Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback told the school board at a work session October 19th that middle school students who complete high school coursework should receive high school credit.

Approximately 40% of HCPS students take the advanced math class Algebra I in middle school, according to Tomback. He said it “doesn’t make sense” not to award credit to middle school students who demonstrate the same achievement as their high school counterparts. “I see moving forward with this proposal.” Tomback said, adding later that a task force should determine how to implement the plan.

Dr. Tomback’s comments came in response to a recommendation to the school board by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Gifted Education.

Several school board members also expressed support for the concept. A final decision would require a board vote at a future business meeting.

Cdev says

sounds like a good idea for Algebra I, Geometry and Foriegn Language.

Sandy says

It is a great idea, but they are going to have to fix the math curriculum. For the kids who take Algebra I in 7th, Geomethy in 8th grade, Algebra II in 9th, Trig/Precalc in 10th, and AP Calc in 11th grade. That leaves nothing left for 12th grade unless they want to take AP statistics. They really need a few options on that math track. Needing 4 math credits they could quit taking math after 10th grade. Probably not a great idea to go into college without having math for 2 years and a summer. We solved the problem by having my daughter take English 11 and 12 in 11th grade and graduating a year early, and that is without counting middle school math.

Cdev says

Calc 2 differential Equations at HCC? Not to mention most colleges require Statistics as a general requirment so AP stats would get them done with math if they are a non-math or science major.

Sandy says

Towson doesn’t require statistics as a chem. major and doesn’t accept AP calc, they all had to start with pre calc. So she had pre calc 3 times. She got an A though, lol. Not that it matters, she is now double majoring in deaf studies and early education. You never can tell!

Sandy says

I wanted to point out the other problem with AP courses, the teachers. One of my daughters took 2 AP courses and both teachers had attitudes. This is a college level class, figure it out for yourself. Very few explanations, very few questions answered. Honestly, they had her figuring there was no way she could handle college. She came home her first day at Towson and said she was so mad because those lazy teachers just didn’t want to do their jobs. The college professors explained everything and if you didn’t understand they even had office hours!

We see it all the time in HCPS. 5th grade teachers scare them about middle school, 8th grade teachers scare them about high school and some AP teachers scare them about college. None of it has been true, they say they are “preparing” them. Instead it just scares them for no reason while preventing them from learning what they need to learn in the current grade. Makes me crazy. I think all teachers should remove that from their vocabulary and just teach!

Cdev says

Spoken like someone who has never taught before! I know many great AP teachers. You have branded all AP teachers based on the impression of one or two. BTW it is college level material! When I taught AP I know I had lots to cover and I had 90 minutes every day to do it (2 credit course). I still needed to have saturday sessions starting in March! I also had before school tutoring for those that needed extra help. I did get upset with students who made no effort to try or talked through class or who missed lectures and did not bother to get the notes or listen to the audio tapes.

Sandy says

No, I said one of my daughters took 2 AP courses who had horrible teachers. I did not say they were the only AP courses she took. I didn’t mention all of the wonderful AP teachers my current senior took and is taking, 7 I think. I wasn’t branding all teachers as bad, I was commenting about a problem that existed.

90 min a day must have been nice. Our kids have 1/2 that time to learn the material. We have a real problem in HCPS, no one wants to admit to any problems. Everything is just wonderful. Well, we do have some real problems that will never be fixed because everyone is just so defensive. I sure hope having a new superintendent from “the outside” helps the defensiveness and helps clear up some of the nonsense!

Dave Jones says

Sandy

Your concern is already addressed. There is a first year AP Calc AB for 11th grade and a second year AP Calc BC for 12th grade. Sometimes AP Calc BC is not taught due to the lack of a sufficient number of students who sign up for it.

Sandy says

In my opinion, that is not enough choices. To continue on in math you should not HAVE to take an AP course. And what if someone doesnt want to take a second level calc course? I have spoken to Dave Volrath about this and it is in the planning stages to offer more options in the math curriculum. I have no idea how long it takes to write the curriculum and hire a teacher to teach it but we need many options if we are adding a 4th math credit and counting middle school math credits. You can’t expect every senior to want to take AP Calc II. My daughter chose to repeat precalc instead of moving on to AP Calc in 11th grade since she didn’t need the credit and didn’t feel comfortable taking AP Calc.

