Lots of email after last Tuesday’s Board meeting, and comments too. I got one comment I decided not to post because I thought it was too likely to be misconstrued. Still, I engaged in a great exchange with the author–a parent of a young child new to SFUSD–and based on that exchange I think it’s helpful for me to rephrase his comment as a series of questions and answers. After that, some thoughts on the book Mission High by Kristina Rizga. But first, the FAQ:
- Has GATE been eliminated? GATE is not being eliminated, though new GATE identifications have been suspended for a time due to the lack of standardized testing data. Read my post on this topic, which goes into much greater detail.
- Are all honors and AP courses being eliminated? First, let’s be very clear up front that Honors courses are not the same thing as AP. Honors at the middle school level has been eliminated. Some high school honors courses for 9th and 10th graders will be eliminated. No AP courses are being eliminated that I know of. AP courses are overseen by the College Board, with a recommended curriculum and a test at the end. Honors courses do not have a standard curriculum from school to school, and prior to 11th grade a student receives no consideration from UC for taking most Honors courses. My opinion: I am much more comfortable with the idea of expanding AP than I am with Honors, which seems to me to be somewhat arbitrary. I do, however, acknowledge that with the elimination of Honors in middle school, we need to be sure that teachers have the resources and the foundation they need to adequately differentiate curriculum for students at every point in the spectrum of learning. I also think we should begin to look beyond AP as a stand-in for rigor, and deepen our partnership with City College to expand dual enrollment in SFUSD and the College. Students who have real college courses, and credits, on their transcripts will be incredibly attractive to colleges.
- Will the district turn Lowell and SOTA into ordinary lottery schools? No. It’s possible–for example, in response to my resolution last year that called, among other things, for examining the audition process at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts–the district may from time to time tweak admissions processes at these schools. My opinion: I do not expect, nor am I advocating for, any major changes in the competitive-entry admissions at either of these sites.
- Is there a desire to remove any workaround (summer school, doubling up, validation exams) for students who wish to advance more quickly in math before 11th grade? District policy does allow students to double up on courses and students who have either passed online courses or the validation exam have already been allowed to advance prior to the “decision point” that is envisioned as coming at the end of 10th grade looking forward to 11th grade. Those options aren’t necessarily recommended, but they are available. My opinion (not necessarily district policy): I see some equity issues, particularly with the online course that some students have taken, since it costs a considerable sum of money. However, I do not think that if an online course is accredited, and accepted by the UC regents as a CCSS Algebra course, that we should refuse to offer credit for it, and I also acknowledge that allowing students who can pay for such a course to move ahead doesn’t feel quite right if there are other students who want to take such a course but can’t pay. (My children would rather poke their eyes out with hot pokers than take a summer math course online, but maybe that’s just my kids.) I am discussing this issue internally and asking for some ideas and solutions to that problem.
- Will students be forced to take non-math-based physics in 9th grade? No. The Board just heard a presentation on the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards in the Curriculum Committee and was told that schools will either choose Biology or Conceptual Physics for 9th grade OR every school will offer both Biology and Conceptual Physics as options. The final decision is still yet to be made–the Curriculum Committee strongly came down on the side of students having options at every school–but requiring every student to take Conceptual Physics in 9th grade is absolutely off the table.
- How do the new the CCSS Math for 8th grade and CCSS Algebra I course in 9th grade compare to the previous Algebra I taught in 8th grade? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s a handy graphic that shows the overlap between the old/new courses:
And now a book review:
I’m really excited to recommend the book Mission High to anyone who cares about the future of public education, and in particular about the future of public education in San Francisco. Kristina Rizga, a writer for Mother Jones, spent several years “embedded” at the school, building strong relationships with students and teachers so she could tell their stories. Even before I read the book I was recommending Mission to people because of what I know about the teaching and leadership at the school. And the book just underscores my positive impression, giving a deeper and more detailed view of classrooms where teachers are working every day to encourage students to do more, learn more, and think harder. The book makes it so clear that much standardized testing only captures a fraction of what students know and can do (I knew that already but she makes a great case). I love social studies teacher Robert Roth’s focus on writing — “analyze, don’t summarize” he is quoted as saying over and over again to his students — because as a writer I know how much harder it is to write a good argument, citing evidence, than it is to answer a true or false or multiple choice question.
