The November 11, 2014, Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) board agenda states that ICCSD plans to eliminate Math 7A, a junior high mathematics course, starting in the fall of 2015.1 Students who previously took Math 7A would instead be placed in Math 7, which is a higher level course. (For ICCSD mathematics course offerings found as of today’s post, see links to the information from the NWJH and SEJH websites below.2) The ICCSD Mathematics Program Improvement Plan (Draft#1) states as “Recommendations and Action Support” that ICCSD will “use differentiated instruction to deliver grade level content to all students in grade 7” and “monitor students who would have taken Math 7A and provide appropriate support.” 3
This raises additional issues:
1) Whether additional money will be allocated in the budget to provide extra support to struggling math students?
2) What metrics will ICCSD use to determine whether differentiation works going forward, and will these metrics measure the progress of all students or just those who would have taken Math 7A in the past?
While moving Math 7A students into Math 7 will be a positive step, if properly implemented, it raises other questions such as what is the district doing to ensure that more students are able to enroll in Algebra I in 8th grade? Having more students take Algebra I in eighth grade means that more students will be able to take calculus in high school, which, in turn, can help students be more prepared for college math. The Office of Civil Rights Data for the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) showed that only 3.7% of Black students were enrolled in Algebra I in 7th or 8th grade in 2011 even though Black students represented 16.6% of ICCSD’s enrollment for the same time period.4 This statistic deserves further attention because real equity means more than replacing an Equity Director vacancy.
Shouldn’t more students be placed in Algebra I in 8th grade, which would require more students to take Pre-Algebra in 7th grade? In Minnesota, “students in the graduating class of 2015 and beyond must also complete an algebra I credit by the end of eighth grade.”5 While Minnesota’s model may be too extreme, it bears thoughtful consideration whether more ICCSD students could successfully complete Algebra 1 in ICCSD’s junior highs with the right support. If ICCSD is going to move students who previously would have been in Math 7A to Math 7, it should also permit more students who previously would have been assigned to Math 7 to take Pre-Algebra I. It is not enough to bring additional students to a proficient level of mathematics; more students, especially minority students, need to make progress relative to their peers.
2 See http://www.edline.net/files/_kCBcI_/8ca7d83e4c4e21c93745a49013852ec4/Course_Guide.pdf from Southeast Junior High website including ICCSD Mathematics Paths in Grades 7-12 on page 10 and http://www.edline.net/files/_deEBa_/e90c928b292a3acc3745a49013852ec4/Fowchart10-05-west.pdf for the westside version (dated October 2005) found on Northwest Junior High’s website. I am unsure how up-to-date this information is.
4 http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Page?t=d&eid=31705&syk=6&pid=736. More current data is not available on this website as of the time of posting.