In one step towards equitable access the District math department has standardized math placement in middle school. All of our comprehensive middle schools use the same assessment and make the same placement based on the results. This is a positive step towards equitable access. A student is assigned to the same 6th grade math class regardless of their attendance area school. Too bad that commitment ends in the 6th grade.
Just to be clear, 6th grade math placement is a critical decision. It determines the student's entry point on the Math Pathway. That pathway goes: Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, then a choice of advanced classes. Each step in the math pathway must be taken in turn, so the upper limit of the student's K-12 math career is determined by the 6th grade math placement. Placed in 6th grade math, the student can go no further than Pre-Calculus. Placed in 7th grade math in the 6th grade (standard expectation for Spectrum students and common among high performing non-Spectrum students) and the student can reach AP Calculus as a high school senior. Some students qualify for 8th grade math (standard for APP students) and even Algebra in the 6th grade.
All of our comprehensive middle schools are supposed to offer Algebra. Students who take this class in middle school are eligible for high school credit and, towards the end of the school year, take the EOC exam required for high school graduation.
The schools that are designated APP sites offer these advanced math classes, but not all of our comprehensive middle schools offer Geometry or Algebra 2. So students at other schools who take Algebra in the 6th or 7th grade don't have a math class they can take in the 7th or 8th grade at their school. What to do?
The solutions are clear.
- The student can change schools to one that offers the next class in the Math Pathway. Of course there is no assurance that the student will be able to gain access to the school and the District will not provide transportation.
- The student can go to another school just for this class. Of course there is no assurance that the student will be able to gain access to the school and the District will not provide transportation.
- The student can enter APP and be assured access to a school that offers the classes in their Math Pathway and transportation to and from school each day. Of course not all students who are taking advanced math classes qualify for APP. Still, this may be a contributing reason to the high APP enrollment in middle school. Students may be entering the program just to have access to advanced math classes.
- The student can homeschool for the class. In this case the student must either leave school early (transportation not provided) or come to school late (transportation not provided) because the school will not allow the student to remain on campus without being in a class. In this case the student is not eligible for high school credit for the class but must pass the Geometry EOC at the end of the first year of high school to graduate.
- The student can take an approved online course supervised by a certificated teacher (any certificated secondary teacher will do, he or she doesn't have to be qualified in math). This student's family bears the cost of this class (about $250) and must provide all of the necessary equipment. The student would be eligible for high school credit this way and would take the Geometry EOC at the end of the year. This is not an at-school activity, so, again, the student must either leave school early (transportation not provided) or come to school late (transportation not provided) because the school will not allow the student to remain on campus without being in a class.
- The student can go without a math class for a year or two. Yeah, right.
It appears that the District is all for equitable access - until it costs them $250. That amount is beyond their commitment.