I love the way the students at Mission High grow in confidence and ability and become powerful advocates for themselves and their school. I love the way they reject the label of “failing student” or “failing school” even though the school’s test scores aren’t stellar. The students, through the course of the book, become writers and advocates and scholars. They go to college. They achieve. They lead.
Reading about the teachers and students profiled in “Mission High” makes you believe in the power of teaching to transform any life — not just the lives of those who have experienced incredible adversity–but also the life of any young person who has great potential and needs encouragement and instruction to reach it. I believe this kind of teaching is present in every school in SFUSD. Perhaps not in every classroom, perhaps not every day of every year– yet the ability and the potential is there. “Mission High” challenges me as a Board member to create those conditions where great teaching can flourish, for every student, in every school, every day. Have you read the book? Tell me in the comments what you think.
I think that Loiuse W’s suggestion to offer at least one Algebra 1 class in every middle school is a fantastic proposal for SFUSD and BOE to consider, perhaps starting with a pilot program this fall (2016/2017 school year).
Easiest (socially correct) approach would be to offer it as an elective (normal course load would include CCSS Math 8 to avoid perception of “haves” and “have not”). This approach will allow students to vote with their feet, walking into the elective classroom that is most important to them. Also, it will force students to make tough choices, again showing what access to Algebra 1 means to them.
For example, typical electives in middle school are band, orchestra, drama, art, computers, and foreign language. In 8th grade, students would need to decide between Algebra 1 or one item from the typical menu of electives at their school (electives vary across the district). In most cases, this will not present a hardship to any student because the forfeited elective, even Algebra 1 or the language, can be taken in high school.
This makes the decision to take Algebra 1 a personal choice rather than a mandated choice (i.e., “no Algrebra 1 for anyone”). Importantly, it will allow bright children in SFUSD public schools to get the math opportunities offered in private schools and other public schools.
Isn’t ironic that President Obama’s and many other policy makers’ children will never take the standardized tests that they expect other people’s children to take. It’s odd that the children of the people who make these policies and reforms will never experience “teaching to the test” or their teachers will not suffer the mandate of year over year increases in test scores. Why is that? It seems that public education policy should be based upon where policy makers and educational philanthropists actually send their own children to school. Why did President Obama choose Sidwell? What did he like about the environment and academics? Where does Marc Benioff send his children to school? What did he like about it? I think it would be more helpful if people making these decisions and funding schools would actually bring in some of the criteria they used for deciding about their own children’s education as they do for others. If the President’s children are not subjected to standardized testing and their teachers are evaluated by other criteria than test scores, why can’t public schools employ some of these same methods of evaluation for both students and teachers?
Today, I heard a great show on the California Report about teacher home visits in the Sacramento public schools and their success rate. 12/2/15
It’s so clear that human to human connection is the basis of our human development – emotionally and academically. The two are inter-connected and it is the foundation of our education.
President Obama sends his children to a private school – Sidwell Friends.
The rich and powerful send their kids to private schools which promote human interaction and support over technology while they design policy for the public that focuses on computers, standardized tests, and crowded classrooms. The rich and powerful should design the public schools to mirror the schools which their own children attend. What school will Mark Zuckerberg’s daughter attend? How much will it mirror SFUSD?
Let’s ask our policy makers and educational philanthropists to design public schools to mirror the teacher support, individualized curriculum, resources, and class sizes of the schools which their own children attend. We shouldn’t have two systems; that’s not going to help our economy nor our democracy. We are developing a segregated school system based on class and by default, race.
Thanks for your work on this.
