Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sixth Grade Math Placement Policy Redux

Recently I had another conversation with the Math Coordinator for the district while looking into the opt-up form and at that point the old policy still was intact. However, events have moved forward and it looks like placement will be a more site based  decision after all.

From Principal  Paula Montgomery at JAMS:
"Since there is no longer the use of MSP and MAP data, we are attempting to create an equitable and clear process to get every student in the most appropriate math course.

Our intent is this:

-          We value 5th grade teachers recommendations but at the same time we want to make sure that students are not overlooked in non-HCC schools and that 5th grade teachers are not over-burdened with recommendations. At JAMS we have a few students from neighborhood schools who are in Algebra and are quite successful. About 1/3 of our HCC population comes from neighborhood schools.
-          We are finding that SBAC scores are coming back to us within a few weeks. Even last summer, we were able to use 5th grade SBAC scores as one of the measures for students requesting a higher math placement.
-          We also want to  respect parent decision to have their students not take the SBAC, but need a consistent measure of the students mastery of specific skills.
-          At JAMS, we believe that all students should have mastery of 7th grade math standards prior to Algebra. We have a small group of students who move from “7th grade math” to Algebra. The above criteria is in-line with the same criteria that we are using for our current students in Math 7.
We have collaborated with Hamilton and Washington so that we are similar in our placement decisions, but I am not sure how completely align/ed we are as all schools are now moving quickly since receiving our 5thgrade information. JAMS is a bit different than both school as we group our students by level and by grade level. For example, we have a 6thgrade only algebra class. Our 6th graders in 8th grade math, have only other  6th graders in their classes. "

I'll see if I can get the equivalent policies from the other Middle School buildings. If anyone has any information please add it on.


Wedgwood Mom said...

Thank you for this information! I appreciate the details provided by Paula Montgomery. I have been trying to decide between Eckstein and JAMS HCC for my daughter and this does highlight one of the benefits of being at JAMS, from my perspective.
Although I am not opposed to kids of mixed grades being in the same math class, I know my son was concerned about this when he started Middle School. I do believe the kids benefit from being with their cohort in learning, especially since the kids change so much in the Middle School years.

Anonymous said...

This is helpful. Thank you for your outreach on this, Ben. I wonder if anyone has a link to a website that explains the HCC pathway progress so a newbie HCC parent like myself can see into the future and understand the course options for our HCC student at Garfield (Lincoln) vs IB vs a neighborhood high school. I'm especially interested in the difference in 11th and 12th grade years for my HCC student -- what classes will be available to him because he went the HCC route vs what would have been available to him if he stayed the course in his neighborhood school?

My student is currently at Cascadia, and I assume he will be in 8th grade math during his first year at JAMS. What are the 9-12 math classes for HCC students for those who attended JAMS at took 8th grade math in 6th vs those who took 7th grade math in 6th vs those who stay on the typical track and take 6th grade math in 6th grade? The progress pathway for math, science, LA for these difference scenarios should be in a chart somewhere so parents understand their options. Is this available and does anyone have a link?

We are happy our son is challenged and enthusiastically engaged in learning in 2nd grade at Cascadia vs bored in 2nd grade at our neighborhood school, but it is difficult to understand the value of HCC beyond elementary now that there appears to be no future pathway to Garfield and it isn't clear what the new school culture and offerings would be at Lincoln, since it is a hypothetical option, and IBX is apparently an option with no explanation of how students are selected.

We are in the NE area, so our student may not fit into the new HCC elementary building and we might be faced with deciding between private, going back to our neighborhood school, or having him placed his NE HCC cohort in the corner of Decatur, Cedar Park or Olympic Hills buildings for what sounds like a not very appealing 4th and 5th grade experience. Given the uncertainty, I am leaning towards having him go back to our neighborhood school after 3rd grade so he can enjoy being in the 4th grade play with his buddies and attend Islandwood in 5th grade. We can supplement math, and perhaps looping back to get a very strong foundation in 4th, 5th and 6th grade math isn't such a bad thing. I hear our neighborhood school (Bryant) is finally adding walk to math....

Why they eliminated spectrum and are now surprised those families are scrambling to get into HCC schools is beyond me. Who are these people?!! Clearly the people driving the pathways and "vision" for AL and HCC are not ever in communication with the people managing capacity planning. This is where they need to throw some money and consultants - fast. There is a total breakdown at the district level and it began well before the head of AL went out on medical leave.

Given all of the confusion and capacity problems, it appears to me there needs to be more HCC (AL) options in the neighborhood schools for those families not interested in rolling the dice when it comes to knowing where their child will attend from year to year. I understand neighborhood schools are also bursting at the seems, but this might help the district wrap their heads around projections, since they don't currently know when the HCC kids are going to jump ship and go for the cohort.

-CRAPS table

Anonymous said...

