“I feel like I’ve hit a dead end,” said Friedman, whose two older sons skipped grades in math.
Friedman is one of hundreds of Montgomery parents concerned and upset that new education standards and curriculum will reduce the number of students who skip grades to accelerate in math. They have created a Facebook page called “MCPS Parents Support Math Acceleration.” And more than 1,000 have signed a petition called “No Time to Waste,” urging the Board of Education to reform what some have called “one size fits all” math programming.
“The pot is simmering on the stove and getting ready to boil over,” said Pat O’Neill, who, like other Board of Education members, has been hearing from parents worried that the new curriculum shortchanges gifted students.
The county’s recent rollout of Curriculum 2.0, aimed at meeting nationwide Common Core Standards, provides more rigorous math instruction, district officials have told parents. Fewer students will be accelerated in math because students are expected to do work that draws on material that used to be taught at higher grade levels. So what was once considered “accelerated” is now on grade level.
But parents have been pressing school system officials for details on how it will accelerate students who might be ready for algebra sooner than eighth grade.
Concerns about math aren’t new in Montgomery — where high-achieving schools come with competition and lofty expectations — but the latest debate comes as Montgomery aims to correct a system that over-accelerated students. The county is also in the middle of adopting the Common Core State Standards, designed to create more consistent educational instruction nationwide while giving students a more solid foundation in math.
In previous years, Montgomery schools had pushed for 80 percent of its students to take algebra by eighth grade, one year ahead of the national standard to prepare students for college. In 2001, about 43 percent of the county’s students finished Algebra by eighth grade, a rate that increased to about 68 percent in 2010, according to the county.
But many students were accelerated before they were ready, said Erick Lang, an assistant superintendent. The pressure had families hiring private tutors for students who were falling behind and high school math instructors wasting time reteaching basic material.
Under Curriculum 2.0, the goal is to develop a “deeper understanding” of math in elementary school to better prepare students for Algebra I by eighth grade, Lang said.