First published in the Feb. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
After a drastic change for math and English language arts was implemented across the La Cañada Unified School District under the Common Core State Standards in 2013, La Cañada High School and LC 7/8 officials are revisiting the math pathways and proposing new changes soon.
During a La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board meeting recently, school officials presented some potential changes to its math curriculum after feedback from students and staff showed that Math 1, 2 and 3 — as well as moving Algebra 1 from the 8th-grade to 9th — are not producing the desired outcome.
“The proposed math pathway innovations are really about trying to make something very good, even better,” said LCHS Principal James Cartnal.
Cartnal, Department Chair of Math Cynthia Calm and LC 7/8 Principal Jared Gold presented to the LCUSD board on Jan. 17 a new proposed pathway.
“A goal for all of our students is to engage in four years of rigorous math learning with multiple opportunities for advanced placement instruction and course work before they graduate, so that when they leave us they are ready to take on — no matter what major comes — [math] at the leading colleges and universities in this country and across the world,” said Cartnal.
The plan now is that current students who are in 7th through 11th grades will continue through the existing math pathway, Cartnal said. Each of the advanced math courses will be slowly phased out over time starting with Math 1 advanced.
Students who have studied under the Common Core math pathways at LCHS and LC 7/8 have expressed that [MA1] Math 1 and Math 3 advanced courses are too difficult for the amount of time they are given to complete them. Students who take these courses often seek tutors to get good grades, Cartnal said. Also, the rate of students going from the regular pathway (college prep) to the advanced pathway is very low.
Additionally, teachers are observing students not coming in fully prepared for advanced calculus after taking LC Math 3 advanced. Students have experienced “a lot of stress” deciding if they should continue in an advanced math class or drop down to the college prep pathway.
“This proposal promotes equity because it gives more students more chances to move from the college preparatory pathway to the advanced pathway when compared to our current situation,” said Cartnal.
The biggest changes in the most recent, proposed plan include:
- A return of subject based course names;
- Each high school math course will be given one full year of instruction to reduce student stress and provide a better learning experience;
- Place advanced Algebra 1 in the 8th-grade for students to take;
- More opportunities for students to level up from the college prep pathway to the advanced;
- All students will have the opportunity to take an advanced placement class by their senior year.
The two new classes that Cartnal and his team presented as part of the newly proposed curriculum were Math 7 advanced, which will cover 7th- and 8th-grade math standards, and AP precalculus for the 11th-graders, which will focus on modeling real-world data and more.
Instead of Math 1, 2, or 3 course names, they will be called Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2/Trigonometry. For honors classes, instead of Math 1, 2, or 3 advanced, it would be Honors Geometry, Honors Algebra 2/Trigonometry and AP precalculus.
Adding Algebra 1 to the advanced math pathway in 8th-grade will give students the opportunity to start early on high school math. Students in the 7th-grade advanced pathway will take both 7th- and 8th-grade math standards in one class so that when they go into the 8th-grade, they can start on high school math.
A revision of the placement test will be available in the summer 2024 so that 7th-graders who want to take Algebra 1 in the advanced pathway can, according to Gold. The 7th– and 8th-grade teachers will make the revised test.
As far as bridging from the college prep pathway to the advanced, there is room for opportunity/growth.
“One of the fantastic things about the proposed pathways is that students have a better chance of leveling up and they have more opportunity to do that,” said Calm. “At the same time, the pathway also allows students to move downward if that’s what they feel is necessary for them to be successful.”
The math department will help to make recommendations for students who can make that jump from college prep to advanced successfully.
“One of the things I am most excited about is this idea of the bridging, of the increase availability for our college prep students as they move through and the ability to take AP calculus,” said Governing Board Vice President Josh Epstein.
Epstein advised, if they can, to speed up the launching of pre-calculus and AP calculus for students who are eager to take it, as well as speed up the process of renaming the courses because of the confusion surrounding what each class entails.
Sugi Sorensen, parent and president of La Cañada Math Parents, brought up a policy within the LCHS math department that states students taking math during summer may not enroll in the advanced level of the next in sequence class. Sorensen suggested a review of that policy, so that there are more open opportunities for all students.
Rather than an official vote on the math pathways, the board gave advice and direction.
“We are endorsing it, and for myself this is almost exactly what I did in high school, so this makes complete sense to me. I had to decode when I first got to the district to learn about [Math] 1, 2, 3. … So, I am really on board with this,” Governing Board President Joe Radabaugh said.
The new courses will eventually need approval by the LCUSD Governing Board.
“When you guys are ready and want to have more flexibility and you can do things faster like you heard the community ask for, let’s do it. We are here to help enable,” said Radabaugh.