Thursday, June 1, 2017

6th Grade Math Placement

Yesterday math placement letters went out from JAMS.  All the details are still a bit unclear ut


  • It appears that The 5th grade teachers uniformly declined to recommend anyone for Algebra on philosophical grounds.
  • The letters were sent prior to this year's math SBAC being administered.
  • The placement test will be administered Wednesday, June 14th from 4:00-5:00pm or Tuesday, June 27th from 8:00-9:00am at JAMS.

So I assume those wishing to opt up will have to take the placement test at the school during one of the two exams. There seems to have been a process breakdown here between the schools.  This is one of those situations where communicating more openly would be useful.  In particular, the 5th grade teachers could have handled this much more transparently and either communicated directly to JAMS their discomfort   prior to this point allowing a less reactive solution or to the parents to explain what was going to happen.

8th Grade Math Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/8/introduction/

"In Grade 8, instructional time should focus on three critical areas: (1) formulating and reasoning about expressions and equations, including modeling an association in bivariate data with a linear equation, and solving linear equations and systems of linear equations; (2) grasping the concept of a function and using functions to describe quantitative relationships; (3) analyzing two- and three-dimensional space and figures using distance, angle, similarity, and congruence, and understanding and applying the Pythagorean Theorem."

Home Assessment

The AoPS algebra readiness test is fairly solid and could be used to identify gaps: https://data.artofproblemsolving.com//products/diagnostics/intro-algebra-pretest.pdf  I


Hopefully there will be some more clarifying email from the MS side and this will be done more cleanly next year..

Feel free to add on anything more you learn for JAMS or for the placement process at the other middle school sites.


[Disclaimer: next year I will be on the JAMS BLT]

30 comments :

Anonymous said...

The 2016-17 SPS math placement policy (is it different every year??) has a few roadblocks for those wanting to opt up to Algebra for 6th grade:

1) "Middle Schools have authority to make final placement decisions based on other information and space available in specific courses."

Very vague, and allows schools to be as lenient or restrictive as they want. They can decide to not offer Algebra 2 for whatever reason. If a school is "philosophically" opposed to Algebra in 6th, you're SOL and have an additional challenge if you choose to homeschool Algebra for 6th.

2) For Geometry: Passing grade in a high school credit-eligible Algebra 1 course
For Algebra 2: Passing grade in a high school credit-eligible Geometry course
Families


For those choosing to homeschool math, as a means of accessing Algebra in 6th, this requirement does not seem consistent with WA code. The SPS Math Department should know this. Public schools need to treat homeschooled students the same as they would private schooled students, and I'm pretty sure they don't require students coming from private school, having had Algebra, to have taken a "high school credit-eligible" course. They should place them in the next course in the sequence, based on the school transcript. Similarly, they should place homeschooled students based on course taken. Requiring "high school credit eligible" - in middle school - wrongly restricts home educated students. The materials and methods of the course are up to the parent (or the private school), not SPS.

Middle School Math Placement 2016-17
https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Math/standards%20missed%20when%20opting%20up%20in%20middle%20school%20math.pdf

Do individual schools have written policies in addition to what's posted on the SPS Math Department site? Has SPS followed up with those students having had Algebra 2 in 8th grade? How are they faring in high school math courses?

Anonymous said...

We were advised to cover 8th grade math in the summer with our motivated student. How does that jibe with taking a test on 8th grade standards in June?

Needing to rethink?

Anonymous said...

It would have much more reasonable for them to say early on that those students wishing to advance an extra year will be required to take an Algebra readiness test. Perhaps a minimum SBAC score is required to sit for the test. If teachers aren't willing to put any thoughtful effort into either recommendations or have a discussion with parents about their own child's readiness for the subject, it's a challenge for families who may be on the border between the two classes. We have had only one conference months ago, and only scores, no written feedback, on the report card from our math teacher. Certainly, some amount of time could have been spent addressing readiness with students/families before the last few weeks of school.

Two other things also made this process poor. I, and likely many other families, would have opted out of standardized testing had they made it clear that the JAMS test was the qualifier. We've opted out before, but because this test "mattered" we chose to take it in 5th.

