Monday, July 14, 2014

Guest Post: "I found it very interesting, but not at all surprising, that Montgomery County Algebra I students performed so poorly on the final exam."

I found it very interesting, but not at all surprising, that Montgomery County Algebra I students performed so poorly on the final exam. The County is attributing it to fewer instructional days. I beg to differ. The rollout of the new Common Core curriculum for Algebra I has been fraught with problems. My 7th grader, a very strong math student, was frustrated and demoralized by the class, as were both her parents (who are engineers). Having attended meetings offered by the County where parents were clearly frustrated by the new curriculum, writing numerous emails to School officials, and meeting with her teacher and principal, I concluded the County was deaf to all the parental concerns. Here are the major issues I believe contributed to the poor student performance:
- The County did not supply the teachers with the curriculum materials far enough in advance or provide proper teacher training. It was "Just In Time" math instruction. And the new material is substantially more difficult than the old, incorporating more elements of Algebra 2. 
- The math materials provided to students in lieu of a textbook was a hodgepodge of sheets copied from a variety of sources. It was difficult to follow and often difficult to read due to poor copy quality. The homework answer sheets were full of errors. We spent many hours online trying to learn the lessons using online searches and Kahn Academy.  
- The curriculum assumes the students have had the Common Core curriculum in previous years. These students have not. In fact they have gaps from the over-acceleration under the old curriculum. So they must now learn material from the common core math they missed, fill math gaps from the old curriculum, and synthesize a new curriculum for Algebra, all with inadequate material and poorly prepared teachers. The students were set up to fail. 
-These same students are on a path to take Geometry next year, followed by Algebra 2 and Pre calculus. Next year will be the rollout of the new Geometry curriculum. The following year will be the rollout of the new Algebra 2 curriculum, and the following year Pre calculus. So these same students are the guinea pigs four years in a row. And they have failed Algebra I, so now they are at an even bigger disadvantage.
The County must take responsibility for all the factors that resulted in so many of the students failing to really learn Algebra. They must also delay the implementation of the common core curriculum in Geometry-Precalculus so as not to "penalize" these exact same students and to assure a proper roll out.

~MCPS Parent


  1. I've subbed a couple of times at the ends of marking periods for teachers getting PD on the next quarter's Curriculum 2.0 delivery. There is no reason to think that a day of PD is going to be sufficient preparation for an entire quarter's worth of new material.

    My rising 7th-grader did OK with the Common Core Math 7 this year and is lined up for Algebra next year; I hope her experience is better than this. I suppose there are advantages to being in Cohort Two, but the point about 4 years of being guinea pigs is well-taken; the rising 4th-grader is about to start her 5th year of Curriculum 2.0, and so far, I am NOT impressed. The kids who've had nothing but Common Core from Kindergarten onward are struggling mightily, if the parent conversation at the playground and the walkers' door and the bus stop is any indication.

  2. Not content with its current gaps, MCPS decided to roll out the common core so ineffectively that it added some more. This writer took note of one grade cohort doomed to failure. But there are quite a few more impacted. Unless you were in Kindergarten three years ago and took this thing from the beginning, it's not going to make a lot of sense. Even then - the teachers weren't prepared for it, so chances are the kids will need support.

  3. They teach with pride
    To STEM the tide
    Using new tools
    Rolled out by fools.

  4. MCPS parent, you bolded the text stating that the students are guinea pigs. That is no surprise if you remember when the Board of Education authorized the contract with Pearson. The students were always going to be 'guinea pigs' for this 'public-private partnership' with Pearson. Here is the plan you agreed to when you elected these BOE members:

  5. Still not convinced that this affected all student groups negatively. Why can't we see a demographic and geographic break down of the scores? MCPS breaks down everything else.


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