I just read Mission High. It is an excellent book which underscores the need for and value of excellent, engaged, and supported teachers. As I’ve commented at previous moments, we need to look at how private schools are run and then demand the same for public schools. Private schools do not teach to the test nor do they do a lot of standardized testing. They allow teachers to build curriculum and to teach to students in a more individualized manner. They support teacher development and regard teachers as professionals with valuable experience. Ironically, private schools are free of the commercialization and data driven paradigms of public education. It was very telling to me that on pages 111/112 of Mission High that the teachers wanted to reduce their teaching load to 3 or 4 classes per day instead of 5 so they had more time for development, preparation, and reflection. One teacher hopes that “some foundation will choose Mission High for a pilot program in which teachers will have three classes each day and then spend the remainder of the day looking at student work and planning for the next lesson.” He goes on to say, “‘I think the results would be huge, but I’m worried most of the money will go toward computers in every classroom and new textbooks that are aligned with the new Common Core tests.'” The teacher, of course is right, millions of state education dollars went toward purchasing computers for Common Core while teachers wages remain low compared to other professionals and class room sizes remain high.
Which makes me wonder why reformers don’t start looking at the teaching profession itself and reforming it so it looks more like the profession does in Japan or Finland – higher pay, less of a teaching load, higher social status, more autonomy, more trust. The key in Mission High is not computers but the human relationships.
At one point in the book, students comment that one of the most important factors in their academic engagement and success is that they have at least one adult at the school who really knows and values them. The book really brings home that fact that schools are a community of learning and not factories or bureaucratic institutions. It is disheartening that we treat them as factories instead of living and dynamic organisms.
Our current commodification of education through corporate testing and the integration of computers and software into our public school system treats this human and life-forming experience as data within a larger machine. Tellingly, private schools really focus on human relationships and concentrate on the “whole child”.
I use private schools as a point of comparison because we are in a time of huge economic inequality and the education which private school children receive is much more in line with what the teachers at Mission High are trying to do. Reading the book you can tell how dedicated, how independent, and how rare these teachers are. They are exceptional and they are able to thrive in this unique environment. The teachers are also great at describing the learning which can’t be assessed by a test but is crucial to higher education and professional life. This is also the learning which is stressed in private schools where parents expect that their children will be adept at negotiating, writing complex analysis, giving organized presentations,developing individual analysis, producing independent projects, and debating their ideas in a rigorous academic context. The work it takes to study a historical topic, synthesize facts, critique methodologies, and rework these ideas into a thesis will never be addressed within a multiple choice test but these are the skills needed to complete college level course work, to run a business, to invent a product, and to be an active member of our democracy.
It’s clear that if we are going to create more Mission Highs we need to refocus our economic resources away from technology, away from data gathering, away from testing and into human resources. We need to create an endowment for SFUSD teachers for pay increases, housing, professional development, teacher’s aides, and more teachers to reduce class loads and class sizes. Teachers in the United States spend more time teaching than in other industrialized countries and yet, they are teaching a much more economically and culturally diverse set of students.
Rachel, I hope you will contact the teachers in this book and others within SFUSD and listen to what their ideal teaching conditions would be. Maybe if there was a plan, there could be a way to fund it through philanthropy, prop 13 reform, or some sort of private/public partnership.
A recent article in the NYT about MA, which has among the highest math scores in the world and spearheaded Common Core development, mentions that a superintendent credits the Common Core with *tripling* the number 8th graders who succeed in algebra. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/us/rejecting-test-massachusetts-shifts-its-model.html
A quick google search reveals another article which states that in MA, all students are expected to take algebra before high school and the schools changed their teaching to help kids succeed:
It is so disappointing to see that SF’s approach is to require less based on these same standards, and not just expect less, but fail to offer students the chance to succeed.
Maybe in a few years the SFUSD could look at Oakland’s compressed Math8/ Algebra 1 course offered in 8th grade.
I’m thinking this is all a work in progress and hopefully as the data comes in from all the surrounding Districts there will be some modifications made.
FYI..the Scout class is approved on UC Doorways. However it costs $160 (approximately) per semester. It is a 2 semester class. The first semester begins January 11th. Summer session for the second semester is in June.
The $19 class is with an external approved teacher.
Why is the SFUSD going to such extreme contortions to not offer Algebra I in all middle schools in San Francisco? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just offer at least one Algebra I course in every middle school so that those students who are ready, able and wanting to take this course can do so and thus be ready for the rigors of high school math? If every middle school offered at least one Algebra I course there would be no issues of equity or accessibility since it would be offered to all students of all income levels at every middle school. Why can’t this happen? It would obviate a lot of other problems at the high school level.
