th, 2011
11:36 am

This new math is the theory to help the rich get richer and for the politicians to rake in more contributions from the learning companies for the rich, due to the fact the rich are the only ones that can afford special training. Thus the poor will not be able to get Hope/Miller and will join the army and the rich will go to college get the good jobs, which there are fewer and fewer of. That is why they are making it harder to get Hope and paying for rich kids to go to private school with the money. Keep going and we will end up like France in the late 1800’s, let them eat cake.

What's best for kids

March 14th, 2011
11:37 am

@atlmom,
Math teachers should make as much as English teachers because without English, the kids CAN’T READ THE MATH PROBLEMS!!!! Shame on you.
I was showing my kids how a comma can change the meaning of a sentence on Friday, and a couple of them asked me about a math problem that was given to them. Due to the poorly place comma, the question was asking something different than what the teacher was looking for. Without properly mastering the English language, they will not be able to effectively do math word problems or explain said problems.

pot meet kettle

March 14th, 2011
11:47 am

Greg,
“get the good jobs, which there are fewer and fewer of. ”

I believe the issue you struggle with is called codependency.
A “producer” does not rely on others to provide a job. Anyone with any brains (regardless of how much $ is in their pocket, or where their family came from) can *create* a job.
Meanwhile, those who cannot look beyond coveting their neighbors possessions will be stuck, working for the man. Ever sit back and wonder why *you* arent “rich”, yet?

Its called America. Look around.

Jackie T.

March 14th, 2011
12:00 pm

@ bert and others,

“integrated” HS curriculum discuss some algebra, some geometer, and some statistics in each of the courses, as opposed to (the “traditional”) only focusing on algebra in one year, then switching to geometry only, then to go back to algebra again a year later – you just throw in statistics wherever you have time, which isn’t often. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with teaching all ideas related to algebra in the 9th grade in the first semester, then discuss geometry and stat in the second semester. An “integrated way of teaching” however tries to infuse all three branches of mathematics throughout the year. It is MUCH more difficult to teach in the integrated way.

This Board decision makes really no sense because they are trying to address several different questions by doing one thing. In theory, I have no idea how they are going to make it work when there is only one standard right now – which has high school math courses integrated (does not specify how it is to be taught). If a district wants to create an “Algebra I” course, what standards do you use? Also, as someone pointed out, what would the EOCT look like in that course? Are we going to spend more money on creating a second version of the EOCT?

When Georgia implement the Common Core, it is conceivable that we have two “pathways,” but do we want to put money, time and effort into creating a new set of “standards” for the traditional courses just for one year – specially at this time of fiscal difficulty?

The Board should have made a decision on a single pathway to go along with the implementation of the CCSS, instead of this “let the district choose” nonsense. They are just a bunch of clueless and spineless jokers.

Paulo977

March 14th, 2011
12:00 pm

Jean
“Try listening to the teachers next time – not administrators or college teachers who have never taught a whole course of anything at the high school level” This is a indicative of what is wrong with the whole system of education in the nation now …

bert

March 14th, 2011
12:08 pm

k teacher: The Japanese are dealing with students who have high anxiety problems, and the Chinese are dealing with violence in their schools. I find it absolutley amazing how focused we are on the problems. The cool thing about this country is that we believe in teaching everyone. Kids here are not tracked into careers from first grade. If the plan here is to constantly teach the masses, we will constantly deal with these issues. The reason we teach things like, touch/don’t touch, appropriate behavior, Civil Rights, Black History Month, and Hispanic History month, social skills etc, is because we have failed as adults in this country…ALL OF US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Me generation of the 1980s has produced, this generation of over-believers and under-achievers. So until WE step up collectively, we will contiue to blame each other.