Cdev says

Calc BC and AB is a a same as course. Any kid wishing to major in math should be taking an AP course. If they are not math students then they could be done with math (having earned 4 credits by grade 10 and take other electives.

Sandy says

The problem with that is that they still have to take math courses in college, even if they aren’t going to major in math. Skipping 2 years and then going back is a lot of room to forget! We need more choices that the kids are interested in. Seriously, who is interested in Calculus, lol. Also, the Pre Calc and AP Calc in high school are taught using calculators. As I said, my daughter took pre calc twice just to keep math fresh. Her 7th grade math teacher told me not to let her take AP math because it is a waste. No calculators in college calc. She was exactly right. The courses didn’t even compare.

Cdev says

most calc classes are taught using calculators in college as well. Granted I took it 15 years ago in college but I could not have done it without a calculator. IN fact I believe it was required. I agree 4 years off of math would not be good but again we should be challenging kids. There is always consumer math. Maybe they could come up with an econ course or applied mathmatics.

Cdev says

of course if they pass their AP tests and are not math majors they will most likely be done with the math.

Sandy says

That is exactly what they need, more options like that. They wouldn’t let her go back to consumer math though. But no, most colleges don’t let them use the scientific calculators in college for pre calc and calc. My daughter panicked when she started pre calc at Towson and was told no calculators! Since they are programable it makes it too easy to cheat, that is the reason they gave. Makes it an entirely different class. The Science and Math Academy has it together, they have to learn it without a calculator. But still, my senior at the SMA is finished with math and isn’t taking a math class in her senior year. Doesn’t seem right to me, but she is taking a bunch of science classes and I’m sure she uses math somewhere in there….Anatomy, AP Chem, Organic Chem., Science Research and Technology.

Dave Jones says

Sandy, personally, I think the 7th grade instructor should not have provided you with such guidance, unless your daughter just wasn’t all that interested in taking higher level math (which happens and is understandable…some kids, even ones that do very well, just don’t get into math). This doesn’t only just apply to math majors of course…science and engineering majors have rigorous math requirements in their cirriculums in college as well. Most kids that are that far ahead in math during middle/high school are typically interested in and destined for such a career. Also, IMHO, if one doesn’t pass the AP test, so what? At least you have the basis for the class in college and will be a step ahead of most of your peers.

My college calc classes used calculators and that was coming up on 25 years ago. There were two versions of it though. Engineering and non-engineering calc. All science majors, as I was, were required to pass 3 semesters of engineering calc. Perhaps calculators were not used in the non-engineering calc course.

I will say that I also agree with you and Cdev regarding variety in math…but at the same time, kids struggling to get their credits to graduate in Alg. I and Geom will get the priority if there are not enough instructors available to teach other math courses. Calc BC was not taught at my daughter’s school one year, because they rather have instructors teaching Alg I, II and Geom to get the masses through.

Sandy says

I was thankful for the advice. She knew my daughter well and she knew she would be frustrated to learn it in high school and then have to go on to college and learn it over without a calculator. This is a change she ran into with her daughter. Things have changed since we were in college…. At that point my daughter was sure she wanted to be a pharmacist so she would have had to taken her second year of calc at college, it wasn’t offered at Fallston and the pharmacy colleges weren’t accepting AP calc classes anyway. I think it was sound advice.

The money is always put toward the kids who are struggling. I understand but it makes me feel like HCPS has a goal of making sure that everyone comes out average. They need to let kids who can excel have every opportunity to do so.

DW says

Speaking from personal experience, if a kid has the ability to take a higher level math course like calc in high school they’re better off taking it (AP or otherwise) even if they don’t think they will go into a field requiring it. I skipped out on math my senior year because I was taking a full load of AP/honors classes, was going into college as a history major, and figured I wouldn’t need any math at all (I tested out of the math requirement for my school.) I decided to change majors to chemistry (long story) and eventually ended up in economics, both of which have heavy math requirements and really struggled with the math side of things. If I had taken calc my senior year I would’ve had a much easier time in college.

Trying to plan out the rest of your daughter’s education career in 7th grade is a bad idea. So many things change during high school. For myself (and most of my friends) we changed our minds on what we wanted to do at least half a dozen times in high school and a large portion of people I knew in college changed majors at least once. The broader knowledge base your daughter can have coming out of high school the better off she’ll be.

