Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Official 6th Grade Math Placement Policy

Here is the text I finally received. This is not up on the web site yet but will be there soon. 

  • This is generally an improvement for HCC students going to Algebra over being required to take a test at the district headquarters or using 4th grade data,
  • I'm not sure if this is a change for kids coming from an ALO school and if they used to be able to opt up 2 years for instance and go straight to Math 8.
  • The language on scheduling discretion may be a codification of what has been happening (see McClure Middle School) but it would be nice to see a stronger guarantee of a pathway.
  • I'd prefer more outreach to families and an official policy rather than text on the website and an informal situation.

"Due to some changes in testing, the current middle school math placement plan has been reconsidered. All SPS students will be recommended to take the next math course in sequence in grade 6. That is, if a student was taught grade 6 standards in grade 5, the student will be recommended for grade 7 as a sixth-grader. The math program manager will work with the elementary schools to identify the current standards being taught to grade 5 students so the middle schools know what math course is next for students. In an effort to reduce barriers to advanced courses, the option for students to “opt up” of one course beyond the next in sequence will remain. Families will be guided to make this decision based on:
·         Standards mastered
·         The student’s willingness to be challenged and perhaps even frustrated in a course that is well beyond the next in sequence
Ultimate placement decisions remain the right and responsibility of the middle school and may be made based on a variety of factors at that school"


Anonymous said...

This negatively impacts kids coming from anywhere other than HCC ellementary schools. In the past, they could qualify for math 8 or higher based on test scores alone, but it sound like they won't be allowed to access Alg 1 in 6th anymore--only HCCkids officially doing 7th gr math in 5th, whose next class is Math 8, could opt up to Alg 1.

My kid came from a non-ALO elementary and, based on scores, was eligible for Alg 1 in 6th--but under the new plan the max placement would be two full years lower (Math 7). Seems like a drastic change. I have to wonder if it's at all based on data, or rather just more efforts to impose ceilings and manage staffing...and maybe lower the achieve my gap?

Little Fishy

Anonymous said...

Can students further accelerate in 7th or 8th grade? Suppose a student starts 6th grade in 7th grade math. Can they still opt up one year and take Algebra in 7th?

I can understand the policy change - they simply don't have the data to create a placement matrix based on MAP or SBAC, since MAP is no longer administered at all schools,and they can't say SBAC scores (grade level, with a clear test ceiling) are a good predictor of success in algebra. Of course SBAC is used for AL placement....

I would be concerned that the flexibility given to principals in placement decisions could be used by some principals to severely limit math advancement for reasons other than what is best for students (class counts, for example).

MS parent

SusanH said...

MS Parent: what you suggest is exactly what we did with our son (who came from Gen Ed Elementary with no math acceleration). Our math specialist at that school said that 7th grade math is more important than 8th, more critical concepts covered. So my son did 7th grade math in 6th grade, then Algebra 1 in 7th grade, and now Geometry in 8th. He did cover 8th grade curriculum with a few tutoring sessions during the summer between 6th and 7th, to make sure he wouldn't be missing anything important. It's all gone smoothly.

Anonymous said...

MS parent- yes, this happens all the time, skipping while in middle school. Principals have that placement flexibility now (and regularly abuse it), so while this doesn't solve that problem, I guess it doesn't make it worse. I have heard many places (and agree from our own experience) that 7th grade math is one of the more critical years, and kids on the whole should not skip it. I agree that this is a problem for math-y kids who have stayed in an unaccelerated gen ed math class and want to join the hcc at 6th grade. Walk to math should really be standard at all schools, at least one grade, and then they could at least go up to 8th in 6th, with the vast majority of hcc kids (though you probably wouldn't want them skipping Algebra or Geometry if they wanted to further accelerate. hrmmm).


Anonymous said...

".....rather just more efforts to impose ceilings and manage staffing...and maybe lower the achieve my [sic] gap?"

I think you nailed it Little Fishy.

-SPS parent

Anonymous said...

This all depends on the child. I think if you work with your MS before school starts you can find the right fit. My child came from gen ed but he is a math phenom, so he placed in Algebra based on MAP scores but we moved him down to 8th grade math in 6th grade because we thought the transition to middle school HCC was enough change, why make him move up essentially 3 years in math. now I kind of regret it, Algebra is kind of a repeat of 8th grade math. but whatever you decide, do it before school starts because it's very very hard to move their classes once they've been assigned.

-We love math

Anonymous said...

