As a math teacher told us earlier this week on the blog, Georgia is moving away from its experiment with integrated math in its adoption of the Common Core state standards.
What’s interesting to me is that the reasons cited in the AJC story today echo the initial objections to the switch by many parents — that Georgia was out of step with other states in its math program and that led to problems with transfers and even with college applications.
And, of course, there were those spikes in failure rates in some districts. Yet, other systems reported good results from teaching math in a more integrated fashion.
Could it be that the main problem with the math switch was that teachers were not trained? There are folks at DOE who have told me that the money was not there for the depth of training that was necessary and that the rollout was undermined as a result.
In his post, the math teacher stressed that the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards is not Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 of days gone by. Statistics content is integrated into every CCGPS high school math class. So, parents will not be seeing a return to the math that they took in high school.
As he noted, “The use of the terminology ‘Analytic Geometry’ should clearly indicate that the content of the second course is not the traditional ‘Euclidian Geometry,’ which is now largely taught in 8th grade. Analytic Geometry used to be taught in the second half of the traditional Algebra 2..”
State School Superintendent John Barge said a majority of the other Common Core states are planning next year to offer discrete math, a more traditional approach that largely focuses on a single discipline, such as algebra or geometry. It only makes sense that Georgia would do the same, he said.
“If we are not going to be in step with the rest of the country, why did we adopt the Common Core?” Barge said.
He stopped short of saying local school systems must switch to the more traditional method of teaching math. But he said school systems that continue with integrated math could find that “risky,” once states start testing on the Common Core.
Officials in several school districts — including Gwinnett and Cobb — said they’re already planning to teach traditional math in next year’s change-up to the Common Core, with a curriculum and, eventually, testing that’s similar across the states and allows for state-to-state comparisons.
Doug Goodwin, spokesman for Cobb County Schools, said Wednesday a recommendation will go before the local school board to move from a mix of integrated and traditional classes to strictly the traditional next year.
Gwinnett is preparing its teachers for a move in that direction, as well, said Dale Robbins, associate superintendent for teaching and learning.
“We want to teach our kids in the same way they will be assessed so they have a good opportunity to demonstrate proficiency at the end of their course experience,” Robbins said Wednesday.
Gwinnett, the state’s largest school system, stuck this year with integrated math, which was rolled out to the state’s ninth-graders in the 2008-2009 school year.
“We thought if we transitioned this past year in one direction, then transitioned with the Common Core, it might confuse our folks in a way that was unnecessary,” Robbins said.
Barge’s predecessor, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox, advocated the move to integrated math after years of criticism that the state’s math curriculum was too weak. Some school systems have said they spent millions on textbooks and training.
But there were persistent complaints that teachers were not adequately trained and students were struggling. Some parents said they were forced to hire private tutors for their children.
By early this year, Barge said integrated math was threatening on-time graduation for thousands of students. He proposed alternative courses to help struggling students get back on track and persuaded the state Board of Education to give school systems the choice of integrated math, the more traditional math or a combination of both.
Tom Ottinger, executive director of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, called the move away from integrated math disappointing.
“They are abandoning something midstream that seems to be improving student performance,” Ottinger said. “It shows promise, but we haven’t had time to get definitive results.”
Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter said he was no fan of integrated math and welcomes the change.
“What is really frustrating is that we have spent tremendous resources to train teachers, spent substantial time in pulling additional resources to align with the integrated curriculum, and, subsequently, asked students to perform at high levels while the curriculum has been in flux,” he said. “Now, we begin the process over again.”
Susan Andrews, school superintendent in Muscogee County, said many students did well with the integrated approach. “But it was difficult to communicate to parents and out-of-state universities and hard on students moving in and out of state.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog