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High School Math Course Sequence Discussed at SFUSD School Board Curriculum and Program Committee

posted Apr 6, 2016, 4:24 PM by Miranda Martin   [ updated Apr 14, 2016, 11:16 AM by Robin Dutton-Cookston ]

Recap: Seven possible ways to reach Calculus (and beyond) in 12th Grade

On Monday, April 4, 2016, as part of the the Curriculum and Program Committee meeting, SFUSD's Board of Education heard an update from Jim Ryan, Executive Director of STEM and Chief Academic Officer Brent Stephens on current "permissible" math course sequence options for high school students in the district. Mr. Ryan and Dr. Stephens walked commissioners through a memo laying out seven different possible course sequences that would allow students to complete high-level math classes by the end of 12th grade (AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC and/or college level Calculus 1/2 at City College)

Background

The presentation was partially in response to parent concerns about existing opportunities for students to accelerate the pace of their math learning and have access to advanced math classes preparing them for rigorous college math and engineering programs. The seven options presented would be "permissible" under the current policy, but at least two were not "recommended" and several face logistical barriers or may not currently be accessible to students at all high schools.

Options

The options are laid out in detail in a memo presented to the board; here is a summary:

Option 1: SFUSD Recommended Sequence:     

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Algebra 1
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Geometry
  • 11th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression (or City College Math 92 College Algebra/City College Math 95 Trigonometry)
  • 12 Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)

This is the SFUSD math department's recommended course of study for students wishing to take higher level math in 12th Grade.

Option 2: Passed Validation Test Sequence without passing Algebra: (Not Recommended) 

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Geometry
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)
  • 12th Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110C Calculus III/City College Math 120 Linear Algebra)

This sequence is not recommended because the SFUSD math department does not see passing the validation test as a substitute for the deeper learning supported by year-long enrollment in Algebra. The policy surrounding use of a "validation test" for placement into 9th grade CCSS Geometry is currently in draft form so it is unclear if this option will be permissible going forward.

Option 3: Doubling Up on Math Freshman Year:

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Algebra I And CCSS Geometry
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)
  • 12 Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110C Calculus III/City College Math 120 Linear Algebra)
Following this sequence might require students to forgo another course that they will need to take later to meet graduation requirements (e.g. art, foreign language, health) and also may require staffing shifts if many students at a school take advantage of this sequence.  For example, if large numbers of students (~150) double up on math in freshman year at a particular high school an additional math teacher would need to be hired -- and there would be less students taking other classes such as art, foreign language, health etc. which could impact staffing needs in those disciplines. Currently 145 9th grade students are doubling up on math in SFUSD.

Option 4: Doubling Up on Math Sophomore Year:

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Algebra I  
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Geometry and CCSS Algebra II 
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics
  • 12 Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)

The same concerns exist with this option as with Option 3, above. Namely the need to forgo other required classes and impacts on staffing. Mr. Ryan noted that taking CCSS Geometry along with the CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression course was not recommended as that would be essentially compressing 3 years of math content into one school year.

Option 5: Algebra I Taken Prior to 9th Grade and Passed Validation Test: 

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Geometry
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)
  • 12th Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110C Calculus III/City College Math 120 Linear Algebra

This could be achieved if a student took either an in-person or online Algebra I course prior to 10th grade and also passed the validation exam. The SFUSD Math Department views this as an acceptable but not optimal sequence and does not recommend providing SFUSD funding for online summer math courses which it "does not view as equivalent to enrollment in an SFUSD math course."

There is some ambiguity about current vs. proposed policy with respect to SFUSD's stance on requiring students who have taken Algebra 1 at accredited high schools (where the course is also accepted by UC Doorways) to also pass a validation exam before being placed in CCSS Geometry in 9th grade. Dr. Stephens noted that this policy would be clarified in the very near future. 

Option 6: Double Block of Math Freshman Year

  • 9th Grade: Double block (2 class periods) of CCSS Algebra 1st Semester and Double block (2 class periods) CCSS Geometry 2nd Semester
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)
  • 12th Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110C Calculus III/City College Math 120 Linear Algebra

This option was discussed but deemed not currently workable as few or no high schools offer 2nd semester CCSS Algebra 1 or CCSS Geometry in the 1st Semester. Technically, it would be a permissible sequence, but there appears to be little support for overcoming logistical hurdles to implementing this option.

Option 7: Doubling Up on Math Freshman Year and Summer School Completion of Non-Math Course

  • 9th Grade: CCSS Algebra I And CCSS Geometry
  • 10th Grade: CCSS Algebra II or CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus Compression
  • 11th Grade: Precalculus or AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110A Calculus I/City College Math 110B Calculus II)
  • 12 Grade: AP Statistics or AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC (or City College Math 110C Calculus III/City College Math 120 Linear Algebra)
  • This is the same sequence as Option 3, but with an added proposal to find a way for students to complete a Health/Plan Ahead course during the summer before 9th grade to free up time in their schedule for extra math.  This would require additional funding that has not yet been allocated. Cost would be approximately $2500 per 30 students taking the summer course.

Public Comment

 A handful of parents were in attendance and spoke during the public comment period. One parent expressed support of the district's recommended sequence noting that it allows all student to reach the highest levels of math learning and also commended SFUSD's position against funding online summer Algebra courses offered by for-profit organizations. Another parent expressed concern that her student, who had taken Algebra 1 in 8th Grade but did not pass last year's validation exam (last year only 15% of the 660 students who took the exam passed it), was not feeling challenged in 9th grade Algebra 1. A math teacher from Lowell High School noted that in his view the compression course did not cover some standards necessary for success in AP Calculus BC.

Questions from Commissioners (summarized and abridged)

  • Question: Does the compression course (CCSS Algebra II/Precalculus) leave out some standards?
  • Answer: Some standards are left out but many of these standards are also commonly covered in Calculus. Precalculus courses are not standardized, so some schools may include these standards in Precalculus and some in Calculus. The goal is to move toward standardized content across all Precalculus courses in SFUSD.
  • Question: Who decides if a student is ready for accelerated math?
  • Answer: Acceleration decisions are made by families/students (as opposed to teachers/counselors).
  • Question: Is the recommended sequence challenging enough for all students?
  • Answer: The curriculum includes rich math tasks that can challenge all students. Flexibility of thinking is where we will engage students, not just moving students through problems and getting quick solutions.