Covid math: Pandemic policy led to decline in algebra completion in Anchorage schools

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By DAVID BOYLE

The Anchorage School District has been wrestling with the math program for decades. Under former School Superintendent Carol Comeau, the district implemented the highly conceptual “Every Day Math” (EDM) program, which focused on high-level math concepts as opposed to foundational math such as Saxon Math. 

Read: Is Every Day Math the worst math program ever?

This EDM program was not a good fit for most of the students, as it was meant for those who would go on to college.

Additionally, the majority of teachers didn’t like the program, according to a 2011 audit by the Council of Great City Schools. The customers — parents and students — were not even asked their opinions.

At its Dec. 20 school board meeting, the board was presented with the status of algebra II as part of the new College, Career and Life Ready standards. Algebra II is said to be the best indicator to ensure college success.  The ASD is focusing on improving the successful completion of algebra II to reduce the math remediation of freshmen at the university system, which is more than 60 percent. 

The most recent PEAKS standards show only 37 percent of all Anchorage students are proficient at math and 37 percent of ninth graders are proficient at math.  It appears as if some foundational math is lacking.  

The below chart shows a downward trend of students successfully completing Algebra II:

This group of students represents the percentage of all grade 9-12 students, not just those taking algebra II. There is a significant drop in completion rates between the years 2018-19 and 2019-20. A 4.3 percentage drop is nearly 10 percent. 

The low point in 2020-2021 shows the impact of distance learning due to the pandemic and school closures. 

The interesting part is that there is a trend in the decline in the number of students taking algebra II. From 2018-19 to 2020-21 there is a drop of 715 students.  

This may be attributed to the pandemic or the fact that students may be ill-prepared with earlier math and fear they will fail at algebra II.  It’s also possible students believe they don’t need this math to succeed in life.

This chart shows a breakout of students according to race/ethnic group, English language learners, special education, economic status, and type of school attended:

The most important column here is the “% Students Enrolled,” because that determines the excellent “Completion Rate of students Enrolled in Algebra II” column.  The overall 90.21% of students completing algebra II only considers those who are enrolled in the course. If they enroll in the class, they typically complete it.  

This chart also shows that the Alternative schools far outpace the neighborhood (Comprehensive) and charter schools. These alternative schools are Alaska Middle College, King Tech High School, Polaris, and Steller Secondary School. Most of the students in these schools are college-bound. 

The school board didn’t ask any questions regarding the downward trend in completion rates.

Instead, the left-dominated board focused on “equity “in math programs regarding minority students, those students who are in the 63% “not proficient” in math as shown in the state’s PEAKS assessment. 

33 COMMENTS

  1. This isn’t news.

    I used to do testing of Alaska school kids in language and math skills. They were already badly behind. The lack of instruction may have been a benefit instead of a hindrance

  2. The “collateral damage” that our misguided public officials have inflicted on this generation of children is incalculable. The imposition of senseless mask mandates, constant closings and openings of schools, totally ineffective distance learning alternatives, social distancing craziness, lost socialization opportunities of children, increased cases of depression and suicide etc. are all public health outcomes that have been dumped on this generation. None of these ‘pandemic’ countermeasures were based on peer reviewed science. It seemed to be based on the public official’s arrogant attitude of ‘we imposed it, because we can’.

    Unfortunately, they are at it again with Fauci spewing contradictory pronounced from day to day about this new variant Omicron. Adding to that is Biden rambling incoherently and hysterically and very cynically about those Americans who choose not to be vaxed. We live in very trying times. It’s time to “just say no”. They seemingly want this ‘pandemic’ to go on endlessly. It’s how they assert power without consequences. Their day of reckoning is coming. There is a building fury as to what these people have inflicted on so many Americans. Some claim there will be a civil war. Absolutely not! There will be an electoral blood bath in 2022. And many smug public officials will face the music that they never thought they would have to face. It will redefine the word shadenfreude.

  3. I opposed the new common core math curriculum and supported using the traditional proven successful Saxon Math instead. The Board voted differently.
    Dave Donley
    As an individual member of the Anchorage School Board and not on behalf of the ASD or Board.

    • Please stop saying that, Dave. Don’t let the school board control you like that. Let them prove that you explicitly claimed to represent the entire board. You shouldn’t have to prove you’re not. You do that all the time on Dan Fagan. It’s very off putting.

      • I agree with Dan here, Don.
        .
        Do all the rest of the radical leftist school board feel the need to say the same whenever they speak or write an opinion anywhere? I don’t think so.

  4. I’m so grateful for the math teachers I had many years ago through the fifties and early sixties. Every one of them knew their subject well and taught it well, including those at West High in the early sixties. I fondly remember them all with a lump in my throat when I read this.

