GREENSBORO — Seventh-grade algebra classes will not be offered at seven Guilford County middle schools next school year.
The district made that change because of the shift to Common Core, a set of academic standards being adopted in North Carolina and in most other states, and because of the low number of students qualifying for advanced math courses at those schools, district officials said.
Seventh-grade algebra is not being offered at Allen, Northeast, Southern, Welborn and Hairston middle schools, as well as Doris Henderson Newcomers School and Penn-Griffin School for the Arts.
At four schools — Johnson Street Global Studies and Eastern, Guilford and Kiser middle schools — seventh-grade students will be folded into eighth-grade algebra classes.
Some parents are concerned about the shift.
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“My fear is that we are attempting to progress by regressing,” Damon Williams, the out-going PTA president at Allen Middle School, said through an email. “We should be pushing children harder and with more support from the schools and families, than shortening their reach.”
Before taking seventh grade algebra, students typically take a sixth grade advanced course called Accelerated Integration of Middle Math. In that class, students get pre-algebra instruction that prepares them for algebra, said Terry Worrell, central region superintendent for Guilford County Schools.
If a sixth-grader who had not taken that class were to take algebra in seventh grade, they will have missed a significant chunk of key instruction.
But the advanced class is not offered at every school. For example, the class was not offered at Allen this year.
So those students will need to take pre-algebra in seventh grade before completing algebra in eighth grade.
The students who had the advanced sixth grade math class will be on track to complete geometry by the time they leave middle school; the rest will not.
But Williams also questioned the entry requirements for the advanced class.
“My son who scored in the upper 90s in math, reading and science in the fifth grade did not qualify for (the advanced math class) in the sixth grade,” Williams said. “The standard was, a child must score at or above 98th percentile on the fifth grade (end of grade exam).”
With that standard, he said, students are excluded from the course despite their academic ability and their overall academic needs and efforts.
Williams questioned how students are being targeted for extra help or further challenged amid the heavy focus on testing.
“No longer will we strive for excellence and demand accountability, we can just systematically limit opportunities,” he said.
He also questions how many students will be limited because they are not being challenged or they are viewed as “incapable of accomplishing a higher rigor.”
District officials have emphasized through the years that students should take the most rigorous courses possible, Worrell said.
“Depending on students’ needs, math is one of those subjects that we have made special accommodations for because of making sure that our students did have a challenging curriculum,” she said.
Some advanced math instruction will also be offered in gifted classes, Worrell said. In middle school, math instruction will also be tailored to students’ needs to continue to challenge the advanced students, she said.
Contact Marquita Brown at 373-7002, and follow @mbrownk12 on Twitter.