Math Placement

District 27 Math Course Pathways and Placement Process

District 27 has a comprehensive mathematics program involving multiple course options. Our goal is to place students in appropriate courses that promote student success. The purpose of this document is to provide comprehensive information about our math program and the placement process. Additionally, we address a number of topics related to math advancement and placement. 
 
Starting in third grade, District 27 provides additional math programming options beyond the grade level math course. The graphic below outlines the major course pathways and subsequent 9th grade high school courses. Additionally, we have a small number of students enrolled in self-contained math courses, which address content below grade level and provide significant support. The availability of self-contained math courses is dependent upon the needs of the students each year. 

 

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Descriptions of Course Pathways
Grade Level Pathway
 
The courses in this pathway address the Illinois Learning Standards for Math (also known as the Common Core State Standards), which contain rigorous content and skills at each grade level. Upon completion of 8th grade, students will have experienced some traditional algebra content throughout the course sequence and will be fully prepared for the high school algebra course. 
 
Accelerated Pathway 
 
Starting in sixth grade, the accelerated pathway consolidates the Grade Level Pathway (Math 6, Math 7, and Math 8) into two years. No content is skipped, which makes the pacing of this course particularly brisk. In Grade 8, students enroll in Algebra. This pathway prepares students for transition to a geometry course at the high school. 
 
Honors Pathway 
 
Students enrolled in this pathway take one year of combined Grade 5 and part of Grade 6 Math, one year of pre-algebra, and then move into high school level algebra and geometry courses in grades 7 and 8 respectively. Students must have extremely advanced math skills and conceptual understanding of mathematics to successfully complete all courses within this pathway. Additionally, students must demonstrate fast mathematical thinking and problem-solving in order to keep up with the quick pace of all the courses within this pathway. A small percentage of the student population enrolls in this course sequence. The Honors Pathway prepares students to enroll in Advanced Algebra or Honors Advanced Algebra at the high school. 
 
Placement Process 
At District 27, we make placement decisions with great care, based on achievement on standardized assessments and teacher feedback regarding classroom performance. We are committed to thoughtful and appropriate placement decisions for all students in order to create the best learning experience for every child. After making placement decisions for years and reviewing historical data, we recognize that a data-driven process is essential for making appropriate placement decisions to maximize success for each student. The following steps outline the processes and criteria for placement in our various math courses. 
 
STEP 1: Create and Review Matrix of Data 
 
As a data-driven process, we use a matrix to inform math placement decisions. The matrix criteria are reviewed and refined annually by the principals, Math/Science Coordinator, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. We use the following data points within our matrices: 
  • Terra Nova Mathematics score – test administered after Thanksgiving break
  • Terra Nova Math Computation score – test administered after Thanksgiving break Terra Nova/InView CSI score – test administered after Thanksgiving break 
  • STAR Math Scores – tests administered in September, January, and May 
As we review student data, please be assured that every data point for every student is examined. If we notice highly questionable or discrepant data, we review data from previous years and consult with the teacher(s) regarding the test scores. 
 
Lastly, although PARCC is not formally part of our matrices, we review PARCC math scores in light of math placement decisions.
 
STEP 2: Apply Placement Criteria to Matrix of Data 
 
Grades 3 - 5 Math Extensions: The criteria from Math Extensions are being reviewed and will be published in the fall. Please be aware that placement in Extensions in grades 3 and 4 does not determine whether a student will be placed in Grade 5 Honors Math. 
 
