UPDATE | AUGUST 27, 2014
On Tuesday, August 26th, according to a school-wide email, the Twin Falls Middle School Administration temporarily disabled the school’s online schedule as they “review math placements”
Twin Falls says parents will receive email notification when the online system is back up so that parents can review their child’s classes. Additionally, Twin Falls students will receive new schedules on the first day of school, Wednesday, September 3rd. The school apologized for any confusion caused.
Do you know what math path your child is on?
Two Snoqualmie 7th families thought they did, but were surprised to learn [last week] that the district changed course and set their kids’ math education back two years; this after the students received A’s in 6th grade math and as new state statutes require parental notification and consent for education pathway changes.
Common sense points to an A in pre-algebra moving a student to algebra, right? Not so fast – and possibly not this year for many Snoqualmie Valley students.
An important education decision is being made for students by the district (with little parent notification) in the name of common core – a decision with critical, future education impacts for high school and beyond.
Becoming Informed: Algebra by 8th Grade Creates More Opportunities
Taking algebra in middle school is a path toward having high level math options available in high school. Algebra by 8th grade makes high school calculus an option.
Eight years ago, with my oldest child, I was clueless about math paths. No one told me how they worked. I knew my daughter was good at math. She took algebra in 8th grade. I did not know then that her math journey was a Snoqualmie Valley Schools accelerated math pathway. Ditto that scenario for my second child.
When my third child neared middle school, I began wondering why he wouldn’t take algebra until high school. Answer? Because he was on the district’s standard math path when I assumed his sisters’ paths were the norm. I dropped the ball. The school didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask.
But things began to change. In 2011, our school district improved communication about middle school math. Math pathways were widely communicated and parents began understanding.
My youngest child’s elementary school math curriculum got a boost, and by the time she hit 6th grade she was placed in pre-algebra and performed well all year. She was on a path toward high level high school math options – if she wanted them.
Last week, though, that changed when we got her 7th grade schedule. Her math pathway was reset without us knowing and consenting.
The option to take high school calculus was wiped away. Will she even want to take calculus five years from now? Who knows, but choices are good – especially in a math and science driven economy.
Math Pathway Reset Can Reduce Options | Pay attention to Math Changes in 2014-15
Have you learned your child’s new middle school math pathway yet?
It’s time to look at that new schedule and take note of those new math course titles that are launching across the state as part of common core.
Why? Because that new 6th or 7th grade math class will determine students’ future high school math choices – and possibly impact future college applications.
It all starts now – whether parents are ready or not. Right now the school district is deciding part of your child’s education future. Parents have a say.
What’s common core?
This year might be a confusing one for Snoqualmie Valley parents as school districts hit a math curriculum “reset” button and begin using common core state standards.
Basically, common core is a shift in curriculum standards to align all districts to the same, high teaching. Why? Essentially to level the playing field and to ensure more kids are college and career ready. So if you change school districts (within the state or nationwide), your child will have access to the same teaching and standards.
According to SVSD, the shift to Common Core Math State Standards (CCSS) includes:
- Greater focus on fewer topics:
This means a year of changing and renaming Snoqualmie Valley middle school math pathways – pathways that were just created and clarified to parents three years ago.
It’s kind of a big deal, so parents listen up.
For current middle schoolers, these important pathways determine their math options throughout high school. Future high school math opportunities are a direct result of a decision being made today by the district on behalf of students – a decision that can even impact future college applications.
The Snoqualmie Valley School District is not using an “informed, self-select” registration process for middle school math pathways like in neighboring Issaquah School District. Current SVSD 7th and 8th grade students took placement tests last year, which determined their new common core math pathways.
My 7th grader, after completing and receiving an A- in 6th grade Pre-Algebra, had her math pathway ‘reset’ to this new system and was placed into Math 7 – lowering her math path TWO levels (i.e. years) and wiping away the natural progression and option to reach calculus during high school. The same thing happened to her close friend.
Pay attention. Planning now, asking questions now, and having all the information now is easier than playing catch up when 9th grade orientation happens.
NEW Common Core Math Paths
According to a SVSD letter from March, one which many parents say they did not receive, new common core math pathways look like this:
Here is a math pathway explanation from the Issaquah School District:
6th/7th Grade Math Critical Decision Point
As illustrated in both slides, math pathways established in 7th grade determine different course options though high school – and the ability to reach calculus.
In the case of my own child, her path was drastically changed this year, altering her future math options and reducing them from the prior year’s math pathway. [We are trying to rectify the situation.]
Now, will she want to take high school calculus? I don’t know. What I do know is that she performed well in 6th grade Pre-Algebra. She’s 12. It’s about keeping her future options open. We won’t know her math aspirations until she hits high school, but let’s not close the door yet – or make it hard to push that door back open.
Calculus and College Admissions
Many students may decide not to take high school calculus, but the above slides illustrate possible math class options – not the requirement to take all of the courses listed. This is about options – not requirements.
Will students need calculus to get into college? Many counselors say probably not and then in the same breath say, “but it doesn’t hurt.” Plenty of colleges don’t require calculus for admission. But what if a current 7th grader, by the time they reach high school, sets their sights on a college that is competitive? It might become a game changer.
The University of Washington Admissions Office said last year that about 90% of its students took pre-calculus in high school and 57% of students admitted took calculus in high school. The University of Washington is considered a mid-range competitive college, with 54% of students applying being admitted.
Washington State University admitted 76% of applicants in 2012. Western Washington University admitted 84% of applicants in 2013. More competitive schools like NYU admit 32% of applicants and UCLA admits 22%, according to 2013 stats.
Once again, it’s about future options that a middle math pathway can provide.
Doors Open – Not Closed or Hard to Re-Open
Math doors should remain open as long as students are performing well, mastering concepts and completing curriculum.
Simple placements tests can’t possibly tell the whole story when it comes to middle school students. A full picture is needed and parents should be informed, consulted and taken along for the ride with their child’s school – as part of a group effort.
Gatekeeping or additional opportunities with support? Math isn’t always easy, but neither is life. Sometimes it takes hard work and lots of support. Should we only ask kids to take classes that are easy or not too difficult for them? Parents need to weigh in and decide.
Getting the Information
Ask your child what math class they were in last year and compare it to this year’s new pathways. To find out more about the method used for your child’s math pathway placement, including placement test scores, or to discuss a class change, contact the counseling offices at Chief Kanim and Twin Falls Middle Schools.