Monday, March 10, 2014
Letter to BOE addressing Math Acceleration for All: "D181 should be learning from these huge mistakes made by these school districts, not recreating them."
Readers: This morning D181 Parents Amy and Dave Alex gave us permission to publish a letter they sent to the BOE over the weekend as a free standing post. After they submitted it as a comment, we requested their permission to do so because we are grateful that they took the time to read beyond Dr. Moon's follow up report, review research on other districts she cited in her report and contact the board explaining the flaws with D181's Learning for All Plan that were exposed as a result. Mr. and Mrs. Alex have asked us to emphasize the following: "Let us [Mr. and Mrs. Alex] caution readers that we are not advocating to adopt Montgomery County or Fairfax County's curriculum."
Letter to the BOE from the Alex's: (You can click on each link cited to open up the research they reference. Note: For emphasis, we have added highlights to some of their conclusions.)
"Dear Board Members,
My husband and I spent some time Saturday morning reviewing Dr. Moon’s follow-up report. We wanted to address one aspect of the report and then share some information that we have uncovered doing our own research that pertains to Learning For All.
Dr. Moon sited Thomas Jefferson Magnet School of Science and Technology located in Fairfax County VA, Fairfax County Public School District, as support for all students in D181 enrolling in 8th grade Algebra 1.
“The District moved to commit to having Algebra I as an 8th grade offering for all students. This decision was made as a result of extensive reading into the research literature. This decision does not come without its opponents as well as proponents. However, many of the top high schools in the country require that 8th graders complete Algebra I prior to admission (e.g., Thomas Jefferson Magnet School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, U.S. News & World Report, 2013, #4 ranking).” (Source: Dr. Moon's follow up report, p.5, http://www.d181.org/data/files/gallery/ContentGallery/D181_Final_Followup_Report.pdf)
Here is some information on the highly selective admissions process for Thomas Jefferson Magnet School for Science and Technology High School.
-Attendance is based on an admissions test which consists of a standardized mathematics and reasoning test along with two essay questions, prior academic achievement, recommendations and essays.
-Students must be enrolled in Algebra 1 or a higher math course in order to apply (as Dr Moon stated).
-Using a sliding scale, the math and reasoning test score is combined with the student's middle-school GPA to form an overall, objective ranking; the admissions office designates the top scorers as semifinalists, a group generally about three times as large as the planned freshman class. The semifinalists submit further information, including teacher recommendations, awards, previous experience in science, mathematics, and technology, and several personal statements. Two selection panels review this information, along with the student essays written during the admission test, and select the next year's freshman class.
Hinsdale Central is a very good high school, but Thomas Jefferson High School is in an entirely different league. This is an apples to oranges comparison and not relevant to this district.
In researching Thomas Jefferson Magnet School, we discovered information that indeed pertains to Learning For All about two school districts in similar socio-economical areas such as District 181. Fairfax County is ranked 3rd for median household income in the country. Montgomery County is ranked 11th.
The Fairfax County Public School’s curriculum used to look very similar to Learning For All. They cherry picked concepts/skimmed the surface/skipped concepts to accelerate, which created achievement gaps for students. So in order to close the gaps, they instituted a modified version of that curriculum, which was implemented in 2011-12 school year. This link is an audio/powerpoint explanation:
This is a link to the current curriculum:
http://www.fcps.edu/is/math/elementary/documents/EMISCHARTfinal.pdfMajor issues with math acceleration have plagued the Fairfax County Public School system since at least 2008, but in order for students to be better prepared for higher level mathematics, the district has made changes to the curriculum that are in the best interest of its students.
In addition to Fairfax County Public School System’s acceleration woe’s, Montgomery County Public School District, has also experienced a similar fate. In a Washington Post article (not a blog, not a community newspaper, but The Post) dated Nov 5, 2010, it was reported that Montgomery County Admits Kids Were Pushed Too Hard In Math. This district implemented a program very similar to Learning For All and it failed. We highly encourage you to read this article and the comments afterward.
We believe that we can speak for parents in that we stand corrected. Whole grade acceleration has been attempted in other school districts. Montgomery County Public Schools admitted failure. Both, Montgomery County and Fairfax County Public School districts, have made changes to their curriculum so that they are more aligned with the Common Core State Standards. They offer grade level math and acceleration tiers when students are identified as ready for those opportunities. D181 should be learning from these huge mistakes made by these school districts, not recreating them.
The article from the Washington Post was dated almost four years ago. District 181 is behind the eight ball. It has been almost two years and we are still trying to make Learning For All in its current form work, when we have known for a long time that it does not. We are still trying to do something that has been proven unsuccessful in other districts. We are continuing to beat our heads against a locked door thinking that this will make it open. Learn from other district’s mistakes. No program is going to be perfect, but Learning For All is a disaster. Please do what should have been done long ago. Put a stop to this program.
Amy and Dave Alex"
Posted by The Parents at 8:32 AM