Grade 5 Math Honors: To be placed in Honors Math, we look for students to be scoring within the top 15% of the cohort on at least three of the five assessments listed below. Please be aware that the top 15% is not the same as the national percentile on the various standardized assessment reports. As a general guide, to score within the top 15% in fifth grade, students should have a national percentile of 97 or higher on the Terra Nova math tests, a national percentile of 99 on STAR Math, and a CSI of 127 or higher. Additionally, assessment scores from third grade are examined to ensure consistent performance. 
  • Terra Nova Mathematics score - this should be one of the scores in the top 15% as the test addresses a wide range of math concepts and skills that should be mastered by any student placed in Honors Math 
  • Terra Nova Math Computation Score 
  • Terra Nova/InView CSI score 
  • STAR Winter and Spring Scores: Only one STAR score may count towards the minimum of three scores within the top 15% 
Grade 6 Math Honors: If a student is in Grade 5 Math Honors, we seek to continue placement unless classroom performance and/or standardized assessment data indicate otherwise. We consider placing additional students in Honors Math who are scoring within the top 15% of the cohort on at least three of the five assessments listed below. Please be aware that the top 15% is not the same as the national percentile on the various standardized assessment reports. As a general guide, to score within the top 15% in sixth grade, students should have a national percentile of 97 or higher on the Terra Nova math tests, a national percentile of 99 on STAR Math, and a CSI of 130 or higher. 
  • Terra Nova Mathematics score - this must be one of the scores in the top 15% as the test addresses a wide range of math concepts and skills that should be mastered by students entering Honors Math 
  • Terra Nova Math Computation Score 
  • Terra Nova/InView CSI score 
  • STAR Winter and Spring Scores: Only one STAR score may count towards the minimum of three scores within the top 15% 
Grade 6 Math Accelerated: To be placed in Accelerated Math, we look for students to be scoring within the top 50% of the cohort on at least three of the five assessments listed below. Please be aware that the top 50% is not the same as the national percentile on the various standardized assessment reports. As a general guide, to score within the top 50% of the sixth grade cohort, students should have a national percentile of 86% or higher on the Terra Nova math tests, a national percentile of 94 on STAR Math, and a CSI of 117 or higher. 
  • Terra Nova Mathematics score: This should be one of the scores in the top 50% as the test addresses a wide range of math concepts and skills that should be mastered by students going into Honors Math 
  • Terra Nova Math Computation Score 
  • Terra Nova/InView CSI score 
  • STAR Winter and Spring Scores: Only one STAR score may count towards the minimum of three scores within the top 50%. 
Grade 6 Math: Students who do not meet the criteria for Honors or Accelerated Math are recommended to continue in the on-grade level curriculum. Please note that in January, the new Terra Nova and STAR scores are reviewed for each student in Grade 6 Math. If the scores meet the placement criteria for Accelerated Math, the Principal, teacher, Math/Science Coordinator and Assistant Superintendent review and discuss the child’s classroom performance and appropriateness of a possible placement change. Data alone will not automatically qualify the child for a placement change.
 
STEP 3: Consult with Teachers 
 
Using the initial placements based on the matrix of data, the Principals and Math/Science Coordinator convene meetings to carefully review and discuss the data with the teachers. The placement of every child in the grade level is discussed. Teachers provide feedback regarding the students’ math abilities demonstrated in class as well as math work habits. For placement in Honors, Accelerated, and Extension classes, we look for confirmation of a student’s ability to do the following: 
  • Problem-solve efficiently and effectively 
  • Persevere through challenging and unfamiliar problems 
  • Apply strong mathematical reasoning and make generalizations
  • Demonstrate a high level of precision in math solutions, written explanations, and oral explanations 
  • Understand and apply new math concepts and strategies quickly 
The above list is not exhaustive but provides a picture of the characteristics needed to be successful in an advanced math courses. With the additional feedback from the teachers, placement recommendations are made. 
 
STEP 4: Share Placement Recommendations with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment 
 
The Principal and Math/Science Coordinator review the placement recommendations with the Assistant Superintendent. The overall process is reviewed/confirmed and any questionable placements are flagged, researched, and discussed further. Final placement decisions are made only after the Principal, Assistant Superintendent, and Math/Science Coordinator come to consensus. 
 
STEP 5: Communicate with Parents Regarding Placement 
 
Grades 5 and 6: Decisions for placement in Grade 5 Math, Grade 5 Math Honors, and all Grade 6 math courses are discussed in the spring and finalized in the summer. Final placement decisions are mailed home to parents in the summer. 
 
Grades 3-5 Math Extensions: Placement decisions are made in the early fall (September/October) and invitations to participate in Math Extensions are sent home at that time for students who qualify. 
 

Additional Information Regarding Math Placement
Advantages of Using a Matrix of Data 
 
As has been shared throughout this document, we use five standardized test scores as critical pieces of data to inform placement decisions. Using multiple measures increases the accuracy of the placement process over a single placement test, which is not able to delve deeply enough into the area of mathematics to provide a complete assessment picture. With multiple measures, we can examine student performance data from standardized assessments that are professionally constructed and validated. Additionally, our matrix recognizes that students do not always perform on assessments at a level that is commensurate with their true knowledge and skills. By only requiring three out of five scores to meet certain criteria, we have factored into the process the variability involved in student testing. 
 
Understanding Acceleration in Math 
 
At all grade levels, District 27 implements rigorous curricula. Students who are properly placed and conscientious should achieve A’s and/or B’s. We strive to have students achieve 100% on their math assessments because these assessments are a reflection of the grade level standards. If a student earns all A’s, this is not an indicator that he/she needs to be placed in a more advanced course. 

 

We are often asked “what is the harm in letting my child try a higher level math class?” We can’t impress enough that if the student does not qualify, the potential for gaps in math skills and conceptual understanding is significant. The accelerated math courses most likely will not explicitly address the deficit areas because it is assumed that all students already have mastery of the content and skills. Additionally, these deficit areas are likely to impact future standardized test scores, which can ultimately affect placement at the high school level. 
 
Movement from a Higher Level Course to a Lower Level Course 
 
Although rare, at times a student is not able to maintain a performance level appropriate to an advanced math course. When this occurs, we work with the parent to change the placement. It is imperative that we do not continue a student in a math course that is too challenging. To continue in such a course, the student will miss opportunities to build deficit skill areas and conceptual understandings, which will only be magnified further each year. 
 
Enrollment and Continuation in Math Extensions 
 
Each year students in grades 3-5 are screened/re-screened for Math Extensions. Enrollment in the program does not automatically guarantee enrollment for the following year. Students must meet the criteria annually to continue enrollment. At the same time, students who qualify may join Math Extensions in fourth or fifth grade even if they did not qualify and/or participate the previous year. 
 
Math Placement of Students New to District 27 
 
For fifth grade students new to District 27, we place them in the on-level math course and monitor/review their performance for the first half of the year. If the STAR Math, Terra Nova, and classroom performance warrant a change in placement to Honors Math, we will make that placement change no earlier than January and only if the schedule will accommodate the change

 

For sixth through eighth grade students new to District 27, we typically place them in courses within our Grade Level and Accelerated pathways based on data from the previous school district. We monitor/review their performance for the first half of the year and make changes in placement if warranted and can be accommodated by the schedule. 
 
Enrolling a Student in an Outside Math Course 
 
Periodically, parents approach us about their child being enrolled in an advanced math course, such as Algebra, through an outside organization. Please be aware that neither Wood Oaks nor Glenbrook North High School accepts these courses in place of the advanced courses at Wood Oaks. For this reason, we discourage enrollment in advanced courses that are designed to accelerate a student in mathematics. 
 
Changes in Math Placement 
 
We seek to place all students in the appropriate math courses and pathways. By employing a comprehensive process, we ensure that all data and placement decisions have been carefully considered and confirmed by multiple educators. As a result of our processes, changes in math placements are rare. The Third Grade Math Extensions and Grade 6 Accelerated Math are the only two classes for which we specifically re-screen students during the school year and plan to make placement changes if warranted.
 
Grade 3 Math Extensions: Because we have limited standardized data for third grade students, we re-screen all third grade students for Math Extensions following the administration of Terra Nova in November/December and the STAR Math test in January. If the standardized data and classroom performance qualifies the student for Math Extensions, the student will be invited to participate in Math Extensions.
 
Math 6 Accelerated: Because the Accelerated course pathway is a new sequence that starts in sixth grade, we re-screen all students in Math 6 following the administration of Terra Nova in November/December and the STAR Math test in January. If the standardized data and classroom performance qualifies the student for Math 6 Accelerated, a placement change will be recommended to the parent(s). 
 
For all other courses, the placement decisions are maintained for the entire school year. Additionally, no placement changes to course pathways will be made after sixth grade.  
 
Inquiries about Math Placement 
 
If you have additional questions about the placement process, please contact the school’s principal. We are available to explain the placement process and your child’s data.