## State Assessment Review Day 2

Today was day 2 of the state assessment review. I am really enjoying the process and the chance to interact with a wide variety of teachers from high schools and colleges. It is so nice to be with other educators and discuss how their schools are handling different items.

Tennessee was one of the first two states to earn Race to the Top funds (Obama money). We no longer call the initiative “Race to the Top,” but “First to the Top.” I had a chance to talk with Scott Eddins today (in a small group setting; I’m not that important). Scott is in charge of Math Education for the State of TN. He seems to be really honest and sympathize with the teachers’ plight. Scott clarified a few items regarding the new standards and I wanted to share some insights with my fellow TN teachers. (If you are not from TN, it might interest you. It seems to align with the American Diploma Project and National Standards.)

1. Middle School and Placement Issues (Taking Algebra in the 8th grade) Currently, approximately 150 students in the feeder school for my high school take Algebra in the 8th grade. This is a huge issue. Not all of those students are honor level students. Mr. Eddins said the state is suggesting that no more than 1/5 of 8th grade student population should be enrolled in Algebra in the 8th grade. It was also stressed that students entering 8th grade should only enroll in Algebra if they have scored proficient or advanced on their 7th grade TCAP test in mathematics. (I think this one should be obvious.) He said that this should be enforced at the local, district level and can not be mandated. He said that the guidance counselors have been strongly urged to ask 8th graders and parents who express a desire to enroll in Algebra at the middle school level if their plans involve entering a STEM career and taking Calculus their senior year. If not, they should not take Algebra until they are a freshman. (I love this!)

2. Our Math IV (Advanced Algebra and Trig) Class is an alternative to Pre Calculus Honors. Students who are on a STEM path should take Pre Calculus Honors and other students can take Advanced Algebra and Trig. There should not be an honors level Advanced Algebra and Trig. Students should not take both classes. There is too much overlap in curriculum. Both classes have updated standards online.

3. The State is developing STEM guidelines and students need to declare a path, STEM or notSTEM. Students taking STEM should progress through PreCalculus and Calculus. All other students should take Advanced Algebra and Trig, Finite Math, or Bridge Math for a fourth year credit.

4. Many TN schools are no longer accepting dual enrollment credits for Statistics or Calculus since the AP programs that most high schools offer are a better program for high school students.

ALGEBRA II EOC Items

1. Colleges and Universities in TN have agreed to use the End of Course test for Algebra II to place students in the appropriate course for college.

2. Graphing Calculators are (necessary) strongly suggested for the Algebra II End of Course. (Ok, my words: You can not do well on the test without a TI-84!) Schools can purchase calculators using Formative Assessment funds and Professional Development funds. Be creative! Get calculators. Not only do you need classrooms sets, you need enough for every Algebra II student on your campus to take the EOC at one time. You can also stagger your students taking the test on test day.

3. Algebra II should be taught in a block schedule for an entire school year. This means 1 1/2 hours every day, all year. There is too much in the curriculum to fit in a semester. This will help cover the gaps in learning created by the implementation of the new standards. This should continue for 5 years and then phased out for all students except the standard level student.

I know this list is long, but I think it has some relevant information for all schools in the State of TN. I have learned so much this week. I am so blessed to have this chance to work with such inside information. Helping to create the test that I am ultimately responsible for administering is invaluable.

Are all these changes being directly funded by race to the top? This seems really expensive, especially for smaller schools.

Also – really like the “no more than 20%” for Algebra in 8th. California has a 100% in Algebra in 8th goal. Two things happen. 1. Our 8th grade Algebra pass rate was 15% last year. An all time high. 2. Since Algebra is the new “standard” that means we’re doing Geometry in 8th grade for the kids with ambitious parents, I mean, for the high achieving kids.

Race to the Top is not funding all of these changes. These are the changes we had to make to qualify for Race to the Top. Those funds will not hire more teachers, which will be necessary for schools to implement a year long, blocked class for Algebra I and Algebra II. It will not pay for the graphing calculators. We are also required to give the EOC tests on computers in a few years and it will not pay for the schools to purchase computers. Lots of questions and it does leave quite a few schools in a bind.

Our kids take Algebra in the 8th grade so their parents can have bumper sticker on their car that says, “My kid is an honors kids at ……” I know there is a big push to put Algebra in the 8th grade. Our new 8th grade standards include a ton of Algebra concepts (graphing linear equations, solving equations, …) so it is not necessary to push the kids to take Algebra in the 8th grade. As a parent, I say don’t place that pressure on my kid in the 8th grade. Block scheduling has made the original argument for Algebra in the 8th grade obsolete. When I was in school, we had to take Algebra in the 8th in order to take Calculus. You could only take one math course a year. That is no longer the case. I can’t imagine teaching Geometry in 8th grade. Our students are required to take a math class every year of high school. We would have to offer Calc II if we taught Geometry in the middle school. I also have a problem with the fact that 8th grade teachers in TN are not required to be math certified, but can be certified at the elementary level.

Full-year block schedules for algebra 1 and 2 is a huge committment to math. Does TN have that many competent math teachers, or are they going to be desperately forcing gym coaches into teaching math? (I once had a math teacher whose training was at a secretarial school, back before teacher certification was the big deal it is these days. Teachers who lack the competence to do the courses are worse than no teachers at all.)

My son loves math, but he would have been really bored in an Algebra 2 class stretched out that far. He had enough trouble maintaining interest in the glacial pace of a normally paced Algebra 2 class. Are there any provisions for students who get math a bit more quickly to keep moving, or is the whole idea to hold back the smart ones so that they lose interest and conform to the norm?

I’m a bit confused by “4. Many TN schools are no longer accepting dual enrollment credits for Statistics or Calculus since the AP programs that most high schools offer are a better program for high school students.” Does this mean that schools are not paying for community college classes if they offer a corresponding course themselves? (reasonable) Or that they won’t accept the community college classes even if the students pay themselves? (overly bureaucratic) What about for students who can’t schedule the high school AP class? (schedule conflicts are a big problem in high school here, since there are strong assumptions about what courses students will want to take the same semester) What about students who finish the high-school math curriculum by their sophomore year? Will they be allowed to take community college math classes, or sit around taking AP calculus over and over?

Students can take dual enrollment classes and the schools will pay but that is not a guarantee of college credit. That is up to the college. I would say exceptions are made for scheduling conflicts.

As far as year long algebra 2 our new standards include a ton of pre calc. We also have a huge gap in learning due to implementing new standards.

Thanks for the comments.

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Amber, How do you feel about using the TI Inspire versus the TI84? I know that it is allowed on the test as long as it is not the CAS version.

I wouldn’t mind this but I personally do not feel knowledgeable enough on it yet to teach my students how to use it. It would definitly work if a student knew how to use the n spire.