Students in grades 7, 8, and 11 are tested each spring in English Language Arts and Math. The tests are one measure in determining whether students are on track to be ready for college and careers. In English, CUPrep scores exceeded, by a large margin, both El Dorado County averages and State Averages. In 11th grade, 95% of the students scored "met or exceeded" college readiness, the vast majority scoring in the "exceeded" category. We were very pleased with our CCA scores as well. We found that the students who have been with us throughout high school overwhelmingly scored at the "met standards" of college readiness in English. Those that did not were primarily those students who had transferred to CCA in the past year. This is very encouraging for parents, students, and staff.
In Math, our scores are average. This is not exactly where we want to be, but it is a perfect opportunity to explain further how we are seeing math curriculum evolving. California public schools have made a significant shift in math instruction towards the new state standards, starting about five years ago. College math has not shifted towards high school level standards, so there is a gap between what college professors need students to know and what is being taught in high school under the new state standards. We expect that colleges and universities will adapt curricular approaches somewhat to accommodate students coming out of high school programs and that over time, the disparities will be fewer. Even the SAT has undergone some changes to more reflect a problem solving approach to math. The idea behind the shift in approaches in the new state (and national Common Core) standards is to focus students on how to solve problems as opposed to just being able to work through algorithms.
At CCA, five years ago, very few students took any math classes beyond geometry. This past two years, we have doubled each year the number of students taking Algebra 2, and we expect that trend to continue. Those who took Algebra 2 last year did very well on the state tests, which makes sense since there are many questions at that level. Every year, more of our students are taking advanced Math and Science classes which we believe will show as an improvement on state tests. Mathematical reasoning is understood in the context of science, so the more we engage students in science concepts, the better their math understanding will be.
We will continue to modify our approaches to support our mission while also ensuring that students aren't missing out on things. This year, we have adopted a more state standards based curriculum in Junior High and think that a shift in that direction will bear fruit on the state tests as well as continue to prepare students to be successful in the higher level courses. We continue to meet with college math teachers to make sure our students are well prepared for their future courses.
At CUPrep, we have always had the mission of preparing students for success at the university level, so we have geared our math curriculum and approaches so that students would be successful in Statistics and Calculus math courses. The vast majority of students at CUPrep take classes beyond Advanced Algebra 2 and do so very well. Our students are typically the top students in Calculus at Folsom Lake College, and we send a high percentage of students directly to Universities where they are very successful. This hasn't always been reflected on state tests where much emphasis is placed on probability-type problems. Students who move on to Pre- Calculus and higher courses pick up probability concepts easily. We haven't placed much emphasis on probability in lower levels, and our scores on those state tests reflect this.
We have always been deliberate on what we teach and how we teach it. We avoid social and educational trends which change with the wind. As I have traveled around the world, looking at methods of teaching Math, I have seen a clear difference in how other countries approach math and how we teach math in the United States. By far, most countries teach Math by rote memory. Students memorize and work thousands of problems in arithmetic and algebra. You see their successes on international tests, which emphasize this rote memory type of approach, because the students have done many similar problems in classes and homework assignments. Our culture has not supported this approach, and I see no trends in the future moving in that direction. Instead, the United States approach focuses on a deeper understanding of the reasoning in math. This takes time, effort, and patience. We also have not done a great job in the past 30 or so years requiring students to master arithmetic processes. I believe the ideal is for students to have a balanced approach where a student works so many problems that the procedures become automatic, and that with that foundation, he or she can explore the deeper uses of math without stumbling on the procedures. Automaticity with arithmetic and algebra is essential for success in higher level math courses.
Thank you for a) reading through this long-winded article about test scores, and b) entrusting us to work with your students to help them prepare for their educational and occupational futures.
Principal, CCA & CUPrep