Thursday, December 20, 2012

Alternative Pathways vs Common Core State Standards

A primary goal of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is to provide a curriculum to ensure that all high school graduates are college and career ready. The CCSS  math topics through grade 11 include not only all of the topics of the traditional U.S. Algebra 1-Geometry-Algebra 2 sequence, but also topics typically taught in courses named trigonometry and statistics.

Alternative pathways provide a means for non-STEM (i.e., non- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) students to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year institution and earn a bachelor's degree without needing to show mastery of traditional intermediate algebra topics. The promotion of alternative pathways challenges the premise that the CCSS for math are needed for all students to be college ready.

The common goal of both alternative pathways and the CCSS is to improve U.S. education.

 "Core Principles for Transforming Remedial Education: A Joint Statement" from the Charles A. Dana Center, Complete College America, Inc., Education Commission of the States, and Jobs for the Future, calls for revamping the two-year college remediation structure.  The paper lists seven Core Principals for a "fundamentally new approach for ensuring that all students are ready for and can successfully complete college-level work that leads to a postsecondary credential of value.

"...Principle 2. The content in required gateway courses should align with a student’s academic program of study — particularly in math.

"Gateway courses provide a foundation for a program of study, and students should expect that the skills they develop in gateway courses are relevant to their chosen program. On many campuses, remedial education is constructed as single curricular pathways into gateway math or English courses.

"The curricular pathways often include content that is not essential for students to be successful in their chosen program of study. Consequently, many students are tripped up in their pursuit of a credential while studying content that they do not need. Institutions need to focus on getting students into the right math and the right English.

"This issue is of particular concern in mathematics, which is generally considered the most significant barrier to college success for remedial education students. At many campuses, remedial math is geared toward student preparation for college algebra. However for many programs of study, college algebra should not be a required gateway course when a course in statistics or quantitative literacy would be more appropriate….

"...One final note: Postsecondary leaders must work closely with K–12, adult basic education, and other training systems to reduce the need for remediation before students enroll in their institutions.  Postsecondary institutions should leverage the Common Core State Standards by working with K–12 schools to improve the skills of their students before they graduate from high school. Early assessment of students in high school, using existing placement exams and eventually the Common Core college and career readiness assessments, which lead to customized academic skill development during the senior year, should be a priority for states. Similar strategies should be employed in adult basic education and English as a second language programs."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Common Core State Standards Algebra

One issue of concern for the California K-12 educators is that California currently requires students to pass Algebra 1 in order to earn a high school diploma. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) version of Algebra 1 includes topics not traditionally associated with Algebra 1, for instance, exponential functions and some statistics.

Unless new legislation addresses this change in content, the adoption of the CCSS automatically raises the California high school graduation requirement.

A related issue more directly linked to California Community Colleges (CCCs) is that the CCSS has created a higher level Algebra 2. If community college intermediate algebra is to align with high school Algebra 2, then we will be raising our math requirement for the AA degree and for the prerequisite for transfer level math.

And the California Community College Student Success Task Force calls for better alignment:
"Aligning K-12 and community colleges standards for college and career readiness is a long-term goal that will require a significant investment of time and energy that the Task Force believes will pay off by streamlining student transition to college and reducing the academic deficiencies of entering students...

"Recommendation 1.1
"Community Colleges will collaborate with K-12 education to jointly develop new common standards for college and career readiness that are aligned with high school exit standards.

"The Task Force recommends that the community college system closely collaborate with the SBE and Superintendent of Public Instruction to define standards for college and career readiness as California implements the K-12 Common Core State Standards and engages with the national SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium to determine the appropriate means for measuring these standards. Doing so would reduce the number of students needing remediation, help ensure that students who graduate from high school meeting 12th grade-level standards are ready for college-level work, and encourage more students to achieve those standards by clearly defining college and career expectations."
I don't know who speaks for CCCs in the collaboration with the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction.  But I do think it likely that one strategy to bring better alignment will be to use the Smarter Balanced assessments at grade 11 as placement instruments at the community colleges.  The other consortium creating CCSS assessments, PARCC, already has agreement among its adopting states to use its assessments for college placement.  (See, for example,