I apologize for the double post I posted before I finished my thoughts! Meanwhile, slightly off topic but to Louise’s post. Would the board be able to provide a short list of approved Algebra 1 courses. Or perhaps a faq for the courses that are brought to the SFUSD for approval so each family doesn’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel?
For example the scout course Louise linked to :
The tag line says this “Algebra I : Algebra is everywhere, and in this “a-g” approved course you’ll learn how to solve everyday math problems using it. ”
This is an a-g approved course so would the SFUSD accept this? Also the SFUSD may be able to get a blanket reduced/free price which would make it more equitable. Although what about the students who don’t have access to a computer? Maybe set up some stations for those who need it?
As to Emily Grimm’s post: It was my impression that there was concern raised by the High School Math departments that the compressed Algebra 2/ Pre Calculus course as currently designed would not provide the pre requisites needed for AP Calculus BC (which is the more rigorous form of AP Calculus, there are two courses offered at some high schools, AB and BC). However it was also my impression that Mr. Ryan was working with Lowell and other schools to make sure the curriculum will provide the needed pre requisites going forward.
I think it’s important to have multiple pathways to AP Calculus BC in 12th grade. I’m happy to see the district provide these multiple pathways be it doubling up in 9th grade, 10th grade, the compression course or summer school at the end of 8th grade.
This will allow students who would rather not wait until 11th grade to take Algebra 2 that opportunity. Which in turn opens up the opportunity to take the algebra based AP Physics class in 10th grade (which many students do).
Conversely, this also makes sure that students who aren’t ready to double up or don’t want to take summer school a pathway in the form of the compression course.
This isn’t a one size fits all situation.
I believe there was some concern that the Algebra 2 / Pre calculus compressed course as it currently stands does not meet the pre requisites for AP Calculus BC. It was my understanding that Mr. Ryan was working with High School Math Departments to investigate.
Excellent book recommendation, I read it, and in many ways it addresses the math dispute occurring in our community. One of the messages of the book, is that kids in our schools are so much more than a series of standardized test scores. In fact, in your review of the book, you state: “The book makes it so clear that much standardized testing only captures a fraction of what students know and can do.” As someone who has worked in public education for 19 years, I 100% concur with that comment. On the other hand, SFUSD is overhauling the entire math sequencing curriculum because of concerns raised by standardized test scores- scores from tests that a.) no longer exist, and b.) are not in line with the Common Core.
The Mission High School book details what moves kids along, and inspires them to learn at high levels: teacher collaboration, common formative and final assessments, consistent school administration, personalized approach to instruction, and compassionate/caring teachers. It is all there in that book. Kids are learning at Mission High, not because the classes are “un-tracked” but because of the structures put in place by school administrators and some amazing teacher leaders. This book should be read by all teachers and school administrators.
From previous postings and the case studies put together by the district, the new sequencing plan is built up on the premise that the algebra classes for accelerated 8th graders have left some students behind. To remedy that issue, regardless of skill level, all students will take Common Core math at the 7th and 8th grade level, and Common Core Algebra in 8th grade. Students that want to take Calculus their senior year, will then have to compress two advanced math courses into one year. In addition, the district discourages students from taking a summer algebra course to accelerate their learning (equity and preparation issues), but district policy does allow students to do so.
My daughter is in 1st grade, so by the time she nears middle school, this will be ironed out; however, I do have several questions:
1,) As a former coach, I still think about the next move- the “what if’s”. The district has obviously put a lot of time into this plan, but what if the scores remain flat? Just looking at the verbose Common Core 1st grade math leads me to believe me that it will be difficult for all students, particularly students that struggle with reading. Have the next steps been considered in the planning process? What about the new compressed 11th grade math class? What happens if kids fall flat on their face in that class, and also in Calculus the next year? Just a lot of “what if’s” out there.
2.) What sort of targeted interventions exist for students that struggle with math? Are they not understanding the concepts? Do they have inconsistent attendance and thus missing instruction? Are they students like the ones mentioned in the Mission High book, bright, but not completing their work? Are instruction and expectations wildly different from class to class and school to school? I am just curious about what goes on from school to school to support students. My experiences are in a 5 high school district, not a large K-12, so I wonder how it works in SF Unified.
