Snoqualmie Valley School District Math Curriculum – Time For A Boost?

We’ve attended Snoqualmie Valley Schools for 10 years now.  All four of my children do well in math, but it’s always seemed a little easier for the two eldest.  Admittedly, early in elementary school, I was not overly involved in their school work.   They thrived, performed well and didn’t need my help.  I was more of a manager than a tutor.

My oldest kids were drilled hard on their math facts during those early elementary school years.  Rote memorization was big with their first grade teacher.  They studied math flashcards each night and took constant speed tests.   Something changed by the time my 3rd child started school, though.  He wasn’t memorizing math facts as much as he was working to show how he got his answer.   He didn’t get credit for “just knowing” the answer – something memorization promotes.  He had to show his steps to receive full homework credit.  I know the importance of understanding how to solve a mathematical problem, but rote memorization is also an important tool to finding the answer.

By the time my son was in 4th grade, notes came home from his teacher.  She realized many students hadn’t memorized their math facts.  She wanted parental help if our kids were “math fact deficient.”  When problems arise, teachers and schools work to solve them.  The school made changes.  Those changes are evident in my youngest child, now a 4th grader.  Math fact memorization was brought center stage again in her second grade year.

Last year, 100% of SVSD 8th graders who took algebra passed the End of Course Exam.  This is fantastic news.  We even outperformed neighboring school districts.  In Issaquah and Bellevue, about 81% and 87% passed the exam.  If you look deeper, though, you find a statistic that’s difficult to ignore.  Only 37% of SVSD 8th graders took algebra, as it is a middle school advanced (“year ahead”) course.  In Issaquah and Bellevue School Districts, nearly all 8th graders took algebra or geometry, as algebra is part of the standard middle school math curriculum.  Their exam results are reflective of a broad range of 8th graders.  SVSD results are only reflective of advanced program students.  That means this year over 80% of Bellevue and Issaquah’s high school freshmen were ready for higher than algebra math, versus 37% in our district.  It’s a glaring statistic.

College admission is very competitive today, especially at elite universities.  I want every opportunity available to my children, no matter what post-high school path they choose.  My 9th and 11th grader’s 8th grade algebra course puts them on track to take calculus their senior year.   Calculus could seal admission to their dream college.   But what about other kids?  Shouldn’t we offer them that same track, one that takes “advanced” out of the title and has all 8th graders taking algebra?  Especially if that track promotes more choices after high school?  Changing any curriculum is challenging.  It might take a few years to see results.  But the goal is to create the same opportunities for all students, right?

Kids respond to expectations.  Can we adjust our math curriculum so the standard is 8th grade algebra?  Can we stop grouping and labeling our kids with a math placement test and use one math curriculum for all middle school students?  Point them toward the same goal?  They may not all perform the same, but teach them the same regardless.

Math and science, math and science – constant news coverage says these are the jobs of the future.  Let’s give kids the path and the tools to succeed in that future.  If Issaquah and Bellevue can do it, I know we can.  I see signs change is happening.  Just this year two SVSD middle schools added  additional 8th grade algebra classes.  Let’s continue building on this.

Comments

  1. Wendy Mariani says

    Thanks for writing about this topic, I recently learned about our math curriculum and the “track” that your child is put on as early as 6th grade. Had I known I would have pushed for my now 9th grader to be in in the Algebra classin 8th. She could have totally handled it. My daughter is college bound, and we knew that in 6th grade. If I had known we need to “start” watching our kids math class placement so early I would have done things differently. As a result, my daughter will not get calculus in high school unless we take summer school or two math classes in one year. Bummer . . . this could have been easiely avoided if we had more information in middle school.

    • Agreed, Wendy. Last year’s 8th grade class had many kids who could have handled algebra. I think the schools are learning and adding more 8th grade algebra. It’s just too bad the change didn’t happen last year. In Bellevue, they all start 6th grade math equal. They identify kids who need help and adjust for them, but there is no grouping. My 7th grade son is now labeled “average” in math. His teacher even told his class this. They are average, normal. The other two classes are her advanced classes. He doesn’t want to be just average so it bothers him. Of course, this is his interpretation and his teacher’s could easily be different. But regardless, the labeling is there and the kids feel it.

