WakeEd - Implementing the middle school math placement guidelines in 2011-12 | newsobserver.com blogs

Friday, March 4, 2011

WakeEd - Implementing the middle school math placement guidelines in 2011-12 newsobserver.com blogs

The placement guidelines are staying the same but the training and explanation of the role of teacher judgment is changing for advanced middle school math classes in Wake County in the 2011-12 school year.
Ken Branch, senior director of middle school programs, explained today to the school board's economically disadvantaged student performance task force that they don't have the data yet to make changes to the placement guidelines. But they are putting more details into the placement guidelines to make it clearer to teachers, parents and students.
But Branch also said that they're making it clear to teachers that professional judgment will only be used to place students into the courses who might not be considered ready by EVAAS. That could address concerns that some teachers have used their judgment even under the new guidelines to keep kids out who are considered by EVAAS to be ready.
(What was supposed to last 15 minutes turned into an hour talk.)
Branch said they can't change the guidelines because they won't get data they need for this school year until at least June. But year-round middle schools are making placement decisions in March and April.
(Even when the traditional-calendar middle schools make placement decisions later, they'll still also use 2009-10 EOG data in EVAAS because this year's results won't be ready until August.)
Branch said they want to do a more thorough implementation of the placement guidelines this fall after the concerns that were raised about this year.
Branch said they're still using the EVAAS 70 percent proficiency probability level for placement despite concerns from some teachers that it was too low. Branch said they don't have data to show it's too low.
Branch said they're also better explaining what the 70 percent probability means when it's used for placement in sixth- and seventh-grades. He said they're telling teachers that it means that EVAAS says they are an track to be proficient in Algebra I when they're in eighth-grade.
Branch said that they've had been some confusion with people thinking that it meant that a rising sixth-grader or rising seventh-grader was ready for Algebra I right now.
Branch said they're also training math department chairs face to face this time on the guidelines. He said they've already talked face to face with the middle school principals.
Branch said he and Chief Academic Officer Donna Hargens have a plan with the area superintendents to make sure the guidelines will be carried out by the middle school principals. He said they need the help of the area superintendents on monitoring and policing.
A task force member asked about the teacher concerns about the 70 percent projection.
Janet Johnson, a task force member and CEO of EDSTAR, said that it means that EVAAS projects that a student will have a 70 percent chance of success in Algebra I even if they only have a mediocre teacher and no outside help. She said Wake has better teachers than that.
Jim Martin, a task force member and professor at N.C. State, said there's a difference between successful and being proficient. He argued that being successful requires a greater level of proficiency
Martin pointed to how a big problem at N.C. State is lack of algebra proficiency from students. Martin said too many college students think they've already done college level math in high school when they have not.
Johnson said she both agreed and disagreed with Martin. She agreed that students are entering college without the math skills they need. But she said that students who take algebra in eighth-grade are on a trajectory to take more rigorous math courses in high school.
"We’re going to send more kids to college with a higher degree of math preparation," Johnson sad.
Martin responded you've have disagreement from colleges about whether that's happening.
Dan Coleman, a task force member and president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, asked if Wake has the teaching capacity for greater enrollment in advanced math courses. Branch said they're responding to that need with additional staff development and training.
Branch said one of the things they're helping teachers in these more advanced math classes how to work with students who have different levels of ability, something that he indicated may be new to many of them.
Branch said they've provided additional money to schools to help withe training.
Later in the discussion, Shila Nordone, a task force member and professor at N.C. State, said that capacity isn't a problem if schools work at it. She said schools who are resistant should talk with principals who've been using EVAAS for several years.
Branch said that whole schools aren't being resistant but that some teachers are struggling so principals are trying to help them.
In a related question, Johnson asked if they're developing a list of compelling reasons for why students can be excluded. She and some other task force members have been concerned that too many reasons were being used to keep students out.
Hargens said that during the training they've been talking with principals and teachers about the reasons.
"There aren’t resistant schools and resistant principals," Hargens said. "We just need to help them with their jobs.”
Diana Bader (I'm not sure if she's an official task force member) said she was glad to hear what Hargens was saying. She said she didn't want people to walk away from the meeting thinking that there are schools, principals or teachers who are discouraging students from taking these advanced math classes.
Bader also said she didn't want people to walk away from the meeting thinking that schools are having success because of a data tool, namely EVAAS. She said schools can't do this without the community's help.
Bader said that the connection that school board member John Tedesco had made between a 300 percent drop in suspensions at Daniels Middle School after it began using EVAAS "could be misleading to some people."
Tedesco said they're not taking away how important teachers and principals are to the gains they're seeing.
Tedesco, the chairman of the ED task force, summed up why they've spent so much time on the math placement issue.
"It’s not that one class (Algebra I), but it’s about how our system is aligned to provide high expectations and equal opportunities for our students," Tedesco said.
UPDATERead more: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed/implementing-the-middle-school-math-placement-uidelines-in-2011-12#ixzz1FeMki05d


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