New curriculum fails its students

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New curriculum fails its students

The Southerner

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By Elizabeth McGlamry

Before beginning my AP Calculus course this past summer, I had to complete out a prerequisites packet. It consisted of basic precalculus problems and equations that students fresh out of the new “Accelerated Math III” class were expected to know. When I looked at it, however, I had to pause to lift my jaw off of the floor, set down my pencil and walk out of the room because the fact of the matter was: I didn’t know any of it.

Along with many of my guinea-pig classmates, I’m a prime example of the failure of the new math program. Whoever thought that mixing together already confusing math courses and spreading them out over four years was an effective way to teach math has obviously not been in a math classroom for a long time. All these new “Math I, II and III” standards have brought is confusion, inadequacy and unpreparedness.

Learning one subject at a time is simpler for students. Teachers wouldn’t dream of combining biology, physics and chemistry into a jumbled-up, four-year amalgamation. It puts even more stress on the teachers since only some are certified to teach this new standard (when the curriculum was introduced, only one Grady teacher was certified to teach the new curriculum), not to mention that it is a completely new course for them to teach. Even for certified teachers, these first years are trial runs, and it’s not their fault that the system has failed them. This hurried transition is a recipe for disaster made of frustrated teachers, dejected students and angry parents.

I cannot testify for every student in the new math courses, but from what I have seen, it has not been effective. Test scores have proven that. When my Accelerated Math II class took our End-of-Course Test back in 2009, the majority of us failed. The test bombarded us with math problems and questions we had not yet dreamed of being able to solve, and in the end, the test grade was not counted.

The thought that more and more generations of students will be going through the same exasperating ordeal year after year is just scary. I can’t imagine that there are people out there looking at the dismal test scores and advocating that we continue the new standard.

They say that the road to ruin is paved with good intentions. It may have seemed progressive at first to try to make our math courses a little more “modern.” But it isn’t working. Grades are plummeting, and students are missing out on the math education they need for the future. Our best interests are being lost in the disorganization of the new system. It seems that the only way to get back on track is to take a U-turn back to the old math standards. But until then, I don’t want this broken caravan of new math standards to drive me into a ditch.

This story earned a Superior rating in the Commentary category at the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards Assembly on April 28, 2011.

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