  2. Heather Kern says

    Hi all. Just a quick chime-in as a member of the community with some insight into the school’s side. There is much I could say on the topic but think this isn’t the best format for a long dialogue. However, here are a few points that I see from a different angle. One- it simply isn’t true that high school grads need to have Calculus in order to get into their dream college. From what I understand, there are a ‘few’ select schools that recommend Calculus. In fact, one of our recent grads applied for and got into Whitman’s math program (highly selective) and she was the only one of six accepted who had already taken Calculus. Two- we recently received a spreadsheet of data reporting local districts’ performance on the Algebra End of Course exam, which is referenced in the original post. This spreadsheet shows that only 25% of Issaquah S.D. and 28% of Bellevue S.D. were enrolled in Algebra, with an 82% pass rate. We are not sure where the ‘nearly all’ 8th graders are enrolled in Algebra is coming from as our data shows only 25%. This is a much more complicated issue than can be presented here. I’m hopeful that we, as a district, will have further opportunities to discuss and educate the community on this topic.

    • Hi Heather. The “nearly all” stat comes from OSPI website and extensive research done by a group of parents. They have been meeting with district officials on this topic. One of the parents attended school in the Bellevue School District last year. These statistics were presented to Mr. McConkey who, to the best of my knowledge, never disputed them. I appreciate your take on the calculus requirement. I, too, know they may not need to take it. My only point was that it could provide the needed edge for opening more doors at highly competitive colleges. Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate the information. I have asked the parent group that compiled the stats to also provide a comment.

    • Liz Piekarczyk says

      Absolutely right, Heather. I have three kids who graduated from Mount Si, none of whom had Calculus. It wasn’t an issue. My fourth won’t have it either, but she will have 7 honors classes and at least 5 AP classes. She doesn’t like Math and won’t be in a math-related profession. Not everyone wants or needs to be on the advanced math track, and being on that track precludes advanced classes in other subjects to some extent–there are only so many AP and honors classes a student can take at one time.

      Let’s not jump over the cliff with the rest of the lemmings. SVSD is taking a research-based approach to this, as they do with everything. We’re moving to where we need to be, and there’s not really a good reason to rush at this point. If your child needs to be in advanced math, then you should make that case to the school. In any event, they can double up on Algebra and Geometry at the high school and still get to Calculus.

      • Hi Liz,
        I agree with you on some points and also do not think that Calculus is necesssarily required for the majority of colleges. However, there are some that are considering or do require it. Others look at it as a way to separate students out of the pack–especially when the applicant pool for colleges and universities is growing increasingly large.
        I, too, believe parents should advocate for their kids and, if they feel their child is “in the bubble” between a regular math track and an advanced math track, they should have the opportunity to make a case to have their child moved. They should also make sure it is something their child wants to do. Unfortunately, it is a difficult thing to do, considering the number of such classes is limited, and the likelihood of more classes being added is sometimes slight.
        I don’t view myself as jumping over the cliff here, as I think I have been honest and have indicated that I have a child who is “in the bubble.” That said, I would definitely like to see our district be more in line with the math programs of our neighboring districts. At a minimum, it would broaden the learning experience of many kids; provide some kids with a greater challenge, and also stop some individuals from moving their children to outside schools in order to have such opportunties.
        I am glad to have this blog for such discussions. I think it is great to have a place to discuss issues like this.

  3. Heather Kern says

    Yeah, that’s why I’m confused. The data I reported is directly from OSPI as well. I’d like to figure out why the different stats…will do more research. I’m aware of the parent research and the meetings with district officials…have been highly involved with it. I support the idea of further discussions on this topic but am concerned about creating stress and pressure unnecessarily or based on inaccurate info. As I said before, this is a complicated issue that I cannot begin to address here, but I do ask that our community slow down and trust us, as professional educators, to address the issue.

  4. The OSPI stats seem pretty clear. Bellevue tested 72.5% of their 8th graders in Algebra and 20.8% of their 8th graders in Geometry (that group must have taken Algebra in 7th grade). They also tested 25.5% of their 7th graders in Algebra. Issaquah tested 89.7% of their 8th graders and 25.4% of their 7th graders in Algebra and they tested19.2% of their 8th graders in Geometry. Snoqualmie Valley tested 37.4% of their 8th graders and only1 7th grade student in Algebra and only 1 8th grade student in Geometry.

    When students take Algebra in middle school, they are able to have access to more advanced math and science coursework in high school. I think that if the SVSD made Algebra a standard curriculum for middle school, the district would have the ability to offer not just Calculus but other advanced math courses like Statistics and AP Statistics in high school.

