Virginia educrats drop the hammer on advanced math education

In culmination of other trends from the recent war on academic excellence being waged by the Virginia Democratic Party, a proposal endorsed by party stakeholders including the governor and his DOE superintendent will completely reconfigure math education in the state, including removing all grouping by ability (including accelerated and remedial classes) prior to 11th grade:

With Virginia currently ranked #10 in overall school quality and #5 in math scores, as well as being home to the country’s #1 STEM specialty high school and a hugely disproportionate share of excellent high schools (20 to 30 of the best 200 schools overall), one wonders what problem this is intended to solve.

The answer, of course, is lack of “equity” - everyone must be the same, and it’s preferable to make everyone equally ignorant and intentionally hold back the development of those with higher competency if that’s necessary to achieve the goal. Nowhere is it more plainly obvious that people are not of equal ability than in math classes, so that’s where we need to scream the loudest and use the bluntest weapons to hammer all the variously shaped pegs into the same hole.

This moots all the debates about “gifted education,” entrance into specialized high schools, racial representation in various programs, etc - everyone is just going to be processed into gray goo and operating any school like Thomas Jefferson will rapidly become impossible since even the best students will have to be taught basic algebra and geometry for their first two years (the average TJ student currently takes those classes by 7th grade and is ready for calculus by the time she reaches 10th grade). Those who can afford it will flee to other states or go to private schools. People with less means looking to use the public school system to get a leg up through talent and hard work will be told to go fuck themselves and have no choice but to do so.

Let’s hope that some other state has enough sane centrists to avoid either this insane left-wing dogma or the equally mediocre schools that right-wing ideology produces so that at least somewhere in America we can produce the kind of scientists and engineers we need to remain globally competitive in the future.

This is going to make remedial students really, really suffer. They’re not remedial because people want to insult them; they’re remedial because they legitimately, genuinely, need the help. And because math is a system of building blocks (you need to master this first step, in order to learn the next skill,) if a student can’t grasp basic math, then force-feeding him tougher math isn’t going to help, it’ll just make him flunk even worse and destroy whatever little shred of confidence he had remaining.

And by this Virginia logic, people like Einstein shouldn’t be allowed to get ahead.

Can someone point me to an article or document that says half of what the OP is saying. Because other than a reference or two to “detracking” I don’t really see what he’s talking about in the video I just watched far too much of (I get enough of my own school board meetings to sit through more of this one…).

What I’m getting from it is that they are trying to get away from the Algebra I → Geometry → Alegebra II/Trig → Pre-Calc - > Calc I → Calc II tracking path where you just plop down and move to the right every year or semester. Instead you build up skills in the areas you need for the careers you are thinking of pursuing and only need the common foundational stuff. And they are adding a bunch of half-credit courses at the HS level so folks that don’t need Calculus for their career can take things like financial modeling or advanced geometric or statistics courses.

I didn’t see anything that said a precocious middle schooler couldn’t take HS level courses, but maybe it was buried in there somewhere.

At the K-5 level I’ve never heard of tracking - everybody does math together anyway. My district does let students accelerate by doing 4th grade math while they are in 3rd grade (and subsequent years), and I don’t see why that would be prohibited by this plan either. But again, maybe it’s somewhere in the weeds.

I do see this bullet in one of their chart decks: Shifting from Acceleration to Deeper Learning through Differentiated Instruction

If the idea is that you will stay with your 3rd grade class (for example) but the teacher will use tools to challenge your understanding of the third-grade concepts rather than continuing to throw more concepts at you, that might actually be an improvement. The one thing my accelerated son struggles with is that ideas he “skipped” in 3rd grade are very shallowly understood. A more robust differentiation in 3rd grade probably would have been better, but the school district wasn’t structured to provide that (and some teachers are obviously better about it than others).

From what I could tell from the site you linked to, what this is about is a (still very planning-stage) proposal for revising mathematics education formats that includes so-called “detracking”. A reference about “detracking” on the site describes it as follows:

? Nowhere do I see any indication in the (again, still pretty nebulous-seeming) Virginia math pathways proposal that students who need extra or remedial math instruction are going to be denied it.

ISTM that Albert Einstein is not really a useful illustration from your side of this argument. Einstein wasn’t “tracked” in his elementary or Gymnasium education, but at age 16 he had the opportunity to take an examination for direct entry to a Polytechnische Schule (sort of a STEM-intensive junior college) in Zurich, where he gained acceptance due to his outstanding math scores.

Nothing in the proposed Virginia curricular reforms would prevent any 16-year-old in Virginia from doing exactly the same sort of thing, AFAICT.

Yeah, ISTM that this proposal is actually more in line with European-style “pathways” streaming of students, where some pursue what we’d think of as “college prep” and others prepare for vocational or technical training.

I had never heard about this proposal before but information linked at the OP’s link clarifies why detracking is seen as necessary (helpful bolding mine):

There are promising studies about schools and school systems which detracked their courses with positive effects, including specific advancements in students’ opportunities to learn, teaching practices, and student achievement.

Let’s avoid the fallacy that students are being denied “opportunities” to take more challenging classes under the current system. Virginia’s solution to the nebulous racial problems with “tracking” is simple - anyone who wants to enter an advanced class may do so. If the student seems less than prepared or is being forced into an unrealistic path by a parent, the teacher and the administration may try to talk the parents out of it, but if they insist then they will be put into the accelerated math track, the AP history class, etc. The only things that are holding student opportunities back are the effects of cultural clusters that make offering those classes nonviable at the worst schools.