Typical math pathway for HCC:

6 - 8th grade math (?)
7 - Algebra 1
8 - Geometry
9 - Algebra 2
10 - PreCalculus
11 - AP Calculus AB
12 - AP Calculus BC or AP Stats

If your student can access Algebra in 7th, plus Geometry in 8th, in your neighborhood (or private) school, they would still be on the typical HCC math pathway. Not all high schools offer AP Calculus BC (Ingraham included, but they cover advanced Calculus topics in the IB Math HL class). The typical Spectrum pathway leads to taking Algebra in 8th grade, so:

8 - Algebra 1
9 - Geometry
10 - Algebra 2
11 - PreCalculus
12 - AP Calculus AB

Taking Algebra in 8th will allow a student to take Calculus in 12th grade.

For science, HCC students take Physical Science in 7th and Biology in 8th, which allows them to take more advanced science in high school. They would typically start with Chemistry in 9th grade.

I would reassess options at middle school (and consider keeping your child at Cascadia), since middle school is the weakest link in the pathway, academically. In another year you may have a better idea of where middle school and high school assignments are headed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, @11:06. This is helpful. He is currently very comfortable with the level of work across the board, and has made some new friends. He will absolutely stay at Cascadia as long as possible. We're just not sure what to expect after the pending split.

-CRAPS table

NorthEnd Parent said...

Our son is a 6th grader at JAMS, in Math 8 (he would not have been ready for Algebra, as he came from a non-HCC school).

We have been pleased w/ JAMS, and w/ Paula Montgomery in particular. While his math was quite advanced, the Math 8 placement was the right one for him. Indeed, because he came from a non-HCC school, the move from 5th grade math to Math 8 involved a bit of a learning curve; but he self-taught the two-year jump easily, and has been doing quite well (and, more importantly, he is happy—as happy as a middle schooler can be—and feels supported and welcomed at this fairly large middle school).

Paula does feel very strongly that kids in HCC (and in general) should be age-grouped, and while I would not have seen this as much of an issue in K-5, I think it's important in the middle school years. My child is 12, and not yet tapping on puberty's door; some of the 8th graders are definitely on their way—physically and socially—to adulthood. As it should be! But I am glad he gets to be a smart 6th grader with other smart 6th graders, and not the "little kid" in an 8th grade classroom.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain skipping 7th grade versus 8th grade math? I remember reading that it's mostly OK to skip 8th gr math, but critical not to skip 7th. This jibes with it being OK for a Cascadia 6th grader (who covered 7th grade in 5th) to jump to algebra (skipping 8th). It would also jibe with neighborhood HCC kids taking 7th grade math in 6th grade at JAMS, then skipping 8th to move to Algebra, meeting up with the standard HCC cohort as seventh graders.

What is covered in 7th grade math versus 8th so that it is so much more crucial? Also, for students skipping 8th grade math before taking algebra, are there online materials or texts that people recommend for the summer before?

5th gr mom

Anonymous said...

With CCSS, 8th grade math has a good deal of overlap with Algebra 1, while 7th grade covers some fundamental concepts needed for high school Algebra and Geometry - proportional relationships, unit rates, operations with fractions, decimals, and percents, working with algebraic expressions, operations with integers, scientific notation, inequalities, along with geometric concepts and some basic probability and statistics.

If your child was trying to accelerate to Algebra in 7th by skipping a class, it would be best to take 7th grade math, but skip 8th grade math. For a sampling of 7th grade topics, IXL (an online math skills program) shows some of the CCSS with the accompanying skills:

Appendix A of the CCSS has a suggested "compacted" pathway for covering 7th, 8th, and Algebra 1 content over 7th and 8th grades, leading to Calculus in 12th, but SPS has not created such a pathway.

Anonymous said...

On this topic of skipping 7th vs 8th grade math, it seems to me that JAMS (and maybe SPS) have changed their tune recently. When my 7th grader started 6th grade at JAMS (coming from neighborhood Spectrum school into HCC), he and others similarly situated were placed in 8th grade math in 6th grade (skipping 7th grade math). (Because they were in the Spectrum program, they did 6th grade math in 5th grade.) My 7th grader is now in 7th grade doing Algebra I. He is doing great; however, all this talk about how critical 7th grade math is makes me nervous. I believe JAMS is now having these kids take 7th and skip 8th, but a year ago, they were having them skip 7th and take 8th. My son is taking the SBAC (math) now -- being testing on 7th grade math concepts even though he is in Algebra I -- and he says some of the things he is being test on are new/never covered (but claims he has been able to figure them out). I'm sure this is because he never took 7th grade math. Should I be worried about whatever he missed? This would be an issue not just for him, but for all kids who joined HCC in 6th grade at a time when it was recommended they skip 7th grade and take 8th grade math.

Concerned about missed math

Anonymous said...

What does JAMS do if they have more than one class of 6th graders going for algebra?