    The benefits of middle school algebra are not just for those students looking for more challenge, but also for those who struggle. Another advantage for students to learn Algebra in middle school is that they have the opportunity to ensure that they “master” it before high school, possibly even taking two years to learn it in middle school. I have known several students who failed Algebra as freshman at Mount Si. These students had significant difficulty recovering their math education after that first semester failure. Middle school education of Algebra could provide less of a “high stakes” learning experience for SVSD students and would allow for more advanced and interesting coursework during high school.

  5. Amy Pangborn says

    I think the one thing I’m taking away from this thread is that we are ALL concerned/involved and this is a GOOD thing.Is the confusion just a different interpretation of OSPI’s data? Let’s continue to evaluate.

    As a parent of two children in the SVSD, AND an employee of the school district I am hopeful that we will continue to see this concern and involvement come from all sides. I know we are all doing good things to help our kids glean the best they can from their public education here in the valley.

    At the very least I thank everyone for spending so much time and energy in analyzing this. This forum is a great catalyst and I hope to continue to see productive conversations here.

  6. The OSPI data is easily available at http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ and is state provided data by district. You can easily delve into some of the detail provided (just play with it and you will see the wealth of information there). Maybe Heather is providing the total population of Algebra test takers over the total enrollment of the district. In that case, Bellevue tested 18.7%, Issaquah tested 17.3%, and SVSD tested 11.8% of their total enrollment. When you look at the total Washington state statistics, 15.2% of all students took the Algebra exam. Without regard to when SVSD students are taking Algebra, it seems like the percentage of total students who take the test is low in comparison to neighboring districts and the total state.

    Also, in total (regardless of the timing of the taking of the Algebra class and regardless of the size of the test taker group), 88.6% of Bellevue test takers passed Algebra, Issaquah had 86.2% passage, and SVSD had 73.3% passage.

  7. Laurie Gibbs says

    I, also, thank you for this discussion. For some time, I have wondered about the different placement levels of kids in middle school math classes. Like Wendy, I have a daughter who is in 8th grade pre-algebra. Although she is considered on track and at grade level by SVSd standarsd, it is very hard to get your child moved to a higher level class when they have been on this track since the start of middle school. Had I known what I know now, I would have pushed harder to have moved her to pre-algebra in 7th grade. Unfortunately, it is too late to move her now, seeing that a month of school has already lapsed. I did, however, try!

    This discussion seems to beg the question of how high our standards are in comparison to other, neighboring districts. If, in fact, Bellevue and Issaquah require Algebra in middle school, why don’t we? Are our kids different in some way that I am unaware of? I would be curious to know what the national standard is for algebra in middle school. Does anyone know how many states make it a requirement? Our kids will be competing with not just WA state kids when they graduate. They will be competing for college placement with kids from across the nation. I would like to know whether the playing field is even or whether I should be looking toward online classes or summer school in the future.

    • Thanks to everyone for their passion and taking the time to be involved in this important conversation. I believe the stats cited in the story are accurate. Bellevue’s 8th graders for example: 932 took algebra test. 268 took geometry test. Total of 1200 taking algebra or geometry tests. There were 1295 8th graders enrolled. 93% took test – so nearly all 8th graders took algebra or higher math last year in the Bellevue School District.

    • My son attended SMS for 6th and 7th grade. My son wanted to be placed in pre-algebra in 6th grade in order to be on track for calculus in high school. He was placed in Math 6. I emailed the school and got multiple responses from Heather Kern who assured me they would make adjustments based on test results. During the first week of school my son was moved to what I assumed was pre-algebra, but it was still labeled Math 6. In 7th grade my son was placed in Math 7 and again I contacted Heather Kern and my son was moved to a higher math group but it was still called Math 7. I assumed he was in pre-algebra in 6th grade and algebra I in 7th grade. But the classes were still labeled Math 6 and Math 7. A simple solution would be to label the classes pre-algebra, or algebra I and II.

  8. Betsy Evensen says

    I love that parents are digging into this. I see how hard our District works everyday to do the best for our kids. But parent input and perspective, when constructive, is a great catalyst for positive change.

    I worked as an IA for middle school SVSD summer school in July in math and LA. I saw how critical math facts are. Do not let your child leave elementary without knowing them cold! Most everything else to come in math is based on this fundamental.