So you get your child placed in Algebra and Geometry in MS, but it's a Pyrrhic victory. The curriculum is baby Algebra and baby Geometry. It's the same course that the most math phobic kid will take and pass two or three years later. It moves slowly and is shallow. If your kid is mathy enough to be taking Algebra in MS, s/he needs a serious Algebra course. Same with Geometry. If they someday want to go into a STEM field, they may well need remedial math in college, as so many kids, even those with the scores to get into the UW, do.

Mathy mom

Anonymous said...

Mathy mom makes a good point. Accelerating to Algebra in 6th can present the same problem - your child could possibly have a watered down Algebra 2 course in 8th grade, as opposed to a more in depth honors level Algebra 2 in high school. The 8th grade biology course is on the simple side as well.

Anonymous said...

If I can rant for minute, I see the problem like this: you have a mathy kid, but the elementary curriculum is crap. (EDM/current scope and sequence, whatever). Elementary teachers don't have time to challenge kid, or "challenge" is handing your kid pre-algebra work with no accompanying instruction or support. Or half of your kids' elementary teachers are math phobic themselves. Your kid brings home great report cards and scores very well on standardized tests. Kid is bored and wants more math. So you get kid into Algebra in 6th, after much machination. Kid falters, because of poor elementary curriculum. Kid thinks kid is not smart in math. MS thinks putting kids into Algebra in 6th is a mistake, and makes a heavy-handed rule to route kid through 7th and 8th math first. MS curriculum is weak, kid is bored, and a kid with lots of potential to love and excel at math is turned into a kid who is "meh" on math. This is an HCC thread so maybe if your kid is at Cascadia the above rant about ES math doesn't apply. But I see many kids who were mathy in ES and in sub-standard but accelerated math classes in MS. And their parents are probably happy and will be until kid goes to college hoping to be engineers or something in STEM and has major problems with math for the first time in their lives.

Ho ho ho.

crabby mom

Anonymous said...

crabby mom, that's why parents of mathy kids need to supplement--or better yet, avoid the SPS math curricula altogether. It's unfortunate, inconvenient, and inequitable, yes. But no need to make your own child suffer in the short term, or pay the consequences in the long term, because SPS can't get it's act together. You owe it to your kid to help them get a good math foundation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon above. I heard from many parents of older APP kids that MS algebra was not very good and left holes in their skills. We chose to homeschool algebra in 6th grade using a respected curriculum. I am so glad we did. Our kid is in high school now and likes math so much more than they did before.

My kid was in APP elementary but always found math slow and boring. Homeschooling changed that and they were challenged for the first time.
- no regrets

Anonymous said...

I completely respect everyone's opinion, but , in response to crabby moms post, I just wanted to share that not all kids struggle with the math curriculum in Seattle schools. I have a 10th and 7th grader, both of whom skipped one grade of math in middle school and both have attended different middle schools and therefore have had different teachers, the younger one currently being at Hamilton. They are both 2 years ahead, get A's, and score high on standardized tests. We have never supplemented their math instruction, provided a tutor, or provided much help at home. One likes math and the other doesn't and they are both doing equally well.

I think it's important to recognize that plenty of kids do just fine with the math curriculum and I think it would be a challenge to find one math book to works for everyone. I would hate to instill fear in upcoming parents that their students are not going to learn math or will be doomed for the rest of their adult life due the math curriculum. Each child is unique and some student may need extra help, but not all.

But don't get me started on the lack of a decent LA curriculum. :)

Fine with math

Anonymous said...

Fine with math,

I appreciate your perspective as I tend to get very exercised about math. It's good for me to take a deep breath once in a while.

My mathy kid took Algebra in 6th and got A's, didn't break a sweat, and easily passed the EOC and does well on standardized tests. Her school didn't offer Geometry when she was in 7th, so we opted to take a rigorous on-line Algebra course, the second half of AOPS Introduction to Algebra, rather than moving ahead to Geometry, because what's the rush, and because I know that kids who have a strong Algebra foundation have little problem with higher math. It was so hard it made her eyes cross and her teeth hurt. But she learned, according to her, more in the first 3 weeks than she had the entire year in Discovery Algebra in 6th grade. Important to me, she also learned what it felt like not to be the smartest kid in the class, and how it felt not to be able to do every single problem. She learned not to freak out when something was overwhelming, which is a life skill, right? She's taking AOPS Geometry now, at her request. She tried taking Geometry at her MS but she's now used to a faster paced class and wanted that again.

