Compacted Math Changes Coming in 2024-251/19/2024
Ethan Kramer, Beaumont Middle School’s assistant principal, sees middle school math as so much more than 2x + 3y = 5.
“It’s helping to build the logic center – the prefrontal cortex – in analysis and processing,” he said. Given this, Kramer and others believe that middle grades instruction must lay a strong foundation to support more challenging math concepts in the future – first high school, then beyond.
But what are the components of that foundation? And how is it best established?
The district’s middle grades core academics team and its grades 6-8 math committee have spent the last year weighing these questions in tandem with educators and community stakeholders. Their goal: a comprehensive math curriculum that challenges students without rushing or skipping over key concepts.
The discussion has focused on two classes offered in most middle schools: Compacted Math 1 and Compacted Math 2. Accelerated classes such as these have been a part of the equation for a long time. These classes condense three years of math instruction – seventh and eighth grade math, and high school algebra – into two.
Last year, 48 percent of middle grades students were enrolled in one of these two classes. On its surface, this statistic seems like a positive trend: nearly half of all middle grades students are pushing themselves faster towards more challenging material.
But what the academic core team saw when they began reviewing recent achievement data was more complicated. Their findings aligned with existing scholarship that suggests that, due to the condensed nature of compacted math classes, some topics were being missed. This was leading to a meaningful number of accelerated math students passing their compacted math courses without actually mastering the concepts.
In response to the mixed achievement data, the district redoubled its efforts to assess how compacted math is being offered and to explore alternative ways to accelerate students seeking that challenge. According to Joanna Tobin, senior director of middle grade core academics, the district’s math acceleration would need to “recognize differences in readiness and acknowledge the limitations of a one-size-fits-all detracked system.”
Reassessing compacted math has fallen to the K-12 Math Sequencing and Alignment Committee. By framing the issues more broadly – how are math concepts sequenced across all grades? – committee members hoped “to find the best path forward for our large and dynamic system,” said Tobin.
The committee is currently weighing several changes to the compacted math program, including dedicating all of year two to algebra instruction. Eighth grade math concepts would feed directly into related algebra content. Given algebra’s broad applicability, it is critical that students master it deeply before moving on to more advanced math courses.
The team is also considering limiting compact math classes to students who score in the 80th percentile or above in standardized math assessments. Should the district adopt this new standard, students who can demonstrate proficiency will also be eligible to apply. Placement will also include educator and family input.
Another alternative pathway would be a seventh-grade STEM elective. This course would be math-focused (M) while also covering concepts from science, technology, and engineering (STE). Specifically, it would include major units of 8th Grade Common Core Math that are vital to launching students successfully into algebra and beyond. Alongside this course, students would also be required to take 7th grade math – accelerating seventh and eighth grade concepts together, and leaving more time to master algebra concepts.
Families will have a chance to learn more about these proposals during the following two virtual events:
At each event, the middle school core academics team will briefly present before answering questions.
“This plan has gone through revisions, changes, and editions as a result of school leader, teacher, and parent feedback,” Tobin said. “The thoughtful dialogue and engagement to date has been extremely valuable, and we look forward to more upcoming engagement opportunities with parents in particular.”