Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Coming Soon: Geometry

Over the past several board meetings, the trustees have heard from a number of parents interested in adding geometry to our curriculum.  You asked, we listened.  The board directed staff last night to begin the process of adding Geometry for 8th grade students in the 2014-15 school year. 

Students entering 7th grade this fall will have the opportunity to take Geometry as 8th graders in LASD.  This implies a couple of things.  First, those students will need to complete algebra in 7th grade, so they're going to have a busy 7th grade year.  In parallel, staff will be reviewing appropriate course materials, developing assessments, and working with our teachers to get read for the course offering in 2014-15.

We are still evaluating how we want to handle this for next year.  I received a large number of emails discussing the various issues for students in 8th grade in 2013-14.  Offering the course during the school day would mean many of those students would have to forgo a music course* or foreign language.  Offering it before or after school has schedule impacts too.  There are also serious content-related questions.  Solving geometry problems requires a solid grasp of algebra.  Our staff have expressed significant concern about the idea of "dual-tracking" students next year.  Doubling up on math classes creates some challenges.  Still, we have a few options to consider, and I look forward to the feedback from staff in two weeks.

There seems to be consensus that this will not be an "open enrollment" course.  Rather, students will need to be placed into it, based on their mastery of the foundational material.  We allow students to take any elective they'd like (there's no pre-test to take French I, for example).  However, math is a core class, and our staff feels that in order to offer this class well, we need to ensure that the students in the classroom have appropriate mastery of the prerequisites.  I think that is just sound educational policy.

I want to thank those folks who came forward and asked the District to make this change.  To borrow a phrase, "the process worked".  What I mean by this is that government isn't perfect.  We don't always "get it right the first time".  But the process works when people can bring forward their concerns, we listen to those concerns, and we take action to make things better.  I'm grateful to those parents who expressed their desires in a thoughtful and informed manner, so as to help us understand what was needed.
Many thanks to Alyssa Gallagher and the Jr High math staff who have worked hard to make all of this possible.  I look forward to seeing the results in the classroom.

*There is a high correlation between math and music.  Dropping music to take more math is likely not to achieve the goals folks have in the first place (mastery of math), and the student loses the richness of a balanced education in the process.