    And, every child was so different and the job to teach each one successfully so challenging. The influence of their home life was so apparent in their attitude and effort they were willing to put in. Parents make a huge difference in the education of their children so keep up the good work of being critically involved and making it a priority in your day. All kids will benefit.

  9. Hi Danna, I saw a link to your blog from Facebook.. You might remember me from the neighborhood in years past. In June, 2010 our family moved to Colorado, and we now live in a very small, unincorporated town sandwiched between the city of Boulder and the city of Longmont (both about the same size, but most have never heard of the latter). The area around us is mostly farmland. We are assigned to the St. Vrain Valley School District rather than the more famous Boulder Valley SD. That said, switching school districts here is very easy with open enrollment. I believe I can send my kids to any school in the state, so long as there is space at the school. There are also charter schools nearby. We have many, many options. We decided to try our local schools, though, so the kids could meet neighbor kids, and ride the bus with them, etc. Our middle school is also the only MS that feeds into our local high school. All the rest of the kids at our HS are open enrolled into the IB program. We have been thrilled with the school and the district, and I feel lucky.

    At our school, 6th grade is split into two math groups, Traditional and Advanced. In 7th grade, the split is into three groups, Traditional, Advanced and Algebra. In 8th grade the classes continue with Traditional, Algebra, and Geometry. Placements tests are done each year, and when they place the student they take into account performance in the previous class, placement test, CSAP results (state test), and parent request. The advanced classes are working a grade ahead. The teachers fill in missing pieces here and there when needed. Interestingly, there are some additional requirements for everyone. My son just took the “decimal” test that all the kids need to take. They also take a timed test in the winter (school wide) for the math facts with clear criteria for their grade on that test. They did a pre-test for that in September so the kids know where they stand.

    We are at a focus school for Advanced Academics and Arts, so perhaps all the schools in our district do not have this programming…..but again, tons of open enrollment takes place. My kids go to school with students from all over the district, as well as many from the north section of Boulder Valley SD. Some kids who are supposed to be at our school have open enrolled into another nearby middle school.

    If only we had an activity bus, everything might be almost perfect.

    • Robin!! So good to hear from you. Thanks so much for all the info. It sounds like our district is preparing to make some curriculum changes here. Hoping to get the details published soon. I hope you are enjoying CO. It just amazes me how different standards are state to state. Well, even district to district too. Miss having you around the neighborhood…. Can you believe a community center is actually opening here too? How the time flies…

  10. Placements at the middle schools in the SVSD are based on assessments and MSP. The placements are fair. If you have an issue with the path, it needs to be addressed much earlier in school – at the elementary level. If you think your child is not properly placed, ask to have them have the opportunity to take the placement exam for the class ahead of theirs and then… whatever the outcome… accept it, move on and support your child in the classes in whatever way you can. Don’t you remember what it was like to be in over your head in a math class? Have you ever had to repeat a class because you couldn’t cut it? While I may agree that SVSD needs to step up their game and give opportunities for those that are capable, it seems like much of the carping here has more to do with students who are not placed where their parents want them to be placed, rather than a worry about whether they are placed appropriately.

    • Hello and thank you for your comment. I, too, believe the assessments are fair. A big issue is, though, that there isn’t a way to address this at the elementary school level. Unless your child shows big problems in math or is pulled for the highly capable program, the majority are taught the same math curriculum in elementary school. The assessments and placements don’t occur until entering 6th grade – without communication to parents as to where there child placed. This is an area where change will be happening. Parents will be informed what math track their child is on when they enter 6th grade. Personally, I can say there was a group of current 9th graders who could have handled higher math, but space was tight for pre-algebra when they were 7th graders. That has since changed as there are more pre-algebra classes now at SMS. I can see how you may interpret this as parents complaining because their child wasn’t placed where they wanted them to be. I honestly don’t believe the parents who commented here would ever want there child in too high of a math class. These are parents who know their child could have handled higher math – and improving communication regarding middle school math paths will help kids like these.

