Among the many comments to me about math is this detailed note from a teacher alarmed over the amount of misinformation in this discussion.
He criticizes me and other AJC writers and protesting parents for failing to understand that the standards in Georgia’s math program form the basis of the new Common Core standards and they are not going away, not matter what we call the courses.
I appreciate two elements of his comment. He did his due diligence and he makes it accessible:
I have taught math in high school and college. I have taught methods classes and supervised student teachers as a college supervisor and as a classroom teacher. I have been an assistant principal and principal. Dozens of people have visited my classroom to observe my teaching.
The recent reporting done by the AJC on the “return” to traditional math in the state of Georgia is filled with inaccuracies and partial truths. In short, you and other AJC article writers are killing those of us that are in this to teach math every day. Instead of quoting people who clearly do not know what they are talking about, I would ask you to dig into the story and find out what is really going on.
If you and other AJC article writers persist in telling every one that schools in Georgia can “return” to Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, we are going to have so many problems with parents so that neither pathway of teaching will work. In an attempt to be helpful, I will give you a few hints from the inside so you can have the opportunity to right the ship.
There is no possibility of “return” to traditional math. Please read Mr. Barge’s statement very carefully. He said that school will have the option to use a traditional pathway or an integrated pathway to teach mathematics to maintain the rigor of the current GPS and upcoming Common Core standards. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THE STANDARDS FOR THE TRADITIONAL PATHWAY OR THE INTEGRATED PATHWAY. The content is the same that we have now for Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3.
In fact, several people on the precision review team looked at the GPS and the Common Core and found that the only difference between the traditional pathway and the integrated pathway was that two algebra units from Math 2 would move to the 9th grade class, and two geometry units from Math 1 would move to the 10th grade class.
In other words about 80 percent of the content is the SAME. In either the integrated pathway or the traditional pathway, statistics is still INTEGRATED into each of the classes for the first three years of high school. THE ALGEBRA 1, GEOMETRY, AND ALGEBRA 2 CLASSES ARE NOT THE CLASSES THAT YOU AND I TOOK.
What has happened is that MANY people, obviously including the parent’s group that is quoted in every article about the “return” to traditional math, have only read the titles of the classes in the Common Core. If people would actually READ the Common Core curriculum, they would find out that there is almost NO DIFFERENCE between the current GPS and the Common Core high school standards. THEY HEAVILY USED THE CURRENT GEORGIA GPS TO WRITE THE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL MATH COMMON CORE.
What Mr. Barge is offering is the possibility of calling the COMMON CORE classes Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3, or Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. Again, the only difference is the interchange of two units in the first two courses. There is almost no difference between the current Math 3 and Algebra 2 as set in the Common Core. I am sure you are beginning to see the same thing that the non-political teachers are seeing across the state.
Saying that we are “fixing” the problems everyone is complaining about by moving to “traditional” math is disingenuous and will lead to an even higher level of discontent. I can only imagine the reaction of the parents group when they find out that there kids still have the same “hard” problems to work, but they are just in a slightly different order. We were told that there is no wiggle room with the Common Core curriculum.
Since Georgia has already agreed to join the other 44 states in the Common Core, we must do ALL OF THE CURRICULUM AT THE INTENDED GRADE LEVEL. Since Common Core is embedded with RTTT, no one can opt out of any part of the curriculum. Future standardized assessments will be matched to AYP and RTTT money.
Have you ever asked anyone from the parents group if they have actually read the curriculum for Math 1, 2, 3 or the Common Core Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2? We have a couple of locals in that group, and I assure you, they have not read anything but the titles of the courses. I would also encourage you to read the curriculum. Titles and descriptions mean nothing.
The actual problems with Math 1, 2, 3, other than the terrible implementation, of course, are twofold. One, there is too much content in each class to successfully master in one year, especially in the Accelerated classes. Two, each class requires mastery of 100% of the material from 100% of the content of each previous class. As you can see, problem 1 and problem 2 create a “catch-22″ situation for every teacher in the state.
Now, here is the catch…….BOTH OF THESE PROBLEMS WILL STILL BE IN PLACE WITH EITHER THE TRADITIONAL OR INTEGRATED PATHWAYS OF THE COMMON CORE. And, actually, the Common Core has even more content in most of the classes. Anyone who thinks that a traditional pathway for the SAME material will solve the problems being felt across the state is seriously misinformed or very inexperienced. Plus, it is still one size fits all. ALL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WILL BE ON THE SAME CURRICULUM FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST THREE HIGH SCHOOL COURSES.
There will still be little in the way of materials for the classes called Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, at least for next year. Many have told me that they were planning to pass out the old books they had in storage. A book called Algebra 1 will not be a good fit for the class called Algebra 1 in the Common Core. Ditto, Geometry and Algebra 2. Many schools around here are opting to continue with Math 1, 2, 3 for the next school year for that reason.
None of us want to have to scrape for materials in yet another configuration. I assume there will be materials available the fall of 2012, but there is a possibility that the publishers will not be ready by then. Besides, no one has extra money to get more math materials.
I began teaching algebra 1 and 2 in 1980. I am amused at the comments of the detractors of integrated math about the way the curriculum jumps around, there is not enough time to fully learn anything, the problems are too hard, etc. I have heard all of those same comments about algebra 1, algebra 2, and geometry classes as configured in what is obviously now seen as the “good old days.” I have taught thousands of students, and I have yet to have a student fail a class that always gave me his/her best effort. Most of the time complainers are the ones that do not put out, but they want the ultimate reward for actually little or no effort.
I could care less whether we have traditional or integrated curriculum. I can make either work. I think the “compromise” is a bad one. The very real problem of transfer in and out will only become worse if everyone can choose. I think the state should go one way or the other and stick to it. Regardless, I plan to teach math.
I hope I have given you enough background to successfully find the story and report what is going on accurately. I am confident you will find out that I am correct, but be forewarned that not many people are versed at all in the true curriculum of the Common Core, and in fact, the final version is yet to be released. I took an entire day to actually read all of the standards in the Common Core for Math 1-3 and for Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.
By the way, Brad Findell was correct in his assessment of the EOCTs in Algebra 1, Geometry, Math 1, and Math 2. We have found the same thing true in our school. Our Math 1 scores are far better that our old Algebra 1 scores. The test for Math 1 is far more difficult than the Algebra 1 test. And the test for Math 2 is even beyond that. In fact, those tests and the new GHSGT are basically the same as the teacher certification test. I know that the detractors do not want to go there, but facts are facts.
Thanks for “listening” to me. I am passionate about teaching high school math, and I am very tired of all of the distractions of the past three years and of the distractions to come. Accurate reporting by the AJC will help, I believe.
–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog