I wanted to post an update to my first post about acceleration in middle school. My son is in 7th grade math this year and I thought it was important to share his progress.
I am using his test results below to demonstrate two points regarding some misinformation and in an attempt to debunk the myths that tend to get hurled by those who believe in back to basics (procedural, wrote, calculation) math.
Myth #1: Inquiry based math will not meet the needs of students who are on or above grade level.
Myth #2: Students who score on or above grade level should have access to an accelerated pathway to get the challenge they need to make growth in mathematics.
Before looking at his assessment results, here are a few facts about this year:
- Our middle school students lost a quarter of learning last year, spent more than a quarter of this school year only attending classes 2 days a week, and the other part of this year attending 4 days and 1 virtual day (his virtual day he attends a choice program).
- My son’s teacher is using Illustrative Mathematics (via the Desmos curriculum platform).
- His teacher uses the 8 Math Practices and the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Discourse to purposefully look at, discuss, and connect student strategies.
This is his assessment from the beginning of the year. According to this report, to meet typical growth of a student at his level, he should grow by 11 points on this assessment by the end of they year.
These are his middle of the year assessment results (after 1 quarter of 2 days of instruction and 1 quarter of 4):
What do you notice? What do you wonder?
Hopefully you noticed a few of things:
- The curriculum is not holding him back.
- The course pathway is not holding him back.
- His teacher is not holding him back.
- In fact, the opposite is true. He is being challenged and he STILL LOVES MATH!
He met the criteria to be placed in 8th Grade Algebra next year (at the beginning of this year – see a problem here?). An email went out and I promptly responded asking that he be placed in 8th grade math next year. Why? Because I believe that 8th grade math is the foundation on which Algebra 1 and Geometry are built and I want him to enter high school equipped to succeed in both of these gateway courses. AND because I trust educational research done by experts in their fields. And the research is clear; There is no place for accelerated math pathways in middle school.
Some common arguments (and my responses) for keeping accelerated pathways are:
- My child scored advanced on the state assessment/my child is gifted/my child is special.
- Great! Let’s keep that going by providing them a strong foundation for future math success.
- If they love math and want extra opportunities, have them join a math club or explore http://www.brilliant.org (awesomely fun math)!
- I want my student to graduate with Honors.
- Maybe the current honors system is set up to disadvantage the many and needs to undergo change.
- If the system cannot or will not be changed, I suggest opt in honors – let kids decide if they want to take honors courses and agree to additional or modified requirements. (This keeps the classrooms diverse and allows students a stake in their educational decisions while still offering the opportunity for honors credit).
- My child has to take Algebra I in middle school in order to take Calculus in college.
- Do they? Do they really? Have you talked to the colleges that your child (is planning to attend 5-6 years from now) and do they require Calculus? What must your child demonstrate in order to be placed beyond Calculus in college (MANY students end up having to retake Calculus in college even though they took it in high school). This is sometimes determined by ACT/SAT score or entrance exam.
- And also, is Calculus the course your child should take in high school or are they entering a career that would be better supported by Statistics?
- And also also, there are ways to take Calculus without being accelerated in middle school. That road is still open to my son (if he chooses that is the course that will set him up for success in college).
If you find yourself wondering if your child should take Calculus in high school, I encourage you to read these articles.
The most common argument for taking Calculus in high school is that students need it to get into great colleges. I decided to see if that was true, since I had just attended a lecture from Stanford professor, Jo Boaler, who mentioned Stanford does not require it and that colleges would rather have students take Statistics their senior year. Here is a table I created after looking at the websites of each of these universities and their math requirements:
If you want to learn more about the research from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, check out these articles and books:
- NCTM Catalyzing Change One Pager
- NCTM: Catalyzing Change
- NCTM: Principles to Actions
- NCTM: The 5 Practices
- NCTM: Work to End Tracking
- NCSM Position Statement on DeTracking
(2/21) UPDATE!!! Kate Nowak shared this resource in which IM synthesizes the research above and suggests some additional action steps for districts. https://www.illustrativemathematics.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-05-07-FINAL-Guidance-for-accelerating-students-in-mathematics.pdf