    • Parents DO need to worry about proper placement in middle school and DO need to assure that their children are placed properly. My son attended SMS for 6th and 7th grade. I assumed my son was in pre-algebra in 6th grade and algebra I in 7th grade. My assumption was based on outstanding test scores and the criterion clearly outlined by Issaquah School District to be placed on Math Path II. He was shuffled into “advanced placement” in both 6th and 7th grade; albeit no school official committed to the content of the curriculum covered in Math 6 or Math 7. No school official would commit to a more specific label such as basic math or pre-algebra. I trusted the school and made the assumption that he was on track for one year of calculus in high school-a necessity for college entrance. I was wrong. My son was not enrolled in algebra. I emailed to ask about test results and asked if my son took the EOC assessment for algebra. It was just yesterday that I was told that no, my son did not take the end of course assessment because he was enrolled in pre-algebra in 7th grade, not algebra I. Had I left my son at SMS he would not be on track for calculus in high school. He was enrolled in basic math in 6th grade and pre-algebra in 7th grade. (Just an aside: My son tested into non-linear algebra or algebra II at Eastside Catholic. In effect he skipped algebra I and went directly into algebra II, and is doing well. He is now on track for one year of calculus in high school and there may be the possibility of taking 2 math classes concurrently to enable him to complete two years of calculus in high school in addition to geometry and probability/statistics.)

      • Calculus is NOT a necessity for college. ONLY MIT requires Calculus of all the schools that I have researched. And, if your son was in 7th grade pre-algebra, he would take algebra I in 8th grade, geometry in 9th grade, Algebra II (the equivalent of College Algebra) in 10th grade, pre-calculus in 11th grade and Calculus in 12th grade. My step-son was a national merit scholar, did NOT take calculus until college and is now in his senior year at Carnegie Melon majoring in Computer Science.

  11. Laurie Gibbs says

    Thanks for all the great comments and input. I, too, do not feel that parents are complaining here or do I believe they are trying to place their kids in math classes for which they may not be ready. What I do see, however, is a group of parents who are becoming aware of how important a child’s progression throughout elementary school math, combined with their test scores, sets up their math placement in middle school. For those kids who have been “on the bubble” between advanced math and non-advanced math, the lack of an adequate number of advanced math classes in middle school results in their inability to take Algebra I by 8th grade. When my daughter started middle school, there was only one Algebra class in 8th grade and one pre-algebra class in 7th. Resultantly, she was unable to take Algebra in 8th grade due to her inability to take pre-algebra in 7th. My daughter, unfortunately, was always one of those kids on the bubble. Her scores were probably high enough in another district to warrant placement in pre-algebra in 7th, but due to class availability, she was not placed in pre-algebra. Hopefully, the introduction of more advanced placement classes will serve to assist kids starting middle school now with the ability to successfully complete algebra by the time they are through middle school.

    I am not an advocate of placing kids in classes that they will most likely not succeed. However, I am a firm advocate of “raising the bar” for those that are “on the bubble.” Most of these kids are willing to do the extra work and challenge themselves to achieve a higher level of learning. I would much rather challenge these kids, then have them become complacent.

    • That’s exactly right, Laurie, as far as I know, regarding the lack of opportunity for students to be placed in pre-algebra in 7th grade. Students actually need to be placed in pre-algebra in 6th grade in order to be on track for one year of calculus in high school. I thought all along that there were TWO pre-algebra classes in 6th grade but there was only one (when my son was in 6th grade. My son must be a year behind your daughter.) ISD offers algebra I in 6th grade, algebra II in 7th grade, and geometry in 8th grade. Here is the parent letter explaining course offerings and math paths in middle school: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/documents/math/parentletter2011.pdf.

      • That link does not say what you think it says. And you are incorrect about the path in SVSD getting a student a year of calculus before graduation. If the student takes Pre-Algebra in 7th grade, they will take Algebra I in 8th grade, Geometry in 9th grade, Algebra II in 10th grade, Pre-Calculus in 11th grade and Calculus in 12th grade.

        ISD has a different system. If you look at that link, you THINK your child is taking algebra in 6th grade… but this is a slow paced “algebra” class that is much more like pre-algebra. If you will note, there are TWO years of this “integrated algebra.” What they are calling “pre-algebra” is more like what SVSD calls “advanced 6th grade math.”

        Again, does SVSD need to step up their program? Yes, I think they do. But parents need to realize that they just might not know where their child should be placed. What a kid comes home and tells their parents about school is often night and day from reality. From the perspective of an instructor, it’s heartbreaking to watch kids that are in over their head in math, particularly. I know… I am a former math teacher at the high school level. And the fact is, it’s unnecessary. Because, as I said above, the only University I have found that specifically requires calculus is MIT. And you can make that requirement by being on the “advanced” path in SVSD.

