In 2011 the district math department suggested that schools make available an accelerated math pathway for students who demonstrate exceptional abilities in math. The Lake Harriet middle school math department, the district math team, our 4th and 5th grade teams, and Southwest high school math teachers have spent several years analyzing our math pathways. The process was begun because of concerns we were hearing from parents of students who were struggling with the speed and rigor of the accelerated math pathway, as well as concerns from parents whose students felt that our program wasn’t rigorous enough. After examining our current reality, the high school options available to our students and the results we want to see, we have made some small changes to our math pathways.
The most important changes were made to ensure that all students have the option to either remain at grade level math or accelerate if necessary. The difficulty in this is that making a change potentially means either skipping curriculum or repeating curriculum. Our new plan helps to eliminate these conflicts by “telescoping” the curriculum in accelerated classes so students learn all the same concepts at a faster rate. Students who need to slow down may have to repeat some curriculum, but in most cases not an entire year.
We also took a closer look at the entry requirements because we were finding that at every level there were many students who were struggling in the accelerated courses. The process begins with third grade students and continues through 5th grade. The basic steps are:
Students who meet the criteria for accelerated math will be started on a pathway that has two levels of acceleration (please see the attached flowchart for a visual explanation). Students will all begin by taking the 4/5 and 5/6 telescoped classes. A telescoped class simply means that the students will move faster through the curriculum so they can cover part of the next grade's curriculum. At the end of 5th grade we will have much more information to analyze as we decide if students should move to two year acceleration or one year accelerations. Both pathways lead to the same 9th grade course at Southwest for a majority of students, so what matters is finding the right level of challenge for students without adding unnecessary stress and anxiety (see attached Southwest math pathways document).
While some students need acceleration, some students will find that the accelerated classes are not right for them. Parents of students who are currently struggling in the accelerated math pathway will also be notified that a placement in grade level math courses would be beneficial. Please remember that our goal is to have all students experience success in math at Lake Harriet at a pace that is appropriate to them. All of our classes will be at grade level or higher, so no placement will be detrimental to a student’s long-term math success.
We look forward to working with your child next year and challenging all of our students to achieve in mathematics. If you have additional questions, please contact a teacher or administrator.