Anonymous said...

At some point, it seems they will need to start mixing grades, like at HIMS. They tried to keep it within 2 grade bands, so 6th and 7th Algebra 1 students, but not 6th, 7th, 8th in one class.

Anonymous said...

Dear Concerned About Missed Math: So...don't miss the math. Have him take the class. There isn't some sort of award for acceleration and there are serious consequences later in an academic career for kids whose math is an inch deep on the fundamentals. I have to agree with the high school teacher 'unimpressed by acceleration' viewpoint here. Not for all kids, but for most kids. Get the 7th, 8th and Algebra concepts down cold in 6-8 and students will be good to go in high school and beyond.

Anonymous said...

In your shoes, Concerned, I would probably have your student work through the concepts mentioned above on Khan Academy over the summer rather than taking the class next year, and having a year gap between algebra and geometry. My kid's algebra class is doing work now that lays a foundation for geometry, and I think taking a year off the progression might cause gaps in more places after you filled in the first ones. As I am sure you can see, many of those concepts are very important later for science and higher level math, and I wouldn't want my student to only have a cursory familiarity with them. I am glad they are switching the pathway for incoming HCC students to 7th grade math-Algebra. I do think it makes more sense.


Benjamin Leis said...

Well that ship has sailed in @concerned about missed maths case since the student is finishing 7th grade and already on the accelerated track.

Take the following with a grain of salt (I track all this closely since its an area of special interest for me but I haven't directly experienced everything yet)

Generally the build-up to Algebra is about consolidating mastery of fractions/ratios/decimals/percentages with some bits and pieces of geometry thrown in.

The recent CC shifts have pushed some linear equation material that used to be in Algebra I down into 8th grade math.

If the above skills seem solid then you're on track. It would be interesting to know what areas seemed new to your son and to closely examine how he did on the homework and tests that focused on them. Honestly, I think you can also learn a lot by watching your child work through some sample problems if you still have doubts. There area also various resources online for assessment.
I hope this helps

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments regarding "concerned about missed math" (me). I like the idea of doing some Khan Academy over the summer. I will see how he scores on the 7th grade math SBAC. If he does well, then maybe no need for concern. If he doesn't do well, then clearly he has missed something important. He did very well in 8th grade math last year and Algebra I this year (all A's with no difficulty). Unfortunately, I don't think we get SBAC results until the fall. (Not very helpful.)

Concerned about missed math

Anonymous said...

My kid went from 7th-grade math to Alg 1 and didn't have a problem. They are now several years further on with no problems or holes. We did do some of the pre-algebra book from the Art of Problem Solving over the summer before alg 1 and it helped a lot. Seattle's math program is still crap and there will be holes even if you do both 7th and 8th of the crappy math. Some teachers do supply outside good math, but not all do.

My kid was not thrilled to do the AOPS (it was summer) but they now admit that it helped them and even made them like math more. School math was boring but AOPS was much more interesting for them.


Anonymous said...

Another option for covering basic concepts - get a basic pre-algebra text and have your child work through the concepts that he hasn't yet covered. AOPS comes highly recommended, but my child didn't respond well to the format of the books. Many years ago, we used Dolciani's Mathematics Structure and Method: Book 2 (copyright 1992, ISBN 0-395-57013-1), as a supplement to CMP. The book covers three years of middle school math topics, you can buy it used for less than 5$ on Amazon, and it's so much better than CMP.

Anonymous said...


I'd look at AOPS and see if you prefer it to Khan. I had my DD do the pre-algebra track in the summer between 5th and 6th and she had no problem in 6th grade algebra, although at SPS it's pretty weak algebra. AOPS's Alcumus lets you select the pre-algebra track, and you can choose the option to not move on to new skills until you've mastered the previous topic. There are videos to accompany each topic, and detailed explanations of the problem in the event the answer is incorrect or the student gives up. Plus it has a fun interface where each problem earns points based on difficulty, and he can watch his experience points build. You can see exactly which topics are covered and where there might be problems. All free. Vastly superior to Khan, IMHO.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

If the student skipped 7th grade math, not 8th grade math, and is now doing great in Algebra, I'm not following the benefit of the at-home pre algebra work being discussed. Wouldn't the missed math be something other than pre-algebra?

Anonymous said...

When will the 5th grade SBAC results be available for Cascadia?


Anonymous said...

The updated OSPI FAQ on SBAC says the school receives the result electronically in a few weeks. Scores should be starting to come in if that's true.

Q: How — and when — are test results reported?
A: Results are reported for individual students, schools, districts, and the state.
Schools can access student scores, electronically, just a few weeks after their students take the tests.
Every family of a student who takes a state test receives a paper score report. These final reports, with statewide results, are available by September. Each school/district decides how families will receive this report (e.g., mail, parent/teacher conference). Check with your school or district to find out how you will receive your child's results.