        If you want to know what REALLY gives you an edge getting into a top notch university, it’s not whether you’ve had one or two years of calculus… it’s the level of difficulty of ALL of the classes you’ve taken, your extracurricular activities, and, quite frankly, your child’s ability to write an outstanding entrance essay.

        Above all, this argument needs to be taken to the elementary level. SVSD has major programs in place for reading specialists and writing specialists. It’s time that SVSD funds a math specialist program for ALL of their elementary schools. I don’t have a personal dog in this fight as all of my kids are graduated now, but as a member of the community I feel invested in the success of the students in the SVSD.

  12. Steph Hager says

    The math sequence that Gen lays out (above) is correct. In addition to many of the ideas and thoughts posted here, and the point that our school district is already underway in revisiting its middle school pathways, some of these resourses may be interesting to parents specifically those who have kids in elementary and middle school. These kids will be graduating not this year but down the road and may be competing to be part of what college and university admission counselors refer to as the “competitive applicant pool”. Note that there are two lists by colleges: a requirements list and a strongly-recommended list and they vary from school to school. Math paths and sequences can be so confusing! As a result, the University of Washington has recently partnered with Washington State’s Office of the Governor (in Olympia) for the rollout of the GEAR UP program http://www.gearup.wa.gov/. (That GEAR UP link is on the UW’s new “Get Ready for College” webpage). This state government sponsored website says “we believe young people who start planning in middle school have a better chance of entering college and completing their degrees.” Their materials go on to say Washington State students that in 7th grade “if possible, take pre-algebra” and in 8th grade it says “take pre-algebra, if possible, algebra.” You can see for yourself: http://www.gearup.wa.gov/files/2009%20Middle%20School%20Handbook.pdf . Other universities have offered similar suggestions for their college prep programs:
    Washington Post: 8 Subtle Ways to Prepare Middle Schoolers for College
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2011/02/8_sneaky_ways_to_ready_middle.html

    Florida State University
    http://admissions.fsu.edu/freshman/admissions/timeline.cfm

    University of Iowa
    http://www.uiowa.edu/admissions/undergrad/counselors/pg-8.htm

    University of Southern California (click on 8th grade)
    http://www.usc.edu/admission/undergraduate/prepare/prepare_grade.html

    Michigan State University (click on page 2 for 8th grade)
    http://admissions.msu.edu/documents/CollegePlanningGuide.pdf

  13. Steph Hager says

    In regards to the link provided above to Issaquah’s math paths, it is my understanding that Integrated Algebra A (7th graders on Math Path I take this) and Integrated Algebra B (8th graders on Math Path I take this) — the two of those together is considered Algebra I. So in Issaquah for students on that path, Algebra I is divided over a period of 2 years. That is why the Algebra B students in 8th grade then take the end-of-course exam in the spring. If parents and students feel that by 9th grade their child needs to further their algebra skills (if they did not succeed in the A/B path), then they can enroll into Algebra 1 in high school. As you can see in the grid from the link, this is self-selected by the parent and student.

    • Cindy McVay says

      You’re probably right, Stephanie. And when SVSD finally publishes their math paths perhaps we should advocate that they use different language than ISD. We might want to label our classes “pre-algebra” or “pre-algebra/alg I.” We should also publish at the end of which class the EOC test will be administered. I emailed Heather Kern to ask if she could resend MSP results and if Ryan actually took the algebra EOC exam and that was when I found out he wasn’t even enrolled in algebra I. “Common Language, common practice” as Laurie said.

      • Jean Saimo says

        Cindy I am confused..currently (and last year) SMS does not offer Algebra I in 7th grade only in 8th grade. ( ? )

      • I actually don’t know, Jean. My son was not in the top math group last year in 7th grade at SMS. Ryan was in the second top math group, I assume. I ignorantly thought that it was algebra I but that was a really poor assumption considering the importance of your child’s math path and college entrance. I don’t know what the #1 group did last year and I don’t know what they are doing this year. I’m sure SVSD plans to label their math classes in the near future.

  14. I am sitting at my computer trying to write a response and I just keep writing my son’s math
    path story, editing it, deleting it, writing it again and again and realizing I am just repeating myself over and over again and still not making my point.

    Had he stayed at SMS Ryan would not be on track for calculus in high school. And no, calculus is not a prerequisite for college entrance. Even the National Math Advisory Panel advocates Algebra II by high school graduation. And yes, very intelligent, highly capable, even gifted students graduate from high school, receive scholarships, and enter fabulous universities without calculus. Calculus is not the end all and it doesn’t matter whether my son is on Math Path I, Math Path II, or even Math Path Zero.*

    If you are still reading this, thank you for bearing with me. *Footnote to follow!

