Constantly changing curriculum stacks odds against Georgia students
by Don McKee
August 19, 2013 12:11 AM | 1425 views | 1 1 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Algebra is a big problem for most Georgia public school students, especially with the new coordinate algebra imposed under Common Core Standards adopted by state education officials.

Only 37 percent of Georgia students met or exceeded the coordinate algebra standard this year on the first tests administered since Common Core algebra was introduced last fall, mostly to ninth-graders. That means a stunning 63 percent of the students did not meet the Common Core standard.

Here in Cobb the results were dismal, with scores plunging by 21 percentage points from the performance on what presumably was plain old, uncoordinated algebra. Fifty-eight percent of Cobb students failed the Common Core test versus 37 percent that failed the previous year’s tests on the Georgia Performance Standards algebra then favored by the state. Or, to put it another way, only 42 percent of Cobb students passed the new algebra tests compared to 63 percent passing the now discarded GPS tests.

Students got hit with a double whammy. First, the new test on new curriculum is described as being tougher than the old course. Second, the state raised the “cut score,” meaning the threshold for passing became significantly higher. So not only did students have to try to master a “new algebra” — remember the days of “new math”? — but they had to score higher than they did on the old algebra in order to pass the tests.

Cobb might take a little solace by looking at the results from other metro districts. Compared to the 58 percent fail rate in Cobb, it was 78 percent in Clayton. In Atlanta it was 77 percent, and in DeKalb, 74 percent. And let’s not overlook the performance of the students in some of Cobb’s top high schools: 82 percent at Walton met or exceeded standards, 76 percent at Pope and 70 percent at Kennesaw Mountain High. In sharp contrast, Pebblebrook High managed only a 13 percent pass rate, South Cobb High, 17 percent, and McEachern, 19 percent.

All of which reconfirms the fact that demographics generally dictate academic achievement. Schools with parents that are deeply involved in their children’s education and are on solid economic footing with strong educational backgrounds reflect those factors in the performance of students.

The reverse holds true for schools lacking the necessary parental commitment while confronting tough socio-economic problems.

One thing that does not help any school is the constantly changing curriculum — and now the “cut scores” — handed down by the state. This point was made by Amy Krause, chief academic officer of the Cobb school district. She was correct in saying it’s not fair to compare the test scores on the new and old algebra courses.

“The course was once again shifted,” she told the Journal’s Lindsay Field. The operative words are “once again shifted.” How many times in the past five or six years have the curricula and standards and tests been changed in Georgia? Next question: How long will it be before they’re changed again?

dmckee9613@aol.com
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Better Math
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August 19, 2013
From experience with all of my children's middle school math teachers - I would like to see stronger math teachers in our middle schools. Our kids are not being prepared for algebra and geometry in middle school for these high school level classes. Both of my children took algebra in middle school. They both did well and exceeded their math standards that year. HOWEVER - it was my husband who was teaching and re-teaching them.
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