**College Professors Should be on MD Task Force on
the HSAs**

(High School Assessments)

**Jerome Dancis**,
Associate Professor Emeritus,
Department of Mathematics

The MD State Department of
Education has written High School Assessments (HSAs) on English, on Biology, on Government and on [Some
concepts from] Functions, Algebra, Data analysis and
Probability. [Please browse them on the web. [i]]

For the past half decade, MD high
school students were required to take, but not required to pass these
exams. Starting with the class of
2009, passing these exams is scheduled to become a public high school
graduation requirement in MD.
There is a sizable number of students at risk of not passing these exams
and hence not graduating in 2009.

This possibility of students not
graduating from high school prompted MD state legislators to introduce House
Bill HB994 and Senate Bill SB475 on "Establishing the Task Force on the
Policy and Funding Implications of Requiring Passage of the High School
Assessment for Graduation".[ii] The senate bill has 25 sponsors,
out of 47 senators.

The bills specify that the task
force will have 17 members, who are considered stakeholders; for
example, there will be two local school superintendents and one public school
student. College academic
departments should be considered stakeholders, *with expertise*. BUT,
college professors are NOT on the list of stakeholder task
force members. **Perhaps,
the senate should advocate for the inclusion of college professors of English,
Biology, Government and Mathematics in the task force's membership.**

* *

For example: A
college Math professor could inform the task force of the really *bad* consequences of the MD HSA
on Algebra for students when they arrive in college.

Actually there is NO MD HSA
on Algebra; it's really an HSA on Pretend Algebra. MD
school systems are replacing their traditional Algebra I courses, with the
syllabus of the MD [pretend] Algebra exam. A consequence is that many freshmen have weak understanding
of Algebra and Arithmetic. At UMCP, a consequence is that many students do not
succeed in the college major of their choice.

Is the Mathematics on the HSAs on Mathematics, useful
Mathematics? (Debatable,
some is misleading; much is low level useful.)
Is it correct Mathematics?
(NOT all)

Does an MSDE's "highly
qualified" endorsement for middle school math teacher necessarily mean
that the math teacher necessarily has sufficient expertise in Math to provide
students with a solid background in the topics on the HSA on Algebra. (NO)

Similar questions should be asked
about the other HSAs; answers could be supplied by college professors, from
academic departments.

**Appendix **

** **

**Aligning High School Algebra with
College Algebra NOT**

By Jerome
Dancis

High school Algebra I used to be
quite similar to college Algebra. **No more**!
Now MSDE requires high school Algebra 1 to be aligned with the MD’s HSA
on Functions, Algebra, Data analysis and Probability. As MD state assistant superintendent, Gary Heath, said, "We
would be the first to tell you [the MD HSA on Algebra]
doesn’t have a lot of algebra, nor was it intended to." [iii]

Basic Algebra like *
solving 2x = 8, by dividing by 2, or * knowing x + 2x = 3x
or * graphing y = 3 x
+ 7 by hand or * adding fractions are EXCLUDED from Maryland's state mandated
Algebra I syllabus. Instead students use graphing
calculators. This sets up students to have unnecessarily difficulties with high
school and college courses, which use Algebra. But, as the head of math instruction for the state, Donna
Watts, said "There is a limited population who can do math symbolically,
the way mathematicians do. … " [iv]

College professors are distressed by the low level of
understanding of Algebra and Arithmetic by masses of students as they enter
college; even students, who have taken calculus in high school.

So, the local college math professors' professional
association has broken tradition by issuing its first statement ever on high
school math education. [v] College math professors decreed:

"Students should be able to perform Algebra and
Arithmetic calculations, without the assistance of calculators."

This is the opposite of the MD HSA
on [pretend] Algebra, which effective mandates the
exclusive use of calculators for Arithmetic and Algebra.

As Montgomery County Algebra I teachers were told, at a
1999 staff development session: "Do not worry
about students understanding algebra -- Just be sure they can put anything on
their hand calculators." This
is a very good strategy if the goal is just to have students pass the MD
[pretend] Algebra exam. But, this
strategy sets up students to be really weak in Algebra.

Two quotes from: "State and
County Math Standards Hurt Student Performance" [vi] "MCPS [Montgomery County
Public Schools] mandated changes to the Algebra I curriculum to align the
course with the tested material [MD's Algebra Exam]. 'We don't think the
material is what they need to know to be successful [in Algebra II and
Precalculus],' said Blair H.S. algebra lead teacher Maria Costello".

"Changes in the curriculum
are cited as a main cause for students' deficiencies in basic algebra, which
are manifesting themselves in higher level math courses that require an
understanding of concepts taught in Algebra I. 'Our Algebra II students are worse than ever. Our
Pre-Calculus students are worse than ever. It's falling apart as we go up the ladder,' said
Costello."

Arithmetic is the crucial
background for real Algebra. But the MD Voluntary Curriculum marginalizes
Arithmetic. This makes it difficult for students to develop fluency in
Arithmetic.

“Students are still shocked
when they’re told they need developmental courses,’’ said
Donna McKusik, the senior director of developmental, or remedial, education at
the Community College of Baltimore County. … But the first, and sometimes
last, stop for many are remedial math classes. “It’s the math
that’s killing us,’’ Dr. McKusik said. “More than one
in four remedial students work on elementary and middle school arithmetic. Math
is where students often lose confidence and give up.” (The New
York Times September 2, 2006)

Thus, MD Voluntary Curriculum
marginalizes Arithmetic and the MSDE mandated High School Algebra 1 is not
aligned with College Algebra. Thus the HSA and MSA are setting up many students
to take remedial Arithmetic and remedial College Algebra when they enter
college. Many do not know enough Arithmetic to succeed.

At UMCP, many freshmen have weak
understanding of Algebra and Arithmetic. A consequence is that many students do
not succeed in the college major of their choice. As the MD school systems replace their Math curriculum with
the MD Voluntary Curriculum and MSDE Algebra I curriculum, expect the situation
to deteriorate further.

[ii] These
bills would be "requiring the Task Force to review and evaluate the use of
the high school assessment as a Maryland diploma requirement and make findings
and recommendations; requiring the Task Force to report its findings and
recommendations … before November 2, 2007" The bills, HB994 and SB475 are on the web at http://mlis.state.md.us/2007RS/billfile/hb0994.htm
and http://mlis.state.md.us/2007RS/billfile/sb0475.htm.

[iii] __Washington
Post__ front page Aug16, 2002

[iv] __Washington
Post__, December 25, 2003; Page GZ06

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A28031-2003Dec24?language=printer

[v] The
MD/DC/VA SECTION OF THE MAA issued its statement, "ON MATHEMATICS
PREPAREDNES" of students as they enter college. The statement may be accessed from the * 1/22/2005 entry at http://www.morgan.edu/maa/home.html . ( The MAA is the Mathematical
Association of America, the professional association, for college math
instruction, of college professors of mathematics)

[vi] __Silver
Chips__, (Dec. 18, 2003), the student newspaper of Blair High School (Silver Spring, MD)
(http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/inside.php?sid=2639)