Also, we all know that within HCC classes, there is still wide variability. On the flip side, were any families counseled to retake Math 7 if mastery wasn't properly demonstrated? There are kids at every level in our class, so some of our frustration is wanting to move up with kids who are super math-centric and eager, and for my child not to spend as much time as they did this year waiting for groups of kids to catch up. If even the most capable math kids are being directed to Math 8, do the teachers put thought into kids who might need some additional repetition at this level? I've heard a teacher comment that it's not developmentally appropriate to take Algebra in 8th grade. But, there are successful kids in that program every year.

Does anyone know if the test is "Algebra Readiness" or a test on 8th grade material, or is that the same thing? If kids are recommended to cover 8th grade math in the summer, it's too bad that some of the kids who were ready to move on earlier couldn't have been offered the chance to work ahead the last few months of school.

Taking Test

Richard said...

I can't believe there isn't a simple procedure of HCC 5th graders moving into 8th grade level courses, period, whether with their age peers or not. What planet is the school district even on? Why waste all this time with testing and recommendations and just move forward with the acceleration as it is. It creates unnecessary bureaucracy and unnecessary unpredictability.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair if I say what placement test is used, but honestly, if your child has been bored in math this year, have them take the placement test, and don't worry about studying for it. I had my child do the 8th grade kahn academy stuff before the placement test and it was entirely unnecessary. I say this as the parent of two kids who have succeeded on the Algebra in 6th path.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that there will always be a range of speed and ability in classes at this level in public school. If kids have met the requirement to be in Math 8 (as in, received passing grades in math this year), it shouldn't be for others to ask whether they need more repetition by repeating Math 7. Even a self-selecting group that moves up to further acceleration should and will have a range of abilities and that is OK too. The teachers must set a reasonable pace and requirements and it is OK to ask kids to put in extra work to keep up if need be.

Andreas Karch said...

I am father of a Cascadia current 5th grader on her way to JAMS. We haven't received any letters regarding Math placement next year so far. From what is posted here I gather that a placement test will be offered for children thinking of opting up to take Algebra in 6th grade. For those of you who got a letter already, do you mind sharing when the test dates will be?

Benjamin Leis said...

Hi Andreas,
I added the placement test dates in the main post. I'd recommend contacting the school to fix-up your contact information.
Hope this helps

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is it they are uncomfortable about?

Andreas Karch said...

Thanks Benjamin,

I did get letters from JAMS before, so they should have our address on file. It is a little bizarre that we didn't get a letter. I just sent an email to the registrar hoping to find answers. Thanks for providing the dates!

Andreas

Anonymous said...

This just shows you the mismatch between the current math teachers at Cascadia and gifted ed. It is sad, really. Last year, about 30 kids went to JAMS to Algebra 1 in 6th grade. Not one of them had any problems whatsoever. Remember, math in middle school is NOT HCC, meaning, it is not accelerated. These highly capable students learn quickly, without repetition, that is their hallmark. In contrast, math moves so slowly, so, even an HCC student student who isn't "mathy" given their propensity to learn really quickly, can readily handle the material no problem.

Math 8 is mostly a repeat of math 7. And, math 8 moves slowly. So yes, the teachers blocking the kids' access to algebra 1 in this way is very, very puzzling at best, ignorant and prejudiced at worst.

Besides, we are suppose to be able to opt up one course in math. So, why discriminate against just HCC students, for whom a skip means passing over math 8? The inconsistency really does highlight the anti-student attitudes.

math

Anonymous said...

That is good to know, @math. I heard that some students struggled but this is a good reminder that it is OK to struggle sometimes and you can still be successful in the class. That is why many of us moved to APP in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Struggle is ok, but "math" is not right. Plenty of kids each year struggle and drop. There are some organizational skills required. The school tries to scaffold, but moving to middle school is a big jump in many ways. Algebra in 6th can be a bad idea for plenty of very bright, "mathy" kids. I agree the teacher's policy is baffling and unhelpful, but so is a blanket assertion that algebra in 6th is easy peasy for any HCC student. I wish the teachers would make recommendations. They are the ones in the best position to know which kids will do well and who needs some more time.