3.) How does the sequencing work for language classes? If a student is “ready” to take Spanish 2 or Chinese 2 their 9th grade year, do the high schools tell them “no” and put them in Spanish or Chinese 1? There are a lot of parallels with math and language, and I am curious about how the language placement works in the high schools.
4.) How were underrepresented students targeted for 8th grade algebra? Did teachers make recommendations? Were there entry tests? If all students finish 5th grade in heterogeneously grouped classes, how did some move ahead and others struggle? What held students back? What pushed others ahead? Again, just some more questions.
I firmly believe in heterogeneously groups classes (particularly in English and social studies), but math (and language) are just different. As a former history teacher it pains me to say that, but those classes are so skill specific there needs to be some flexibility for those that have advanced skills, and supports/interventions for those that struggle.
I know that I ask a lot of questions, and many are not easily answered, but because you provided such a thoughtful forum for discussion, I thought I would present them on this blog. Thank you Rachel for being so transparent with your thoughts and opinions. My family has thus far enjoyed our time in SF Unified, but definitely have some concerns with the math sequencing.
I grew up on the east coast. My high school had 4 pathways: advanced placement (all honors classes), college preparatory, business, and technical (vocational). Graduation requirements were based on the pathway. All students experienced the pride of receiving A’s and making Honor Roll in their pathway. I graduated with high honors from the advanced program with a rigorous curriculum that surpassed the UC a-g requirement; however, my friends in the technical and business pathways would have likely quit school if the a-g criteria were mandatory. Fortunately, we ALL walked across the graduation stage together and received the exact same high school diploma, and nothing on our sheep skin suggested differential instruction.
Out of curiosity, I visited my high school website. I learned that my alma mater still offers the honors program that I took many years ago–it has not been phased out like SFUSD; in fact, it is going strong. There are still 4 levels of difficulty at the school: advanced placement, honors, college preparatory, and fundamental studies.
Here is a passage from the 9th grade curriculum:
“All 9th grade honors students will take Honors Integrated Biology, Honors English 1, and Honors World History. In addition, students who enroll in the Math/Science Program will take both Honors Geometry and Honors Algebra II in order to be eligible to take A.P. Chemistry during their sophomore year. All students must enroll in an Honors World Language class.”
Note Bene: students are allowed to advance rapidly in math. Honors Calculus is offered in 11th and 12th grades; AP Calculus is offered in 12th grade.
This is the real world. These are the kids who will compete with our children for college admissions. The required course work at my old high school is good fuel for parents (like moi) who argue against the common core curriculum and the dumbing down of the math courses in SFUSD–it shows how our children will be out shined by children from other school districts that still offer Algebra 1 in middle school and allow students to double down on their math courses, taking both Algrebra II and Geometry in 9th grade. And when the courses are offered in school for FREE, we can drop the conversation about “social injustice” and stop complaining “only the rich can take the extra math classes.”
Sorry, but I forgot to give the website, it is: UCscout.org.
I just checked out Lowell’s website and found some useful information in one of their old SSC minutes from last year: UC offers an on-line Algebra I course for $19, with a prerequisite of 7th grade math. While the price seems pretty affordable, for purposes of equity for everyone, the SFUSD would need to figure out a way to disseminate information about this type of course to all middle school students and their parents.
I can’t quite figure out why SFUSD parents would gladly accept the SFUSD new math sequence. While it appears on the face of it that the new approach to teaching math is laudatory, the sequence from grades 6 through 12 just won’t work for all students in the real world. For students who want to pursue careers in science, medicine, computer science, business and many other areas, the SFUSD education will be deficient.These students must be able to take Calculus during their senior year, grade 12, if not earlier. This is a hard core reality. And why should we even be talking about work-arounds, taking courses at City College or on-line courses? This shows that the new SFUSD policy is insufficient. Why are we willing to accept this ridiculous proposal? The reality is that students who do not take Calculus in high school will not get accepted at the top schools for engineering, pre-med, science, computer science, etc. I’m talking about UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cal Poly, MIT, etc. This is the reality.
