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Posts Tagged ‘wcpss’

Review of Enloe High School Wake County Magnet School

24 Oct

Are you thinking about Enloe high school for your child? There are so many glowing reports, right? Well, I am going to give an honest good and bad review of the school.

Good:
1. This is really good – teacher quality overall seems very good, better than the average my kids have experienced at other schools.
2. There is a lot of arts for kids to take classes in: Theater, Dance, Visual Arts, Band, etc.
3. They have a great Computer Science 4 year program (IF your child can get a spot…)
4. They offer a lot of AP classes with quality AP instructors.
5. The school has great diversity with a mixture of multiple races: Asian (including Chinese and Indian), Hispanic, White, Black
6. The school offers many different foreign languages, not just 2 or 3.

Bad:
1. Your child will live and breathe school work – for some that may be a plus, for me, I believe in balance and my child spends too much time on academics
2. The school is competitive, not directly but more indirectly because teacher expectations are so high and the student body is a high achieving student body, it puts pressure on kids
3. There is not a lot of choice in classes – students HAVE to pick all these alternatives (some they may not even really want but are forced to pick a certain number of alternatives) and if put in one of those alternatives, they CANNOT ask for a change to other classes.
4. There is very little flexibility in scheduling and in the school in general because it is so overcrowded.
5. Courses like C&C which high achieving students will be encouraged to take will grade very harshly and on things such as the ability to cut other students off in seminar circles and if your student doesn’t have the right personality for that, well, too bad, they do poorly. They also will give an outrageous amount of work to students, freshman C&C is more like a 200 level college course than a high school freshman course – students can gain a lot from it but they will WORK for it.
6. Your student may choose to attend the school for a specific program like computer science and then not get a spot in the class.
7. If your child isn’t a “star” in areas of theater, etc. they may never get a chance to explore and grow by being on stage in a production (or so I have been told).
8. I have emailed my child’s counselor twice and never get a response, I have emailed the principal about an issue and he never got back to me, so parent communication is not a high priority.
9. There have been guns brought to school, “death lists” created, and staff has not done a good job of making parents feel secure about how these issues are handled.

My kid has friends so she wants to stay, for now, we will but we have had better experiences at other schools. In fact, we liked Southeast Raleigh Magnet HS a lot, it had problems too but we found ways around those issues by using dual enrollment instead of AP classes (their AP teachers were terrible) – I hope this review helps people know both the good and the bad about the school.

 
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Posted in Personal

 

Quality over Quantity: A New idea for Math Education

08 Aug

“I can’t do Math,” you hear this said over and over by children and adults alike.  It is even “acceptable” to tout that “math isn’t your thing.  You don’t hear people saying, “I can’t read,” yet it is okay to almost brag that you can’t do mathematics.  Why is math such a hard subject for our country?  When and how does it fall apart?  As a math educator, I see so many solutions to our national math crisis that have just never been tried.  We always seem to just play around with the ideas of “the basics,” learning the concepts behind the mathematics (conceptual learning, new math, mathematical modeling), and procedural learning (very similar to the “basics” in many ways.)  All those things are important and we have a problem of tending to lean to one side vs. the other rather than keeping a reasonable balance between the two.  However, what I see as the biggest problem is looking at, “what is our ultimate goal?”  When I read an article that says a California College has done away with the requirement that all students must show mastery in Intermediate Algebra for college because non-STEM students don’t need math, it gets me thinking.

 

If non-STEM majors don’t need math, then do STEM majors no longer need to take literature classes and humanities classes required in the general education classes, these are not “needed” for their majors?  Why do undergraduate degrees require students to take general education classes in addition to their major focus?  We know the answer. It is the same reason why high schools require 4 English classes, 4 Math classes, 3-4 Science classes, 3-4 History classes, etc., in order to make a well rounded educated person.  Just like English, knowing math provides a level of competence for getting around in the world, it allows you to think critically, math is used in many places that kids don’t realize until they get to be an adult.  Adults who truly understand Intermediate Algebra, will be able to make more sound financial decisions in their own personal financial choices.

 

Additionally, Intermediate Algebra as a prerequisite for a college level math course, shouldn’t be too hard since Intermediate Algebra is a class that should be mastered in high school.  So, why is a high school math giving college students so much trouble that a college has to drop a high school remedial math class requirement?  This is because how we currently teach high school math is a failure.  Let’s face it, some students will struggle more with mathematical concepts and others will move on and take Calculus 3 before graduating high school.  There is nothing wrong with either student but we act like there is and we need to stop this.  We need to stop putting on kids on the same math trajectory and expecting it to work.  

 

My feeling is that the goal for graduation of high is to pass, with a B or better, Intermediate Algebra (which should replace tedious useless work with real world knowledge like understanding the Normal Distribution so you can talk intelligently about IQ scores and statistical research as well as linking concepts to real world like amortization tables for car loans and mortgages, these ideas are more important that long division of polynomials and adding rational fractions which is tedious.)  Students should be able to take the “slow path” to math if they need it where they learn the main topics in Algebra 1, some lighter topics in Algebra 2, and some of the basic ideas of Geometry (no geometric proofs).  The goal would be mastery of these topics at a B level.  Anyone graduating should be ready to prove their understanding to a college prerequisite test and be ready for a Pre-Calculus class, although, if they are not a STEM major, they may choose Statistics or Financial Math.  

 

Right now, in NC, we require students to take 4 years of math.  They start learning Algebra 1 concepts as early as middle school so that once in high school, they are already learning topics in Algebra 1, Geometry, and some starter Statistical topics.  By Math 2, they are being introduced to Trigonometry, Algebra 2, Probability, more Geometry, including proofs, and a small amount of what used to be in Pre-Calculus.  By Math 3, the students are finishing Algebra 2, finishing Geometry, taking on more topics from Pre-Calculus, and adding in more Statistical topics.  After Math 3, students must take a fourth math course.  Most non Honors students take Intro to College math, which ends up being a review of Algebra topics or Discrete Math, which goes into Probability, Statistics, and Decision Making.  If students were mastering all these topics, this would be wonderful but students are barely grasping all of this.  We need to slow it down and cut out the fourth class, cut stuff from Math 1-3, and although still require 4 full years (not semester blocks) of math for the non-Honors track but focus on QUALITY of instruction and MASTERY of learning, rather than QUANTITY of material we can “say” they were exposed to.  We will have students who learn more, are less stressed, and have a higher success rate in future math courses in college.

 

Students who are on the Honors track, can continue to be on their own schedule as they should not be slowed down.  They can meet that high school requirement while in middle school, take the “test” showing mastery and once they get to high school, they can be moving on to learning the missing pieces from Algebra 2, Geometry (with proofs), and move into modeling classes or Pre Calculus, Calculus, Statistics, and beyond.

 

Written by:

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D. Mathematics Education

 
 

Single Subject Acceleration Wake County Public Schools North Carolina (Math and Language Arts)

19 Feb

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.

 
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Posted in Education