NJP

Benjamin Leis said...

I added some links for the general material in Math 8. It is different than Math 7 so I'd recommend checking on a per child basis what areas may or may not be missing.

Anonymous said...

@math, 6th grade Math 8 does not move slowly at JAMS. Everyone in the class is accelerated 2 years ahead and it's a challenging class that moves at their pace. You don't have to skip math 8 to get HCC/gifted-appropriate math instruction at JAMS.
2HC

Anonymous said...

@2HC, is there a sixth grade only Math 8 class too, like Algebra? Thx!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think there were at least 2 classes of 6th graders last year when my child took it. And plenty of "mathy" kids.
2HC

Anonymous said...

How many math classes are anticipated for HCC sixth-graders at JAMS? Does anyone know? Thanks. Will more than half the sixth-grade kids be in algebra in fall 2017?

Wondering

Anonymous said...

Last year there were 2 sections of Math 8 for 6th graders and 1 of Algebra. I haven't heard what the plans are for next year. They probably won't finalize that until after placement testing is complete, especially without teacher recommendations to help them plan for incoming students.
2HC

Anonymous said...

There were two teachers math 8 students could have last year, but I think there were more than 2 sections, more like 4. I think about 20% of HCC students opt up to Algebra. Mostly who were in HCC in 5th grade, but not entirely. Doing some back of the envelope math, there are a little more than 300 6th graders (let's say 320), not quite half of whom are HCC. 150, a slightly squishy number because of the blending, and math not being strictly HCC. About 5 sections of math, 1 of which is Algebra. This is more than 2 years ago- the school has grown.

Again these numbers are rough. But I think you are asking for approximations, and I think that will do for those.

-NJP

Anonymous said...

So for Math 8, there were two 6th grade sections and two 7/8th grade sections?

Anonymous said...

No, 4 6th grade only sections of math 8. More 7th/8th, but I don't know how many.

NJP

Anonymous said...

Question about MAP as placement test for Math 8 or algebra. Do the scores achieved match the level of your students skills? Are students scoring above 250 familiar with trig functions, radicals, postulates, theorems?

https://teach.mapnwea.org/impl/maphelp/Content/Data/RIT2Concept.htm

Trying to interpret

Anonymous said...

Mine scored just above 250 and is familiar with all those concepts (though I would NOT say has mastered applying them in all settings, especially not what to do with sine/cosine/tangent; I just asked what a sine curve graphed would look like and got a ??? look). But sure, rotational symmetry, proofs, radicals, very comfortable with.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

It does help, thanks. Were these covered at Cascadia in grade 5?

Trying to interpret

Anonymous said...

I don't think so. I think mine knows this from math club and playing around on Khan Academy. I have had a kid complete algebra in 6th before- are you wondering what it might be helpful to come in knowing?

HTH

Benjamin Leis said...

Caveat: I'm not familiar with the question bank used on MAP in levels 2-5 vs 6+ or which version is being used. But no Cascadia is not covering trigonometry nor is it required for Algebra I. That falls comfortably into pre-calc.

You can get a sense of what is covered just looking at the state standards for 6th and 7th grade since the Glencoe text adheres fairly closely to them.

I posted a link a while back in the post with the actual topics that would be covered in Math 8. Those really are the only potential gap to worry about.

Also in my experience working with kids, ratios and exponents are the most likely areas to target.








Anonymous said...

If the 250-260 RIT covers these topics, how likely to be real versus artifactual are the 270-280 scores?

Anonymous said...

Probably not especially real. The MAP does not distinguish especially well between a student who has heard if a concept vs one who has completely mastered it, especially in the upper ranges. If you just start asking your kid questions about the topics you'll probably get a sense fairly quickly of what they know.

NJP

Benjamin Leis said...

My opinion is that the MAP isn't really designed for this purpose and the RIT scores give a false sense of authority.

I added a link for an algebra readiness assessment to do at home at the top. The best part is that you can also use it to find areas to work on even if you already have opted in.