Sunday, June 9, 2013

2012-2013 Year in Review: Middle School Math -- Math Tracks and this year's Rapid Acceleration Model

In the Spring 2011, the Board of Education approved a transition plan -- implemented immediately -- that allowed more students to accelerate in math.  The goal was for more students to complete Algebra by the end of 8th grade and enter high school taking Geometry or Honors Geometry. The next 3 posts will discuss the roll out, pros and cons of this acceleration plan.

Pre-Transition Year Math Tracks:

Prior to the transition plan, incoming 6th graders were tested in 5th grade for placement into either Standard (grade level), Advanced (one year acceleration) or Accelerated (two years acceleration) math.  8th grade standard math students took pre-algebra and entered high school taking Algebra.  Students completing 8th grade Advanced Math had taken pre-algebra in 6th grade,  the first half of the high school Algebra course in 7th grade and the second half in 8th grade.  They entered high school taking Geometry or Honors Geometry.  Students completing 8th grade Accelerated Math had taken pre-algebra in 6th grade, the full year of high school Algebra in 7th grade, and the full year of high school Geometry in 8th grade.  They entered high school taking either Algebra 2 Trigonometry, Algebra 2 Trigonometry Honors, or Honors Integrated Algebra/Geometry (an honors level class that reviews algebra and geometry concepts and delves more deeply into those topics).

Parent Concerns About the Math Tracks:

There had been many concerns raised by parents that the placement exams given to 5th graders were not identifying enough students for the advanced or accelerated math classes in middle school.  It then became very difficult -- in fact, almost impossible -- for students to be moved from a lower to a higher level in math, because the "promotion" rubrics created by the administration required an almost perfect math performance in the lower level, along with very high Math MAP RIT scores.  After Dr. Moon completed her evaluation of the district's programs, she concluded that more students could and probably should be accelerated, or at least given an opportunity to try the higher math levels.

Rapid Acceleration Transition Plan:

As a result, last spring students who were in 7th grade Standard math, and who believed they could successfully complete algebra in 8th grade, were given the opportunity to:

1.  take a crash course in pre-algebra during the last few weeks of school OR
2.  take a pre-algebra summer school course OR
3.  simply place high enough on an algebra readiness test taken before 8th grade started.

Those students were then enrolled in a one year algebra course created specifically for them.  They were actually taught at a more accelerated rate than the advanced math students.  Advanced students had taken the first half of the algebra course in 7th grade and would take the second half in 8th grade, thus covering 1/2 of the algebra course in the same time frame the standard math students who'd elected to accelerate would have to complete the full algebra course.

Was this rapid acceleration successful?  The next post will address this question.

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