Sandy says

DW I completely agree. Did you know that in 8th grade kids have to pick a career pathway and take their high school electives according that. We are talking 12 years olds, it’s ridiculous. And I agree about keeping them moving in math but my daughter was just not confident enough to take the AP math course. She actually tried it for a couple weeks and said there was no way she could stay in there and learn anything, so she chose to repeat pre-calc. I wish there was a non AP Calc course, or something else she could have chosen instead of repeating a class, but it was that or nothing and I thought it was better to repeat than to stress her out about math when she had never had a problem with it before, and she was already taking 2 englishes to graduate early and english is her hardest subject.

And about changing majors. She is double majoring in american sign language and early education now, decided against chemistry at the beginning of her secong year.

DW says

Sandy,

I feel the same way about the career pathway with HCPS. My wife also thinks it’s a bad idea (along with most of her coworkers) and she’s an AP teacher with HCPS. Most of the teachers I know are also against block scheduling.

Imo, the only people who should be doing any sort of “career pathway” type option are ones who aren’t planning on going to college and instead are going into some sort of trade like plumbing, mechanic work, etc. If you’re going to college you’re better served by having as broad an education base as possible.

Cdev says

Sandy I was lead to believe and have seen kids change career pathways after 8th grade. My daughter did. Most kids in 9th have taken mostly the same courses. They get few electives. After English 9, LSN, Earth Science, PE/Health, Math(some sort), LICW, Take your fine art and sometimes if you did not take algebra yet an extra math or you take one of a few other courses which you would need anyway. You still are not locked into a pathway. BTW are not most 8th graders 13? There are some good things about block scheduling but they are out weighed by the negatives in my opinion. Also most teacheers do not use them correctly.

Sandy says

DW, I don’t know anyone who thinks career pathways are a good idea. I don’t even think kids should be making the decision on IF they are going to go to college at 12 years old, much less what trade they are going to go into if they are going to decide not to.

Sandy says

Cdev, I don’t know what LSN is. They sign up for classes early in the year so unless they have an early birthday they are still 12 but even 13 is crazy. Very little choice in 9th grade. You can change your career pathway, but if you change too late to get all your classes in, you can’t graduate. You no longer need just 26 credit, 4 maths, etc, you actually have to have all the electives to complete a career pathway or you can’t graduate. So, it might not be a big deal to change in 10th grade, I’m not so sure about 11th or 12th. It would also matter how drastic a change you are making.

Cdev says

LSN=Govt. My daughter signed up in MArch, I think that is towards the end of the year not to mention most 8th graders start the year as a 13 year old! 14 in 9th 15 in 10th 16 in 11th 17 as a senior! My point is you have not touched your pathway credits in your freshman year you only start your sophmore year and sometimes not even then. A pathway is 4-6 credits and some of it overlaps with gen requirments! I remember thinking that last year when my daughter was registering and we read the book and talked about planning out her HS career and how it was a plan and flexible.

Cdev says

Sandy, Know you know someone who does think they are a good idea….ME! If she takes one and hates it she will firmly have eliminated one thing she wants to do when she gets older and will not waste her time in college persueing it. Nothing about them takes up all your electives when you have 32 courses to spread out over 4 years. If she eliminates the sciences as her desired major then I just saved money for an extra semester of school and a whole lot of headache. If she truly loves it then she will be ahead of the game. I view it as a win/win. I agree some of this HS reform non-sense was crap but that was one thing that wasn’t.

justamom says

If they start getting credit for Algebra I in middle school, how many “math challenged” students will only take Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Trig. and be finish with their math requirement by 10th grade. Then they go off to college, take a placement test and find out that they have to start their college careers taking remedial math because they forgotten what little they knew in the first place. The point of the 4 math credit was to challenge the students in our math challenged country. Now it looks like we’re backing off. I agree there should be more options in 11th and 12th grade for non-AP calculus. I also think we need a non-calculator based math curriculum, so our students really learn math. Many college do not let students use calculators in math classes. Back in prehistoric times (like when I was in college) we used the limited calculators we had, but even the best calculator then couldn’t do calculus or solve the quadratic equation. The calculators now, all you have to do is program in the problem and the calculator solves it for you. It’s no wonder we fall behind Europe and Asia every time there is an international test.

Cdev says

The course sequence you describe will not be a math challenged kid. Algebra I in MS is your best and brightest it is way above average kids. A math challenged kid usually does Alg 1A and 1B in 9th Geometry in 10th and Algebra II in 11th