Switching Courses for the Future

Changes at Irvington and in FUSD

By Shonushka Sawant and Shayna Kapadia | Staff Writers

Over the last several months, some changes to Fremont public school curriculums have been approved. Although some are merely local changes and will affect Irvington alone; others are widespread switches which will begin to affect Fremont students when they reach junior high.

Some of these changes include the changes to Fremont’s junior high math curriculum. Rather than Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 offered in the seventh and eighth grades, the courses will be Common Core 1 and Common Core 2, with Algebra 1 the standard ninth grade course. Students will be able to go no further than Algebra 1 before high school in coming years.

These adjustments to the curriculum will decrease the amount of higher level math classes due to the increase in demand for the lower level ones such as Algebra 1 in ninth grade. The higher level classes will still be available, but in smaller quantity. The district wants to stress the importance of learning the material well instead of quickly, as far as Algebra is concerned.

“We want the students to learn the curriculum so well that they can teach it,” said James Maxwell, the Director of the Department of Secondary Education. “One of the reasons we believe these changes are necessary is that we’ve seen that students who did skip Pre-Algebra tended not to do so well as those who didn’t.”

However, this view is not widely shared by Irvington math teachers, “I have not seen that the students who skip grades are affected by this,” said Ms. Chung, who teaches Precalculus Honors and AP Calculus AB. “On the other hand, students who skipped Pre-Algebra in seventh grade tend to do better in higher-level mathematics than those who didn’t.”

When asked about possible negative effects of these future curriculum changes, Maxwell continued, “This won’t be a new development, either; Algebra 1 is a standard ninth-grade course throughout the rest of the United States. The point here is to make sure that the students understand everything thoroughly,” continued Mr. Maxwell. “It’s likely that people will be upset, but no one’s future college admissions will be affected based on this. No one’s not going to go to Harvard because of this.”

In addition to these district changes, priority for Zero Period PE at Irvington will be given to those in academies (NMAA, ITA, SHAPE) because students in these academies have extra classes which they are required to take (for 10th graders in NMAA, a New Media arts class, such as Photography 1 or Digital Imaging, is required). Therefore, most do not have room to take a foreign language class.

“Zero period was originally geared towards giving students in academies an opening in which they could fill those A through G requirements. They could take a foreign language during the regular school day if they finished P.E. in zero period.” explained Ms. Smoot. “However, zero period is used for purposes very different from those they were intended for; most sophomores in zero period are simply trying to get their required year of art done as quickly as possible. There really isn’t an advantage to doing this; people still need to fill up their senior year of classes. People who belong to academies, on the other hand, really need to be part of those zero period classes.”

According to Ms. Smoot, this priority system will be enforced as soon as next year; changes to middle-school mathematics will take three to four years to implement fully.