  5. During the last several decades, the American Federation of Teachers has managed to brainwash and dumb down students so that third world countries’ students outperform ours in math and science while ours can’t read a clock or write cursive. Shutting down in person classes has been the icing on the cake….

    Students have been taught to hate the United States and capitalism. Questions the teachers fail to ask their students: how many people are trying to enter China, North Korea, Venezuela, and other Marxist or Communist countries? Why do millions of people risk death to enter the capitalist United States illegally if our country is so unfair and evil?

    • “Why do millions of people risk death to enter the capitalist United States illegally if our country is so unfair and evil?” Parasites enabled by this country’s policies and the media?

      • That isn’t surprising (to me anyway). Some years ago, in the early 80s, as a personnel assistant, I was tasked with screening applications for a position that required a Bachelor’s degree. An applicant showed up claiming he had a Bachelor’s degree. I was ordered to question him and fill out his application form because he couldn’t figure out how to do it. Needless to say, he wasn’t referred for an interview or hired for the position. Snort!

  6. Professional tutoring (Sylvan) helps get proper results. ASD quite often doesn’t succeed and it is parental responsibility to keep their kids learning.

    • And the property taxes keep rising to support the ASD/School Board and its irresponsible spending and failure to educate. $100+ Million to build new schools? What about the students? Go figure.

      For the time being, I’m voting NO on all school bonds. ASD and School Board – Make do with what you have for your pipe dreams. Meanwhile, show us taxpayers results to educate our children!

      I remember double shifting at West High while East High was under construction. West High survived after the 1964 earthquake when the top story of the school was demolished. It didn’t kill us or our education!

    • So does a good private school. Holy Rosary is money well spent.
      A new headmaster and dedicated teachers. Give it a try.

    • Sylvan Center is awesome. Now a parent should get some of the State funding so they can afford the tutoring, especially those low income parents.

  7. Why is the 2020-2021 Annual Target Rate 8% less than the actual rate from 2016-2019? At some point parents need to take responsibility for the children they bring in to this world.

    • More importantly, at some point voters need to take responsibility for the radical, destructive, rigidly dogmatic wokester politicians that their votes are bringing into this world, as well.

      • Having good, informed voters all starts with good parenting, something in short supply nowadays. I’d take a good parent any day of the week over a good voter, we vote a couple times a year at most.

  8. Here’s one… In the real world, when you fail in your job, you are fired and replaced. It is a consequence of poor performance. This lesson should be used on the school board, administration, and staff.
    This leftist “participation trophy”approach is killing our children’s chances of success in life.

    • I remember being on a large panel of representatives from employers in the late 90s or early 2000s or so to provide input to a high school exit exam to assess minimal assurance of success in basic knowledge and skills for employability. The exit exam was ditched, as I recall, because it was too “haaaard” for senior level students to pass! Sixth grade level math problems at the time seemed to be a hang up. The panel took the test, and did well on it as I recall. That was then; this is now. Snort!

  9. No wonder ASD school teachers don’t like teaching Algebra II – they can’t comprehend it themselves!

  10. Teachers are not in the game anymore to teach. I learned this after hearing my daughter’s Zoom classes last year. Its indoctrination, BLM, he/she madness, and hate for this country. Defund the police? Defund the public schools and let parents decide for themselves.

  11. Here is a fine example of where school vouchers are the solution. When the school district goes astray of the tax base, there is no recourse to correct the district’s direction. Vouchers can provide that immediate feedback, that parental control, that balance of power. I know several excellent educators in both the Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Kodiak School Districts. They pour their hearts into their students. These professionals care not for the injection of political/social rat nest by the NEA, AEA, and other special interest groups into the system. School vouchers provide a way to circumvent this quagmire and enable entrepreneurial professional educators to impart skills and knowledge into our youth with direct input from parents. Nothing prevents students from attending public schools and nothing prevents parents from selecting alternative education settings/systems for their children.
    The voucher system could be maintained as a bank account allowing for use at the elementary, middle school high school and college levels up to age 24. So as long as the child remains in Alaska, the parents have access to the voucher account. Left over money could be recycled into the voucher system for new students.
    This free market system is based in Liberty and Freedom. It’s time Alaska for real solutions not political platitudes both political parties espouse. Vote Libertarian, after all your Liberty and Freedom are priceless. Voting for the lesser of two evils will only result in putting a price on your Liberty and Freedom.

  12. This is all part of the “fundamental transformation” of our society as advocated by a certain national leader over ten years ago. What was not discussed then, or now, is that the “fundamental transformation” involves turning the United States into a third-world country. Think Honduras or Nepal — that may well be our future.

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