I know there is a vast middle ground between the two curricula, Discovering and AOPS. It seems to me that lots of kids would be well served by a curriculum more thorough and rigorous than Discovering, while I agree that AOPS is for a kid that really loves math and can handle a lot of frustration.

Mathy Mom

Anonymous said...

Another thing that's influenced me: a friend who worked in the UW math help center told me that students who were struggling in Calculus were having problems because they didn't have a good foundation in Algebra. These are kids who score well enough to get into the UW. So there's that.

Mathy Mom

Anonymous said...

Just putting in a good word for math at Ingraham - after mediocre middle school math (and much supplementation at home), we have found math at Ingraham to be a refreshing change. The math is solid and my child feels appropriately challenged for the first time.

Go Rams!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mathy Mom. If you talk to knowledgeable people about math (mathy parents, college professors, many Seattle school math teachers) there is almost universal agreement that discovery algebra is terrible. There are many stories of kids doing well with this curriculum, and passing the EOC with flying colors, only to find out in higher math classes that they do not have a good foundation in algebra. This actually came up recently when I was talking to an APP parent of a high schooler who has always done well in SPS math and is finding out in high school that their math skills aren't what is needed for the higher level math. These are the types of stories that made us want to homeschool. The fact that these stories are so common was sad and scary to me.

Every kid is different, but I don't believe that the current math curriculum in middle school is good for any kid. I am glad my kid has a good, solid foundation in algebra. We used a combination of an old school algebra 1 textbook and AOPS. AOPS, while very good, is probably best for a kid who likes mental puzzles - it really stretches you. My kid had the patience for this in some sections, but not in others, so that's why we did a mix.

I don't agree with "fine with math" that kids do fine with SPS' current math. There are too many stories of kids needing remedial math in college for me to believe this.

-no regrets

Lynn said...

I think "fine with math" might have missed one point. Kids coming from SPS often struggle with math when they get to college - even the ones who thought they were successful math students. Grades don't necessarily tell you anything - as they are based on performance on the SPS curriculum. I would like to hear which standardized tests they're doing well on - AP Calc or the EOC?

Anonymous said...

I agree with both Mathy Mom and Lynn. I am not familiar with the middle school program but I pulled my child out of Lincoln to go back to homeschooling in part because of the lackluster math curriculum. There is a world of difference between a program like AOPS and an average program, let alone a poor one. The depth in AOPS (including their elementary program Beast Academy) is pretty mind blowing.

Maybe my standards are too hight, but we're talking about the top 2% of students in a major tech city after all. I would not expect every student to handle such a program, but it should be more the norm for HCC students than not.


Anonymous said...

I agree with most of those above. Doing well in SPS math classes isn't a good indication that you're really getting a good math foundation. Getting A's and passing EOC's is a fairly low bar in most cases.

Even a 5 on an AP Calculus exam isn't a great indication of readiness to skip ahead to the highest class allowed, as you can miss quite a lot and still score a 5. (Higher than about 63% correct gets you a 5). If your student walks out of the AP exam confident they aced it (and then does receive a 5), that's one thing. But if they aren't completely confident initially, that 5 may be a fairly weak 5--in which case they'd likely be better off repeating some of the material in college. All 5s are not created equal, so don't assume that a 5 shows mastery.

Benjamin Leis said...

I just read this article which seems germane here:


Unfortunately, the Silicon Valley Math Initiative often ends up just opposing all acceleration at all.

Anonymous said...

So, is it possible to just homeschool one subject for my 7th grader at WMS? If we wanted to take Algebra via APOS or Khan Academy, will the district allow that? If so, what happens during the "extra" period during school for my student? Can she take foreign language, band and PE? Thanks for any insight!

Anonymous said...

You can homeschool for one subject by submitting a "Declaration of Intent to Provide Home-Based Instruction," and requesting a schedule that either 1) allows for a late start/early release, or 2) has 6 periods with an extra elective (such as PE, and you can avoid getting a PE waiver). If it can be scheduled, you can even do a combination where one semester is early release (or late start) and another semester is 6 periods and includes PE. A school can't deny a request for part-time enrollment, but they may be limited in what kind of schedule they can offer. As a homeschooler, you have a choice of curriculum and materials. The school can't dictate what program or books you use. Depending on when your child is taking Algebra currently, you could even switch to part-time homeschooling at the semester. Your child can't be on campus during the unscheduled class.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anonymous at 8:01pm, for the information. I am definitely looking into this!