Changes to the math curriculum across the state in the last six years have left Morgan High School math teachers reeling, and now they are ready to take some changes into their own hands.
In 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, the Utah Office of Education “raced” to receive federal dollars. To qualify, Utah adopted the common core, or what is referred to as integrated pathways where algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus were woven together while the geometry course was eliminated and spread throughout grades six to 11, said Jeremy Floyd, MHS math teacher.
“Because of that, there were no curriculum materials available. For a couple of years, we shot from the hip. Teachers were creating their own curriculum” and parents wanted a textbook in the hand of their students.
“When the state implemented the new core, all freshman, sophomores and juniors do the same math (with their own grade level), whether they were in honors or not,” Floyd said. “I have heartburn with age-based math.”
Floyd also struggled with the “confusing” curriculum guidelines posted on the Utah State Office of Education website.
“They are vague, and still say draft after six years,” Floyd said. “It is not finalized what we should be teaching.”
Also, since the core was revised, the state kept using the old math assessments.
“We never had funding to update the test to match the new core,” Floyd said. “SAGE was never a valid test for math, in my mind. There was no information we as math teachers could glean from the SAGE test that was appropriate.”
Floyd said he has heard the state will most likely abandon the SAGE test for high school students in the upcoming legislative session, moving to the ACT aspire tests for all freshmen, sophomores and juniors instead.
“They are entirely different tests,” said Superintendent Doug Jacobs. “The ACT is a paper-pencil test, and the SAGE is electronic.”
Since the core change, non-honors math scores “have taken a nose dive,” Floyd said.
His answer is to mix the grades back up again, so that students are learning on their own level whether they be in class with students their own age or not, “like it was six years ago,” Floyd said. He said the high school counselors are OK with the plan, saying it will not cause more issues than currently exist.
MHS has been using math books that became available when California also gave their students the option to take the integrated math pathway four years ago. However, Morgan math teachers still held on to the textbooks they were using before the change.
“We are going to use our old books we held onto, because they are a lot more appropriate to our students,” Floyd said.
Superintendent Doug Jacobs said he is pleased with teachers from the field taking initiative, “stepping ahead of what the state does.”
Floyd said he plans to share Morgan’s curriculum with other rural high schools such as those in Union, Duchesne, Uintah, North Summit and Park City.