Loss of Choice in Belmont Public Schools

Empowerment and flexibility were key components of the Belmont Public Schools math curriculum until 2020.  Every BPS student in grades 7-12 had the opportunity to be placed into any math class upon demonstration of subject mastery.  Over 200 Belmont students benefited from this flexibility between 2011 and 2019, advancing their success both in school and life. 

The placement opportunities had huge benefits in helping Belmont students reach their full potential.

flexible pathways
Flexible Placement until 2020

In 2019-2020, BPS eliminated all flexibility in math placement.  Most visibly, the options for Chenery students to take Algebra 1 in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade were eliminated, and all BHS math placement tests were eliminated.  These changes were made before the pandemic.

Full History:
Math Placement and Advocacy in Belmont

Student Success Stories:
Benefits of Flexible Placement, 1995-2020

2023-2024 School Year Opportunity

BHS is offering students the opportunity to advance a year in math for the 2023-2024 school year if that student has taken an equivalent course at another institution. This opportunity is for students entering Grades 9-12 in September 2023. In order to be considered for this program, students and families must do the following:  By March 17 at 3:00 PM, complete THIS FORM to state your intention and identify the course and institution at which the math course will be completed. Note that this opportunity is only offered on a trial basis and is not part of the official BPS curriculum. The opportunity may be removed in the future.

7th Grade Math Enrollment, 2022-23

The Case for 7th Grade Algebra

Eliminating Algebra 1 and Geometry as in-school options does not serve our community of math learners. Course enrollment in 7th grade and older shows that in Belmont, large percentages of the student body are ready for math material that is well beyond the state grade-level standards.

73.1% of 8th graders are taking Algebra I.  

65.3% of 7th graders are taking Math 7 Compact.

Students Should be Empowered with Flexible Placement

For Grades K-6 at the Belmont Public Schools, all students in the same grade level take the same classes. At the end of 6th grade, teachers give recommendations for placement of students into one of two math classes for 7th grade. This one-time placement determines a student’s math pathway options through 12th grade; modifying the pathway after 7th grade requires extra summer work or doubling up (taking two math classes at once during the school year).

Students placed into Math 7 follow the progression Math 7 (7th), Math 8 (8th), Algebra 1 (9th), Geometry (10th), Algebra 2 (11th), Precalc
(12th).  This standard pathway for Math 7 students does not include the option to take Calculus; students who take Math 7 and later decide they
want to be able to take Calculus will have to double up on math classes in 9th or 10th grade (Algebra 1-Geometry or Geometry-Algebra 2).  BPS
has also proposed an optional summer program starting in summer 2023 for rising 8th graders who were placed in Math 7 and decide they
want to cover the additional material that was in in Math 7 Compact so that they can take Algebra 1 in 8th grade instead of Math 8. 

math 7 pathway
Standard Pathway for Math 7 does not include Calculus

Students who are placed in Math 7 Compact follow the progression Math 7 Compact (7th), Algebra 1 (8th), Geometry (9th), Algebra 2 (10th), Precalc (11th), Calculus (12th).  These students have the option to also participate in Challenger Geometry, an extra-curricular add-on course offered to 8th graders who are already taking Algebra 1 in school.  Students who take Challenger Geometry follow the progression Math 7 Compact (7th), Algebra 1 AND Challenger Geometry (8th), Algebra 2 (9th), Precalc (10th), Calculus (11th), and a math elective in 12th grade.

Pathway for Math 7 Compact Students:
Only chance for flexibility is extra-curricular Challenger program

Lack of Flexibility is Harmful to Everyone

If a student has already mastered a course’s material, or if they could learn the material at a much faster pace, their needs should be met with flexibility, not by being forced to sit through the class. 

If a student is placed into Math 7, there is no option in the standard BPS pipeline for them to reach Calculus before they graduate. The only alternative is to take two BHS math classes at once.  Given the sequential nature of math courses, this is similar to requiring a student to simultaneously take 2 language classes, such as French 2 and French 3.   

The Time to Act is Now

The Belmont community has clearly expressed its demand for flexibility that provides all students the ability to engage in challenging material.  Parents want structural solutions to support readiness for math challenge, NOT a reduction in options.

With the upcoming shift of 7th and 8th grade students to the new wing at the high school, this is an optimal time to reassess how BPS can serve the needs of these students in-school as part of the regular school day.  Algebra 1 and Geometry can be offered to Belmont 7th and 8th graders at no additional cost to the operating budget.

There is no reason not to allow Belmont High School students to take math placement exams, which already exist and would be cost-neutral.  Appropriate BHS placement has huge benefits for the few students who would participate.

“The harms of offering no options include: isolation, behavioral disruptions, frustration, boredom, depression, anxiety, lack of development of skills such as persistence, loss of love of learning, loss of curiosity, and disengagement from school.”
Report commissioned by DESE, June 2019