The CT Coalition4 World Class Math expressed shock and disappointment at the Model Algebra I curriculum being developed under a quarter of a million dollar grant from the Connecticut Department of Education. The new Algebra course is the first step in Commissioner Mark McQuillan's ambitious high school reform effort to raise achievement across Connecticut schools.
The model curriculum, even at this draft stage of design, has already provoked serious concerns about its suitability for Connecticut students. Critics complain that the model Algebra course would leave out important topics that most mathematicians agree are essential to preparing students for college and career.
“Connecticut has not had a successful program in mathematics for at least the last 10 years,” said Stanford University’s James Milgram, Professor Emeritus Algebraic Topology. “There is now overwhelming evidence that these mathematics curricula do not work.” Milgram predicts Connecticut will “continue its decline in math outcomes relative to the U.S. and even more dramatically, relative to the rest of the world.”
· A staggering 40% of incoming college freshman at Connecticut colleges and universities need remedial math coursesAlgebra is considered a gateway course for students, as data by the College Board found a close correlation between completion of Algebra in high school and the ability of students to earn a degree. Nevertheless, students are arriving to our colleges and universities unprepared and in need of remediation. The Accuplacer Exam, developed by the College Board to determine placement in college level courses including mathematics, covers topics that are in keeping with the recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel and those of ACHIEVE’s American Diploma Project.
· Only 5% of college students take higher level mathematic classes necessary in fields such as engineering and finance
· The high remediation rate comes with a steep price as well. It is estimated the state would save $12.5 million annually and students would earn an additional $16.4 million if the remediation rate were lowered
The state of Connecticut is a network member of ACHIEVE, an organization created in 1996 by the nation’s governors and corporate leaders, whose goal is to improve the rigor and clarity of the process of standard-setting and testing. The CT Coalition4 World Class Math is disquieted by the drafters’ (CT Academy for Education) dismissal of ACHIEVE and the American Diploma Project.
Achievement in the state as measured by critical indicators (CAPT, CMT, NAEP) is stagnant or declining. “There is clearly something wrong,” says Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. “Large percentages of students report taking advanced mathematics courses, such as Algebra II, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. But scores are flat. What is being taught in these courses? Are they being watered down?” questions Stotsky.
Commissioner McQuillan sought to address the poor performance of many Connecticut students in his high school reform proposal known as The Connecticut Plan. “I fear that the disastrous model Algebra course could doom the Commissioner’s entire high school reform effort,” said spokesperson Laura Troidle. “Connecticut citizens are counting on the Department of Education to get this first step right. It will serve as a model for future courses and this could endanger the Commissioner’s desperately needed high school reform effort.”
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