With the start of a new calendar year comes that annual “PSSA Panic” for me. Knowing we are several short months away from these all-important high-stakes tests, I look at 40-minute-class-period time constraints, a curriculum overridden with topics, and the never-ending middle school juggling act, being wedged between foundation-setting and too-soon high school topics. Am I teaching middle school mathematics? Or a true Algebra course? Or perhaps a hybrid of both courses in one year, with shorter class periods than ever before? Do I continue to teach content, or do I shift my focus on test taking skills, or both?
Then it dawns on me.
No wonder I am panic-stricken. We are halfway through a school year, and students are being assessed shortly after on an entire year’s worth of content!
My suggestion – either continue to test in March and have the months of April, May and June as an early summer, or give the PSSA in late May!
Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea of accountability and consistency. I think high standards and expectations are important. However, now more than ever, defining what middle school mathematics *should* be keeps evolving. Algebra seems to be sneaking to earlier and earlier grades, pushing higher-level content to the late elementary grades as well.
What should a successful middle school mathematics program look like? How do we get there from here?