Many parents may have questions about single subject acceleration. First, what is it? It is a program that allows students who are advanced in math or language arts to work one grade level ahead in that area while still remaining in their current grade. How is it different from grade advancement? Grade advancement requires that the student be able to prove they can work at 2-3 grade levels ahead in every subject in order to be skipped a grade (per Wake County schools). Other school districts do things differently and I have friends who have done grade advancement and they did not have the 2-3 grade level bar to reach, more like at least 1 or 2 grade levels. It is very difficult to get grade advancement in Wake County Schools. My own child was tested and scored 2 grade levels ahead but missed one test criteria by 2% so they denied her grade advancement. The bar was not really appropriate, why does a child need to be 2-3 grade levels ahead to work 1 grade level ahead. That is a whole different blog, however, this one will focus on single subject acceleration.

My daughter does do the single subject acceleration. When she first started, there was no procedure in place for identifying kids for this or tests/hoops they had to jump through. However, with the implementation of common core, they now test children and/or have to show portfolios of work. This all has to be presented to the same committee that approves the whole grade advancement and the new process is somewhat similar now to that process. It probably keeps some children who are capable out of the program. Since my daughter was already in the program before the start of these new rules, she was grandfathered in.

In second grade, the principal did not approve of putting children in grade advanced classes so my daughter just did independent work. In third grade, she changed schools and was put in a 4th grade math class. In fourth grade, she went to a fifth grade math class and this was the first year of common core math. She did not have any trouble with the transition from the less rigorous math to the fifth grade common core class. However, there some things to point out. First, she took the Case 21 tests for her grade and the advanced grade but she only took (and this continues to be the case) the EOG for her real grade, not the grade that matches her math class. This does cause some issues since she isn’t as “fresh” on some of the topics from a year ago, however, since math is mostly cumulative, she still does well.

The big change came when she went to fifth grade. The school system held a meeting for all of us parents to tell us what we could expect. All 5th grade single subject accelerated kids (math and language arts) would do online courses. So, my daughter sits in front of a computer (on her own with no teacher) and listens to videos of a teacher giving lessons. The video teacher assigns homework, my daughter is expected to do her homework (no one checks this) and then check her answers the next day with the new video. The online teacher tells how to solve each problem from the homework. She has “quick checks” where she will do online questions to see how she is doing every few days. Each unit has a quiz and then a test. The units come with a review sheet that is like the test but with different numbers so she knows what to expect on the tests. It has only been with my help (and getting some C’s to start) that she has learned that she has to redo the review sheet a couple times to make sure she understands every problem before a test (now she has been getting A’s). She is also allowed to retake tests if she wants to and did that with some of those C’s. The material isn’t always printed out for her though and she can be ready to take a test but doesn’t get it for another week so she is already on to her next unit and still hasn’t taken the previous units test.

The units are broken down by days but no one really makes sure they are on the right day and she is often behind by the end of the quarter. Sometimes we have to cover a few days at a time to catch her up. We also found that as a 10 year old, it was a lot to ask her to do her homework on her own with no one checking up on her and not revisiting the problems she got wrong to then make sure she could do them correctly. Hopefully, the majority of these kids are very bright and very motivated because doing this online course on your own at 10 is a lot to ask. My daughter and I do it together every day and I make sure she understands the material.

The math course itself is Common Core Math Six Plus (basically Honors Sixth grade math) – it covers all of 6th grade math and 1/3 of 7th grade math. The content in the online course is TOUGH!! I think it is harder than what kids are getting in the regular classroom. I am not sure if they get the same packets, maybe they do, but I know kids in regular 6th grade math (not the plus) have it much easier. Some of the algebra expected is quite challenging and my daughter just finished this unit on surface area and volume that was so really tough. In fact, if you gave some of the review sheet questions to high school students, they wouldn’t be able to do them!

The units they cover deal with arithmetic, integers, percents, ratios/proportions, surface area, volume, transformational geometry, algebra, algebra word problems that require you to build linear equations (wow!), statistics, advanced perimeter and area, coordinate system and coordinate geometry, measurement conversions, exponents, scientific notation, and more!

These are not basic questions about these things, the percent questions are the type of question you would have seen in an Algebra 1 class before, they are doing real algebra, the geometry involves surface areas of triangular prisms and square pyramids, area involves area of mixed shapes including missing sides, rectangles, circles, half circles, and more. This has been a real challenging course for my daughter and it has been at JUST the right level for her. Finally, something that isn’t too easy or too hard but I understand why WCPSS doesn’t want just anyone taking this class at 10 years old! On the other hand, some of the content at the younger years still moves too slow for many kids even if they aren’t ready for single subject acceleration so it is unfortunate that there isn’t anything in between!

At the meeting, we were told that in 6th grade – the students will take 7th grade Common Core Math Plus and then in 7th grade move into Common Core Math 1 (high school math). The problem I see is this: when looking at the online 6th grade math plus class, it is advanced and challenging but when looking at the 7th grade Common Core Math Plus, it repeats a lot of the content in the 6 plus class but just adds a twist in each unit. I am tutoring a student in CCM 7 + now and he is not doing too much more than what my daughter is doing. In fact, she has a deeper understanding since the online class is so rigorous. So, I think she is going to be “bored” next year. She probably won’t mind that, though. The problem then comes that the following year she takes a huge leap into CCM1 high school math. There is not a good transition from CCM7+ to CCM1. For students making the leap from 7+ to CCM1, there should be more of a prealgebra class, this would be far more helpful than the repetition I believe she is going to get next year. The other thing we were told is that most middle schools won’t have CCM2 offered for 8th graders so she will be back to taking an online class in 8th grade.

As for those in Language Arts, they put in an enrichment class, so at no point does your child actually get to take high school English 1 prior to high school. Instead, their 8th grade language arts is just an enrichment online class and then they are back in with everyone for Honors English 1 in high school. It is unfortunate that they can’t take English 1 early if they are grade accelerated like the math students can. Math students get 2 years of high school math finished in middle school.

I hope this is helpful for those looking into how SSA for WCPSS works and what it means for math and language arts.

anish

May 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

IXL needs you to be a menber

lynne

June 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

You can get free access to sample but then you do need to pay, the price is pretty reasonable, $10 per month.