Core Plus Math Didn't Add Up In Austin

The following article concerns Austin, MN's three-year old Core Plus Math program that is being abandoned because it is not working. This move has implications across Minnesota. Many school districts have adopted Core Plus because it meets the Profile of Learning/School-to-Work requirements.

Austin has discovered that fully a third of the students require remediation because of Core Plus.

"Teachers are the true heroes of this story," says Kathy Green, Austin School Board member. "They saw that it [Core Plus] was not instilling in students the math skills they would need to be successful post high school. They listened to parents' concerns. They voiced their concerns. Our students had lost skills they entered high school with. 'Use it or lose it,' as the saying goes."

From the article:

"One of the math teachers stated that, while course descriptions will be rewritten, the plan reverts to courses the school had four years ago. 'It's a tried-and-true plan. It worked in the past. This was sort of a radical departure from that plan,'" said Olson.

Comment:

The Profile of Learning/School to Work system is a radical departure from all that we know works in education. How many of our students must be harmed before we reject this experiment on our children?

The following article was posted on webstar.postbulletin.com concerning this issue.

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

SCHOOL SAYS CORE PLUS PROGRAM WILL BE ABANDONED
By Nikki Merfeld
The Post-Bulletin (Rochester)

AUSTIN -- Austin High School has decided to abandon its Core Plus math program. 
The Austin School Board on Monday approved a plan to eliminate the Core Plus curriculum
for the second semester and begin immediately preparing students for the change.

The plan is required, said math teachers, because many students are failing or advancing with
little understanding of the concepts.

The changes will affect 16 classes of about 28 students each, or about 450 students, said
math teacher Wayne Olson, who presented the new plan to the board. That includes about
one-third of the school's 1,200 students.

Students now are in one of two "Math Paths," said Olson. They are either in the Core Plus
or the college track programs. The new plan has three paths: a four-year college track,
a technical-college track, and a remedial track.

The four-year-college path will not change. The second path will be for students preparing for
technical college and will teach many of the same topics as taught in the accelerated classes
while allowing more time to learn them, Olson said.

The third path will be for students who have not passed their basic skills tests.

Overlap between the paths will allow students to progress from one path to another, Olson said.
The plan would also expose every student to algebra.

"This would give our students, every student, the opportunity to take an algebra course,
which we believe is recommended by the state," said Olson.

While course descriptions will be rewritten, Olson said, the plan reverts to courses the school had four years ago.
"It's a tried-and-true plan. It worked in the past. This was sort of a radical departure" from that plan, said Olson.

This is the third year the district has used the Core Plus curriculum.

Olson said he wasn't sure how many students are failing, but said, "We gave our students a diagnostic test
and they were doing awful."

He said Core Plus is a backward approach to teaching math.  "You really need the skills before
you attack a problem and they're trying to have students without the skills attack the problem and
then learn the skills," said Olson.

Implementing the change will cost the district $12,000 in materials, said Olson.