    Before Danelle and Stephanie presented to the (current) School Board and Living Snoqualmie published this blog, there were probably just isolated parents, like myself, advocating for their child. When Ryan entered 6th grade VN and HK both assured me that SVSD was in the process of math reform. That was two years ago and I’m sure the process did not start with me. How many years have passed, how many seniors have graduated from MSHS, how many kindergarteners have started school since the process of change began?

    I can hear the frustration in Heather’s response. I can see the point of view of teachers and school employees. And I totally identify with countless parents advocating change. I also feel this overwhelming frustration and confusion when the bond fails AGAIN for the nth time.
    THERE IS A DISCONNECT between the voters in the Valley and SVSD. And this blog (and research from Danelle and Stephanie) are helping to voice and connect to our school district.

    But in order for real change to take place we need unified representation on the School Board. We need a School Board that is passionate about math reform as well as unifying the voice of the valley regarding land usage, resource allocation, overcrowding, and countless other ripples of change that nobody knows or hears about. And math reform is just one issue; albeit a big one. My point of view is not broad enough, my scope of knowledge is just not there, but I think that the bond failing and math reform not happening are related.

    Regarding the Voters in the Valley: there is a disconnect between those advocating change in North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Fall City, CKMS, SMS, and TFMS. What a huge territory! I think there are very valid reasons why the bond does not pass. And those who voted against it have opinions that are very valid but not communicated. There is only one solution represented on the bond and the idea is just repeated and repeated with no real revision. Many voters think that those who voted against the bond don’t care or don’t want to pay the levy. From what I DO hear, that is NOT the case at all. All sections of the valley need a voice broadcast loud and clear. I think the solution is in the School Board Elections. Our school board members should be our voice.

    *Regarding Math Path Zero, I, or II: It’s not about Math Path. It’s about LIFE PATH. Ryan tested into algebra II at his new school and he has a clear goal regarding his math path. Had he stayed at SMS it’s his opinion that “Math 8” would have been pre-algebra again. It’s his opinion and it matters. At his new school he feels like he is working to his full potential and is excited about the possibilities. As to college and life after college: He’d like to return to SMS and teach language arts and coach football after school like Mr. Hillburn. He doesn’t even need calculus at all to be a LA teacher!

  15. Laurie Gibbs says

    Excellent comments KumonSnoqualmie. Change starts at the top. The one way aspect that the community is able to change, is the composition of the school board. They are our only elected officials.

    I also agree that it is time to look at raising student expectations and at offering more higher level math classes (as well as other subjects) to kids who, although they may not always standardize test at the highest level, are capable of rising to a challenge and are hungry for more. Limited classes seem to stifle those kids who are on the bubble. They are the kids who typically strive for “A’s” and “B’s”; have good study habits, and are willing to do the work. I have heard numerous stories of kids like Ryan who move to another school district, take higher classes, and excel. We should be providing our own kid’s these same opportunties. I have also heard of various stories of inequities among the math programs at our three middle schools. Some schools have more Algebra and pre-Algebra class offerings than others. I hear all the time about how all our schools must be similar in the curriculum they teach. “Common language, common practice” seems to be a continuous theme. Yet, it appears that inequities in the class offerings at our three schools are somewhat different. That seems to go against the “theme.” I think we concentrate too much on whether each school should have a turf field, rather than on what is actually going on inside these schools from an academic standpoint. We have great teachers, we have great kids. They are no different than kids who reside in Issaquah, Maple Valley, Bellevue, Sammamish, or any other neighboring school district. One look at the demographics in these other districts will prove that point.

    Math reform should not take this long. We have other math programs in neighboring school districts we can easily look towards, seek advice from, phase-in and “copy”. I would much rather retain the great kids that live in the Valley in their own school district, than see so many have to leave in order to be challenged at the level they want to be challenged.

    Thank you for having the courage to be honest and to share your story about Ryan.

    • Cindy McVay says

      Common language, common practice! Yes, that’s the key to a more unified district and it applies to social studies curriculum, requiring small group instruction in elementary school, remedial and advanced math groups in elementary school, middle school math paths, remedial reading programs, more specific report cards… We could take the best of each school within our district, emulate other school districts, and bring it home to SVSD district wide. I’m voting for new school board members rather than incumbents because I have not seen any change since we moved here when Ryan was in 2nd grade.

