In Laguna Beach Unified School District, we accept the challenge to produce college and career ready graduates who can think deeply, write well, and collaborate on projects. We are proud of our mathematics standards and sequence. Starting at Thurston Middle School next school year, mathematically gifted students will be grouped into a demanding accelerated pathway. They will master two years of mathematics standards in sixth grade by enrolling in Math CC 7, followed by Math CC 8 in seventh grade, and the redesigned Algebra I course in eighth grade. This more rigorous Algebra course includes content from the previous Algebra I, Algebra II, and geometry courses. They will take geometry as freshmen. This accelerated pathway leads to AP Calculus A/B as a high school junior and AP Calculus B/C or AP Statistics as a senior. The non-accelerated pathway leads to AP Calculus A/B as a senior.
The district is implementing the California state standards, comprised of the Common Core State Standards, adopted by the California Board of Education in 2010. In a letter of support, the UC, CSU, CCC, and independent private college systems endorsed the California state standards and stated that “the standards provide teachers and districts a roadmap to developing courses that cultivate the deep understandings required for college preparation. In concert with this transition, the a-g requirements for CSU and UC admission, specifically areas ‘b’ (English) and ‘c’ (Mathematics), have been updated to align with the Common Core standards and the message is being transmitted to schools, parents and students.”
The California standards are internationally benchmarked and supported by the presidents of every major US mathematical society. Jason Zimba, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Williams College with a double major in mathematics and astrophysics, a master’s in research in mathematics from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in mathematical physics from UC Berkeley, states that the standards promise “increasing the number of students in our country who actually attain advanced levels of performance” noting that “nothing is being dumbed down.” The Fordham Institute reviewed the standards in 2010 and gave them a perfect score for content and rigor. William Schmidt, a leading expert on international mathematics performance and a previous director of the U.S. TIMMS study, conducted research comparing the Common Core to high performing countries in grades K-8 and found strong agreement. In addition, he found no state’s previous math standards were as close a match to the high-performing countries as the Common Core.
When our students graduate from LBHS, we expect them to be college and career ready. We expect them to have met the a-g university admissions requirements, experienced success in AP classes, and enjoyed the opportunities and challenges found at a highly successful comprehensive high school. In addition, we expect them to have high rates of success on the SAT, which is aligned with the Common Core. In LBUSD, we are leveraging learning and transforming our classrooms in a world that demands higher order thinking skills to compete and succeed. Our work has never been more important.
The author is the LBUSD superintendent.