I know this because I already have seen the reality of the college admissions process and know how tough and competitive it is. Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) won’t even look at students who want to get into their engineering program without having had Calculus in high school. Is this truly what SFUSD wants for their students? If so, then parents should demand a change in this new curriculum or else plan on putting their kids in private school or move to Mill Valley, the East Bay or the Peninsula where the public schools offer the requisite curriculum.
My personal experience with my own two kids is also telling. My daughter is a sophomore in college right now. She had the option to take Calculus in her SFUSD high school because she had taken Algebra I in her SFUSD middle school. She opted for AP Statistics her senior year — a great choice — thinking that she would not need Calculus. Now, however, she has decided to minor in business and guess what, she needs to take Calculus, either at her college or at SF State this summer. My son, who is three years younger and also in a SFUSD high school, was able to take Algebra II as a Freshman, Geometry as a sophomore, Pre-Calculus this year as a junior and will take AP Calculus next year as a senior. He has told me, by the way, that there is no way that he Algebra II and Pre-Calculus could be combined into one year — there is just too much content. He is considering majoring in Civil Engineering in college. Regardiing regular Physics (supposedly non-math based), students still need to have a solid background in Algebra I to fully grasp the equation-based course, and for AP Physics, students must have already taken Calculus. Both of my children benefited from attending a SFUSD middle school which had an honors program which offered Algebra I in 8th grade. Today they wouldn’t be able to do this.
I’d like to know why this new curriculum and sequence is acceptable? This is about equity and academic excellence for all at all income levels and about facing up to the reality of the competitive college admissions process and pursuing careers where Calculus is required at the high school level. And why should SFUSD students be forced to take high school courses at City College? Shouldn’t they be able to take Calculus at SFUSD high schools? (And as my son points out, if students have to take courses at City College, they won’t have time to participate in extra curricular activities at their high schools, plus some kids have to work after school — how equitable is that?) Commissioner Norton, can you answer these questions?
Regarding the book Mission High, I have not read it. From your description it sounds like a good story. Unfortunately, schools will be judged based on measurable outcomes. As you point out the student test scores at Mission are not seller. However, “They go to college. They achieve. They lead.” Compared to other schools how do they go to college, achieve, and lead? As I recall at one time schools were rated based on acceptance to UC or college attendance. Is that information still collected?
Thanks everyone for the various links and websites. Very useful. What is the contention then at Lowell regarding the math sequence and science classes? I believe the reason why they did not want to change the math sequence was that it impacted the ability to take certain advanced science classes. Has that been addressed.
Here are a few URLs of other district’s math sequences just for comparison:
Thanks again for the info.
Thanks again for sharing information. I think any changes are always going to be met with some confusion. I applaud the Math team for making so much information available on their website: http://www.sfusdmath.org/
At the same time, information around GATE has been really hard to come by. I know the district is in a redesign process, but I think the lack of information creates fertile ground for musings and questions to become misunderstandings. It is natural for parents to feel anxiety about so much uncertainty.
I know the district is still working out it ULTIMATE plan. Nonetheless, it would be great if the district GATE department could share some helpful information that it’s considering in the redesign (to bring parents up to speed on new thinking about gifted and talented education) as well as some information about what differentiation “looks” and “sounds” like in tangible ways families can understand.
Again, I REALLY appreciate your efforts to share information. Maybe the district can invest in more staff and partnerships (with PPS or PTA) to share information about new programs once they are defined.
Thanks for providing some more clarity, Rachel.
As you are discussing equity concerns about on-line and summer classes, I’d like to share a few thoughts. First, I’m concerned by the amount of “buzz” around Algebra 1 on-line or summer school classes. A solid algebra foundation is the key to success in advanced math and science classes, and I worry that on-line or summer classes could shortchange students. It’s great to see you reiterate that SFUSD does not recommend these options for math acceleration prior to high school. While it makes sense for SFUSD to accept UCOP approved classes for credit, it does not make sense for SFUSD to expend scarce resources on classes that SFUSD does not recommend.
My understanding is that SFUSD high school summer school resources are limited, and class offerings focus on credit recovery. If summer school offerings can be expanded, I question that math acceleration is the highest need. I’d rather students be able to manage their class-loads by taking summer classes that are not prerequisites (such as Health or College/Career) than rush through Algebra1 which is the foundation of A-G math requirements.
