In preparation for increased math requirements in high school beginning in 2009-2010 (15 months from now), Metro Nashville Public Schools are dropping their 7th grade Algebra offering.

Julie Martin, the district’s math coordinator, said parents should embrace the new changes. She said two years of middle school preparation are necessary for the new, more rigorous Algebra I curriculum requirements that roll out for 2009-10 — far tougher coursework than what’s tested on the current Gateway end-of-course exam.

I’ve read and re-read the article, but the concept still doesn’t make sense to me. If the new Algebra I is going to be that much harder, perhaps they need to raise the standards required for admittance to the course in 7th grade, but to bar admittance entirely based on grade level seems foolish. Some kids are ready; some are not. However, keeping a student in a course that is too easy for their ability level fosters boredom and loss of interest, which is decidedly counterproductive.

Different people — even children — have different interests, aptitudes, and abilities. Any given child may possess extraordinary abilities in one subject, while remaining rather ordinary in others. Some are advanced in all areas, and others struggle with everything but gym. I’ve wondered for a long time what it might be like to have school based upon mastery alone, rather than our current system of age-based progression.

If we wish to raise the level of math competency in high school graduates — an entirely different conversation, but assume for the moment that we do wish to do this (because the state says we must) — would it not make more sense to allow those students who are ready for advanced material earlier, to do so?

Some thought needs to be given to the core principle of enabling each student to reach their full potential, in whatever discipline that might be. We all talk about it, but sometimes, it seems like we’re going in the other direction.

Postscript: Jackson Miller has an opinion on the subject.  Along with the City Paper.

4 Responses to “Backward”

  1. on 27 May 2008 at 3:45 pm Pamela Treacy

    There was a letter to the editor of the KNS a few weeks back that made the same argument – have the school year divided into small segments. A child does not move up until they have mastered the six weeks. You could move up in some subjects, but not others.

    I don’t know if you had kids in day care, but they could not move to the next room until they mastered skills like — toliet training, drinking from a cup etc.

    We need to rethink our system. We are hurting so many children but sending them on to the next grade when they are not ready. Once they get seriously behind they give up. This contributes to our high drop out rates.

    I have also heard many parents don’t like the extra year in math because they believe it goes too far. I do not believe it has been decided what the extra year needs to look like. It could be a comprehensive overview that is put in business problem solving or practical skills format.

    Thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. on 27 May 2008 at 5:57 pm Joel

    Hmm. I read this a little differently. I thought the idea was that nobody has an option of 7th grade algebra under this plan. To me, this sounds a little too much like one-size-fits-all. I agree with netmom that students who are ready for the next level should have an opportunity to excel. It would behoove public schools to serve the top students as well as those struggling.

  3. on 27 May 2008 at 6:27 pm girlfriend

    Glad to see you back Doc. Was worried about you.

  4. on 27 May 2008 at 9:28 pm Joel

    Thanks, gf. It’s nice to be missed.

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