  16. Jean Saimo says

    Hi-I am all for offering higher math standards for our kids at SVSD. I also think that Algebra is not for all kids in 7th and 8th grade and hope that this push isn’t for all of the kids no matter what. My experience is different that many because I moved my oldest to another school district and he took Algebra in 8th grade and I feel he was not developmentally ready for it. He did not do well and his confidence in his ability to do math has plunged.

    If it is the goal to have Algebra for all 7th and 8th graders then I feel it must start at the elementary level. I am now on my 3rd child who has attended CVES 5th grade. I will also have my 3rd child who will get straight 3’s in math. I know this because the teachers do not give out 4’s since they do not offer math that is above grade level. I also know *now* that straight 3’s tell me nothing. My 3 kids are completely 100% different in their math abilities. How great would it be if the number grade was also linked to a percentage grade in 4th and 5th grades? This way I would have known that my oldest was getting 3’s (meeting standard) but definitely needed extra help in math. I thought it was all good. Finally after many years I am finally getting a better grasp as to where my children are acadamically but 5 years ago I sure could have used an 80% along with my oldest’s 3’s to know that maybe he needs a boost.

    And in response to kumon-I certainly hope that bond failures have nothing to do with math in our district. Bonds are about *buildings* not AP classes or SAT scores. Bonds are not levies. I am all for doing what we can and to work for better programs for all of our children at SVSD but I cannot subscribe to relating the two.

    I look forward to 2012 when we all hear about changes in the middle school pathways.

    • Cindy McVay says

      Me, too, Jean. I know our school district has been working on math reform and I hope they finally do publish it in 2012.

      And I certainly do value your input as a parent of three. My son is my one and only and I’m learning as he grows. I agree with you regarding the grading system in elementary school and was so happy when we got to SMS and had letter grades.

      I think the bond passing or not passing is related to math reform because of the level of communication between such vast areas. I know there are parent groups in North Bend and Fall City that have a different perspective than those in Snoqualmie in the same way that CKMS, SMS, and TFMS have different math books as well as course offerings. It’s a huge area to unify. I think the school board could be the entity to bring about math reform, a bond passing, and many other issues. I think an active school board could have brought about math reform years ago. And I think that an active school board could help make a bond pass.

      It’s so frustrating to try and bring about change for your child, spend hours writing letters, researching, waiting for the first day of school, hoping your child will be placed in the right math class, waiting another week for additional test results, waiting another week for class schedule changes, feeling confident that your child is in an algebra class, then finding out 2 YEARS later that it never happened. I went through that battle at the beginning of 6th grade and the beginning of 7th grade. I didn’t even bother trying to take it to the board after spending months and months trying to advocate for reading groups, implementing a parent volunteer program called “Project: Read,” and the fact that Social Studies books collect dust at CVES. I got a very nice response from Mr. Neutenboom, but no action, and the board member at the time brushed me off to a second grade teacher. We need school board members who will represent the voices of parents in the district.

  17. Steph Hager says

    All I know is that it seems like all of this doesn’t have to be quite this difficult. The whole thing was beyond confusing to me until this last year.

    • THANK YOU AGAIN, STEPHANIE AND DANELLE FOR YOUR RESEARCH AND FOR PRESENTING THIS INFORMATION. I’ve been worried that my comments might be taken to be negative or bad criticism of our schools and school district and I just wanted to reiterate that my son truly enjoyed and benefitted from his teachers and experiences at CVES and loved SMS. I think he really enjoyed SMS because of all the great teachers, letter grades, after school sports, and moving from class to class. If any teachers are reading this, THANK YOU! SINCERELY!

    • You are right Steph, it should not be this difficult to figure out or understand. I feel that everyone who has posted here are probably intelligent people and it is so hard to believe that all of us, combined, have had a hard time figuring this all out. It appears that many people seem to find this out when they transfer to another district and see what is on “the other side.” It appears that is the case for Kumonsnoqualmie and for others who have posted here.

      I hope, as time goes on, our math paths and tracks are in line with some of our neighboring districts and things are made less complicated. Unfortunately, the world has become very competitive now-days–more so than even when I was young. I think it is important that we look at what our neighbors are doing and allow our kids to have the same opportunities and “competitive edge” as their counterparts.

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