Scholarships are not a viable mitigation of equity issues. California law prohibits fees or tuition for public schools, and AB 1575 has strengthened enforcement. Scholarships do not legalize tuition or fees. SFUSD cannot provide classes based on either ability or willingness to pay. So, if SFUSD pays for online classes for some students, it must pay for all students. https://www.aclusocal.org/cases/doe-v-california/ab-1575-faq/
Students do not need to “double up” or take summer classes in order to take AP Calculus BC in 12th grade. Coming back to the “buzz,” in some parent communities the word on the street is that “high achieving” students are better off taking Algebra1 the summer prior to 9th grade rather than taking the compressed Algebra2+PreCalc class after Geometry. This advice is often attributed to a Lowell math teacher, but I’ve not see it in public statements from Lowell or SFUSD staff. The Algebra2+PreCalc compression course is not unique to SFUSD; Oakland USD has the same offering called Algebra2+Analysis. What has the experience been in Oakland or other districts? I’m very wary that the only criticisms I’ve heard about the compression course are attributed (perhaps incorrectly) to the Lowell math department which has not yet offered the course. Is the SFUSD STEM team working with the Lowell math department to make sure that any needed adjustments are made? The upside to creating our own math materials is that SFUSD should be able to adapt to teacher feedback.
On a positive note, I want to share a recent 3rd grade homework question. “Michael won a jackpot and got 896 dollars. His husband also won a jackpot and won 67 dollars. How much money did they win?” I love that SFUSD is making math materials more inclusive. I don’t think we would have gotten that question from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt or McGraw-Hill or probably any other publisher, no matter how much money we had to spend.
The math sequence is district-wide, so it affects all the High Schools, including Lowell. For a rendering of how the math sequence proceeds at different levels, see this graphic, which the District created for the Board’s discussion of the math sequence when it was first proposed in 2014.
Thank you for such clear information. This is very helpful. I hope the district follows your lead and starts to communicate more directly with easily accessible facts about curriculum. If you could also present a graphic that shows what “doubling up” sequences look like and then make it available to Parents for Public Schools and PTAs, that might be helpful to parents. My biggest problem with these “work around” solutions are that students need to have parent advocates who will support and encourage them to “double up” or take summer math. Many low-income students, especially those who have parents who don’t speak English or who have parents who might not have attended college, will not have parents who have the experience to know that a workaround is possible. I think ‘work around’ solutions are inequitable because it requires that the parent and student do more work to achieve the same results. If a student does not have a parent advocate, how will they successfully navigate this system? Will all students be coached on these options and given a meaningful chance to participate regardless of their parents ability to navigate they system? How will students know if they should be trying to double up or not?
Also, are there curriculum changes being made at Lowell? Can you address that?
Thank you Rachel, this is very helpful. I wish SFUSD offered this kind of clear communication with parents from day one of its changes. The graphic on how old algebra is handled in the new sequence is especially useful.
@Frank Thanks for the information!
Hello Commissioner Norton,
UC does give honors credit to classes taken prior to 11th grade if they are not 9th/10th grade English or math. If a Sophomore takes Physics H, Chem H, or Foreign Language H, it will receive the extra honors credit if it is approved by UC.
One more thought: if you are concerned about lower income families not having the money to pay outside courses or programs for their high achieving students, then why not have the SFUSD establish a scholarship fund for these families? This would provide the equity that you are concerned with while also offering all other families with high achieving children the needed option to advance and excel.
The SFUSD Board of Ed has already successfully removed most options available to parents and their high achieving kids to excel at the middle school level in San Francisco, e.g., removing the ability to choose which middle school to attend and removing honors courses in the middle schools that had offered these courses for decades. So please do not remove parents/students ability to take summer courses, doubling up, going to City College or whatever other efforts to achieve. Your reasoning about equity is incredibly off base — people of all income levels choose everyday of the week how they are going to spend their money. Please don’t prevent parents of all income levels from making choices to advance their children’s education — this is both patronizing and down right wrong. You and the other members of the Board of Ed have already created huge road blocks for high academic achievement in the San Francisco public schools, please don’t take away one of their last options.