I wanted you to be the first to know about a news article appearing in The Hechinger Report today, which you can view here. It is co-written by myself and five leading mathematicians and mathematics educators, in support of the recent changes made by San Francisco Unified School District. SFUSD, like many school districts, faced the problem of high failure rates in maths, and low numbers of students taking high level classes. They took an unusual approach to this problem – they studied research evidence and acted upon it. In 2016 they implemented widespread de-tracking and moved algebra from 8th to 9th grade, allowing all students to take the rigorous common core 6, 7 and 8 program in middle school. After making these changes their algebra failure rate across the district fell from 40% to 8% and higher numbers of students are taking advanced classes than ever before in the district’s history.
Despite these impressive changes, some people would like to reverse the de-tracking policy, which prompted the mathematics leaders in Silicon Valley to write this article. Over the next 18 months the youcubed team will be documenting the teaching and learning in SFUSD to help others learn from the important work happening there.
In other news, we hope you can share this film, which you can also find on Twitter, highlighting the different ways students can learn math facts. If you are sending this to others, please also send this paper: Fluency without Fear, that not only contains the research evidence for the reasons to move away from timed tests but a range of mathematics activities to help students learn maths facts well.
Viva La Revolution
Jo & the youcubed team