Middle School Mathematics
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers - Parent Guide
1. What prompted the change in the Georgia Mathematics Curriculum?
As part of the shift from the Quality Core Curriculum (QCCs) to the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), the state convened an expert panel of mathematicians, math educators, business people, community members and educators to redesign the math curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade. During this time, the panel reviewed national standardized test scores and analyzed how students in Georgia compared with students from across the U.S. and around the world. The panel looked at how organizations, like the Fordham Foundation, rated the Georgia curriculum and noted that audits of the state math standards found the QCC’s in mathematics to be repetitive, low-level, imprecise and unconnected to success on college readiness exams (SAT/ACT) and higher-level coursework.
The expert panel chose to use more rigorous performance standards written in terms where students not only have to “do” math, but must “apply” it to real world scenarios from a very early age. They also chose to integrate various topics so that students understand the connection among geometry, numbers and operations, algebra, and data analysis. This led Georgia to create new high school courses that blend algebra, geometry and statistics.
You can find the new Georgia Performance Standards for mathematics and the performance tasks at http://www.georgiastandards.org/. Click on the FRAMEWORKS tab and search for the specific grade level in order to find the tasks and units.
2. How is the new curriculum being taught?
The basis of the middle school curriculum is the Georgia math performance tasks. These are real-life problems that ask the students to apply mathematics concepts. Classroom teachers are doing a variety of things to help the students master the concepts, the skills, and the tasks. One method is facilitated group work, where the teacher assigns a group of students a problem and they work collaboratively to solve the problem. When students have questions, the teacher is right there to assist by reviewing necessary skills and/or concepts to help them be successful. Another method is direct instruction (used less frequently than before), where the teacher uses the interactive white board or other means to demonstrate/model for the students how to solve the problems. Overall, the presentation of the content is based on the Mathematics Instructional Framework, which includes a thorough opening and/or mini-lesson, a well-defined work session, and a meaningful closing to summarize the concepts learned that day. The transition to the standards-based classroom is a work in progress, and teachers are continuing to hone their skills in order to make the shift to a fully operational standards-based classroom in the near future.
3. How does this compare the recently devised national curriculum?
Curriculum leaders nationally have convened to develop a common set of mathematics core standards for every grade level. The curriculum is based on performance based learning tasks that students should be engaged in order to make connections between mathematical ideas and the real world. These standards will be research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and will include rigorous content and skills. According to the expert panel, “all students must be prepared to compete with not only their American peers in the next state, but with students from around the world.” These common mathematics standards will help prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers and to be prepared to compete globally. Additionally, expectations for students will be consistent across all states and territories; this consistency will support students transitioning between states. Also, following the release of national grade level standards for mathematics will be a national accountability instrument to measure the progress of students meeting the standards. This national assessment will be grade level specific and will align directly to the specific standards taught during that year. The state of Georgia is ahead of the curve. State curriculum leaders have indicated that the Georgia Performance Standards for mathematics and the mathematics assessments are excellent preparation for the national curriculum soon to be released. If students are engaged in learning tasks daily and learning the Georgia Performance Standards, they are acquiring the skills needed for success in college and the workplace. Additionally, Georgia students will be able to compete both nationally and globally.
More information regarding the Common Core Standards Initiative can be found at http://www.corestandards.org/.
4. Is there a textbook?
Yes. The district adopted the Connected Mathematics Program to use with Grade 6, Grade 7, and Grade 8 mathematics courses. Of all the books reviewed, the teacher committee chose the Connected Math Program (CMP2) resources because they aligned in the modality of teaching necessary for the new standards. These textbooks were not written specifically for Georgia; therefore, they are being used as one of many resources for a classroom teacher because specific math performance tasks are not included in the new text as they are part of the packaged curriculum published by the Georgia Department of Education. Instead, CMP2 provides similar tasks as a presentation of the mathematics content for each unit of study. This book presents material in an investigative way. Students are able to make connections between mathematical ideas. In addition to using the textbook resource adopted, teachers are also embedding into their daily instruction the Georgia DOE Frameworks, which include specific performance tasks. Teachers are also working to balance the textbook and the state tasks in order to ensure that students have the support they need for high-stakes tests and sustained understanding of the mathematical concepts.
5. What are the student expectations?
Leaders and teachers in the Henry County School District have been preparing for this new curriculum for several years. It has been anticipated that students and teachers across the state of Georgia would be challenged with the implementation of the new math curriculum. In order to best prepare, HCS teachers have been engaged in professional learning and collaborative lesson and assessment design. Teachers are working tasks together and determining how tasks can be broken down into necessary skills that students need to know and be able to do. There is a balanced approach between the tasks students must complete and ensuring students acquire the skills and concepts to be successful. HCSD leaders and teachers recognize the pace and rigor of the course is challenging and will be monitoring implementation closely to inform any adjustments that need to be made.
6. How will you know if this is going well?
HCSD is committed to monitoring the implementation of the new curriculum through several different methods. Following the first six weeks of instruction students and teachers were asked to provide feedback on the curriculum, the pacing, learning resources, homework, and where they may need additional support. This data helps to define the on-going professional learning conversations that are taking place among middle and high school teachers and allows us to adjust instruction as needed. In addition to having on-going conversations about student performance, diagnostic benchmark assessments, common unit assessments, and common semester assessments in Grades 6-8 are being administered to help gauge the progress of students learning the content. These assessments, along with ongoing formative assessments used on a daily basis in the classroom, will tell the teacher exactly how well the students are doing and what has to happen next to improve student understanding.
7. Are all school systems in Georgia teaching the new math curriculum?
The new math curriculum is Georgia’s curriculum. Therefore, the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) that is required for middle school students has been designed to reflect the new standards. Additionally, the new Georgia High School Graduation Test that the students will be required to complete beginning next year will be redesigned to reflect these new standards. While some systems have chosen to use different course names or adopt different textbooks, one thing is certain – all students in Georgia will be held to these new standards. With this being the second year of full implementation, the standards cannot be compared to other math programs or textbooks that may have been implemented previously. The Henry County School District is committed to high levels of student performance. Therefore, the choice not to teach the state curriculum would place our students at a disadvantage. Our leaders and teachers have outlined a proactive plan for monitoring the curriculum implementation and will go to great lengths to support our teaching professionals and students.
8. Where can I go to get more information?
Recognizing our parents are partners in any academic endeavor, we have compiled many different resources for your information as well as those that can assist you in supporting your student this year.
For 8th Grade to 9th Grade Transition: You can also enroll your child in a Georgia Virtual School Help course at http://www.gavirtualschool.org/Home/OtherInitiatives/tabid/169/Default.aspx. There is a course for 8th grade remediation for our students who skipped 8th grade math and there is online help to support Math I and an online course for students who just moved into Georgia and are entering Math I not having had the middle school curriculum.