Wake County schools to offer compacted math class in middle school

Posted by T. Keung Hui on February 25, 2014 

Compacted math is coming back as an option to allow the most gifted Wake County students to be in a position to complete two years of high school credit in middle school.

Before Common Core, Wake fifth-grade could get on the fast track by taking a compacted math course covering 5th- and 6th-grade math so they could take pre-Algebra, Algebra I and either Algebra 2 or Geometry in middle school. As noted in today’s article, Wake plans to bring back a countywide compacted math course this fall targeted at sixth-grade students.

Under the new Compacted Math 6 Plus/7 Plus class that will be offered in sixth grade, students would be on track to take Common Core Math I and Common Core Math 2 before finishing middle school.

Students who complete Common Core Math 2 would be on their way to taking Common Core Math III Honors in ninth grade. That’s compared to Common Core Math II Honors in ninth grade for students who took the Compacted Math 6 Plus, Compacted Math 7 Plus and Common Core Math I route in middle school.

Students who take the Common Core Math 6, Common Core Math 7 and Common Core Math 8 route in middle school would be set to take Common Core Math I in ninth grade. They’d have to do some work to get on the honors track.

Brian Pittman, Wake’s senior director of middle school programs, told school board members last week that they’re working to put more “on ramps” to allow students to accelerate in case they’re not ready in sixth grade. But those are still being worked on.

At this stage, sixth-grade math is still going to go a long way toward determining your math options through high school.

Click here for the handouts from last week’s school board student achievement committee meeting

One of the arguments for doing away with compaction before was that it would result in students skipping content. School administrators say the new class would avoid skipping content.

Pittman said it’s not a case of acceleration yes or no, but acceleration when.

Wake is only currently projecting that 3 percent of the roughly 12,000 rising sixth-grade students will be eligible for the class. These students will cover 2.5 years of math – the sixth- and seventh-grade math standards and half the eighth-grade standards.

The guidelines for the compacted math class say students must have an EVAAS probability for passing Common Core Math I of 97 percent and have scored a Level IV on the moth recent end-of-grade math test. That’s compared to a 70 percent probability and a Level III on the EOG for students on the middle track.

Like with Common Core 6 Plus, Common Core 7 Plus and Common Core Math I, the initial placement will be based on the latest test taken. For the compacted course, they’ll look at the fourth-grade EOG math results. They’ll recheck later after the fifth-grade EOG test results are back.

Administrators are talking about how they want to ensure equity of services so that the compacted math class will be available at all the middle schools.

One of the complaints from the old compacted 5/6 class was that not every elementary school offered the course. Even now when it’s not officially offered, some GT magnet middle schools are offering a compacted course this school year.

Pittman said that, as in the first year of anything, it won’t be perfectly smooth. But he said the parents will appreciate how they’re trying to offer the class, such as not having to change tracks at year-round schools to get on the one that’s offering the compacted class.

Schools will have three ways to offer the compacted course.

One way is the traditional classroom model, which will be used when a school has enough students for a regular class.

The second way is a “blended instruction” model, where a Math 6 Plus class will have online learning modules for Math 7 Plus content. An example Pittman cited is how if a year-round school doesn’t have enough students on a track they can use the online modules.

The third option is a virtual classroom model. The example given is if Holly Springs Middle only has two students but Daniels Middle has 12, they can virtually connect the Holly Springs students to the classroom at Daniels.

Pittman said they’re trying to acknowledge that in 2014 the four walls of a school shouldn’t be barriers for preventing a student from taking a class.

“We don’t want scheduling difficulties to be a barrier to the students,” said Todd Wirt, Wake’s assistant superintendent for academics.

Shila Nordone, a North Raleigh parent who had been an advocate for increasing access to Algebra I and now Common Core Math I in middle school, said Wake needs to be careful implementing the compacted class.

Nordone said the district needs to make sure middle schools don’t try to turn the compacted class into the new gateway course for high school courses. She said that the district must ensure that performance is the only reason used to fill the courses

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