As the Wake County school system moves to the common core for math, what role should teacher judgment play in placing students and what criteria should be used for placement in the super-advanced track?
As noted in today's article, the school board is supposed to discuss the math placement policy on Tuesday. A number of questions still have to be resolved, such as whether a policy is needed and whether an EVAAS probability predictor of 70 percent is the right floor for placement.
But another issue to be resolved is what to do about teacher judgment.
The version of the policy brought before the board last week eliminates any reference to using teacher judgment for placement decisions. During last week's school board meeting, Ruth Steidinger, senior director of middle school programs, explained they want to eliminate subjectivity from placement.
"We were working very hard to create a criteria that would be consistent, and as soon as you open the door for subjectivity, teacher judgment, parent requests, whatever, you’re going to open the door for some kids who have parents to advocate or teachers to advocate and some that don’t," Steidinger said.
Will the board amend the policy to allow teacher judgment in any circumstance, or solely to recommend placing a student in a higher course than indicated by EVAAS.
Then you've got the issue of what to do with what's essentially the top track of the three-track proposed model. This is the one that would allow students to take the new equivalent of Algebra I in seventh-grade.
One concern is that it looks like you can only get into that track in sixth-grade. School board member John Tedesco and Marvin Pittman say there need to be more "on ramps" to get into that faster track if it's offered.
For this fall, one concern is that you have to have completed 5th/6th-grade compacted math to be eligible. Tedesco said that requirement is unfair for students from elementary schools who didn't offer that class.
For spring 2013 and beyond, you have to have a 98 percentile score or higher on a nationally normed aptitude test or math achievement test.
Currently, Wake only offers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to third-graders to determine whether students will be identified as Academically and Intellectually Gifted. Students scoring at the 75th percentile or higher on the CogAT will take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).
Speakers at last week's board meeting questioned using those tests for this criteria, especially when it will have been taken three years before the student enters sixth-grade.
Plus, Tedesco and Pittman raise the concern that affluent parents can get private testing that low-income parents may not be able to afford or know about.
"If I have someone give me a test, they’re going to give me what I want,” Pittman said. “We’re playing games if we don’t think that’s a fact. That eliminates children from the most rigorous track.”
Tedesco said he's not a fan of offering this track considering how much more rigorous math will be under the common core. He also noted that the authors of the common core don't support having this kind of track that would have students take math two years faster than projected.
But Tedesco said that if the track is offered, he supported creating more on ramps and/or lowering it from a 98 percentile score.
Pittman said he's concerned that if changes aren't made this will result in a watering down of the track that has students taking the new Algebra I equivalent in eighth-grade.