For example, Garrity found evidence to suggest that removing tracking and teaching all students as if they were high achievers did not “drag down”

Whom is being crapped here? There is no way we are going to “teach all students” in Virginia the equivalent of the triple-accelerated Fairfax curriculum where non-watered-down Algebra II is completed in 8th grade. We could certainly raise baseline expectations somewhat but the notion that those sorts of outcomes are going to be preserved in an “equity” regime where you have to keep the average and below-average students in the same class is absurd. I’d again ask why we NEED to make such a drastic change if the state is currently #5 in overall (not “gifted” or top quartile but total) math scores…

Even more recently in her 2016 AERA Presidential Address, Oakes, reported on research that found previously successful students seemed to do every bit as well in detracked settings as they had in tracked settings, as did previously struggling students.

If the top students are not even being taught calculus until 11th or 12th grade then they cannot possibly be “doing every bit as well” at it in 9th grade as they are now. Doing something three years behind a pace that has already been demonstrated as a possible norm is not “doing as well” at it.

Nothing in the proposed Virginia curricular reforms would prevent any 16-year-old in Virginia from doing exactly the same sort of thing, AFAICT.

The idea that someone in Virginia can (or should) opt out of high school math and find some sort of community college that has a more rigorous curriculum than a top high school is, again, an absurdity.

I suppose we’ll find out at the ballot box whether or not people “must” do as they are told by the equity cultists.

I don’t see any indication in the linked proposal that any student who wants to enter an advanced class in a particular math subject may not do so. Do you? Where does it say that?

“Equity cultists”-That is cute.
Where did you get it from?

Speaking as an actual college math professor (although not in Virginia), IME high-achieving high school math students do this all the time. They burn through the standard high-school math curriculum, mostly with independent study and a few accelerated placements, and then spend their last year or two taking math classes at a nearby college, community or otherwise.

Such a proceeding AFAICT has little if anything to do with whether the students are officially “tracked” into some kind of ability-segregation system by their schools.

I find this hard to believe as the #1 STEM High School use to be a few miles from me in Lincroft, NJ.
In fact both #1 & #2 are both near me. Maybe you mean #3, Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Tech?

So I wonder what else is wrong with your Op?

The classes will no longer exist. In 8th grade everyone will take the 8th grade “essential mathematics concepts” class. Trigonometry, analysis, and calculus will not even be offered until 11th grade. There isn’t even a module called “geometry” until that time though it looks like some pieces of the current geometry curriculum are included in the 8th-10th “concepts” standards. In many Virginia jurisdictions the full geometry class in 10th grade is the standard requirement for non-accelerated students, so this is moving even them backwards.

The core of the proposal is that there is only one math sequence offered all the way through 10th grade, it ends with a partial version of what the “normal” (non-honors/accelerated, non-special ed) student takes in 10th grade now, and anything beyond that can ONLY be taken in the last two years of high school. The idea of moving quicker through the sequence and taking, e.g., calculus in 9th or 10th grade will be forbidden.

I am aware that this goes on in some places where the local high school tops out at calculus. Northern Virginia is a different place. There isn’t anything offered at the community colleges in Fairfax that goes beyond what the top high schools offer. The student would have to go to George Mason to find anything they couldn’t get at their school.

The huge concentration of students capable of completing calculus by 11th grade and taking a course like linear algebra or multivariate in 12th grade (at 30+ high schools in the NoVa area) or blowing past that in 10th grade and working on areas such as topology or diffeq that community colleges don’t teach (at Thomas Jefferson), is why they have these programs. When you have 3 students per graduating class in the district that are capable of doing that you send them to the community college. When you have 6000 you change the high school curriculum.

Now those students will have nothing except a moving van to Maryland or North Carolina.

? again. You’re referring to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an admission-by-application-only advanced STEM-focused school?

I don’t see any indication that the proposed program would alter the structure or curriculum of a specialized school like TJHSST. Where exactly do you see such a claim?

If no one is allowed to take trig and analysis before 11th grade (which is a core part of the proposal) then TJ, which on average teaches 3 years of courses that require the algebra/geometry/trig sequence as background material to its students, will not be able to continue doing so.

Can you link to the exact part of whichever webinar (timestamp?) or PDF (page?) or whatever supports the assertion that this is a core part?

Where does it say that no one is allowed to “take trig and analysis before 11th grade”?

I’m certainly all in favor of individual high-achieving students being able to take advanced math courses whenever they’re ready for them, but I don’t see the point of restricting them or any other students to a specific ability “track” to pre-determine their curriculum.

The San Francisco Math Course Sequence Policy, described in that linked reference on the Virginia Math Pathways proposal website that I quoted in a previous post, seems to have this structure for combining a standard math course sequence with options for accelerated learning:

The handy graphics on that webpage illustrate how the “doubling up” works.

I wonder how the others side is referred to; “privileged oppressors”? Accurate maybe, but not a lot of zazz.

I just really, really, really, really doubt that the Virginia Math Pathways proposal is seriously suggesting structural changes that would actually prevent a successful elite STEM-specialist school from offering advanced STEM classes.

Another data point: The San Francisco School District whose “Math Course Sequence Policy” setup I cited in my last post also includes at least one STEM-specialist school of its own, the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology. They seem to offer a whole bunch of advanced STEM classes, so the 2014 adoption of this math course sequence structure by their school district apparently hasn’t hamstrung their ability to serve high-achieving STEM students.

And to digress a bit with my math-prof hat on: Pretty much any college math instructor will tell you that one of the major problems we’ve got currently with teaching introductory college math courses is that there are far too many students who zipped through math curricula to be able to take calculus, and even advanced calculus, courses in high school before sufficiently mastering algebra and trigonometry.

Nobody is well served by so-called “gifted” tracking that just feeds slightly-above-average students through an accelerated math course pipeline that’s not giving them an adequate grounding in the fundamentals.