PROM/SE and your child
As a parent you might have heard your child’s teacher mention PROM/SE and wondered what it is all about. Maybe your child told you that they took a special standardized test in school today or that their teacher just returned from a special PROM/SE training. This page will try to answer some of the basic questions about why PROM/SE is important and what impact will it have on your child.
The following situation is imaginary but the facts are real. A single mother in St. Clair County, Michigan sends her 13 year-old daughter Mary to school with the expectation that she will have a good year that will prepare her for high school. Mary’s mother dropped out of high school and never attended college. She doesn’t know what Mary’s future holds, but she wants it to be better than her own, and she knows that education is the key.
Several decisions are made as the school year begins. The school and her guidance counselor recommend that Mary be placed in a general math course because she is not ready for algebra. Mary says that the teacher of the eight-grade math class in which she is placed is nice. No one in this scenario- not Mary, her mother, her counselor, or even her teacher – truly realizes the consequences of these decisions, because none of them knows or understands several fundamental facts about teachers and the curriculum in St. Clair County and the state:
- State standards for eight grade mathematics are numerous and fragmented.
- An 8th grade general math course limits Mary’s future choices because it essentially repeats the elementary arithmetic covered in grades 4-7 and includes topics that are mostly representative of the 5th grade by international standards.
- Teachers of the same course do not necessarily teach the same topics. For example, some teachers in St. Clair County spend little time on basic geometry in 8th grade, while others spend almost one-fourth of the school year on geometry.
- Only one-third of the mathematics teachers in St. Clair County have both the right background and feel academically well prepared to teach mathematics. Only 40% of the 8th grade mathematics teachers have a major in mathematics, and only 25% of these teachers say that they are well prepared to teach a set of basic mathematic topics.
A vision of the future
The vision of PROM/SE is that in five years Mary’s mother would not be faced with such difficult choices. In contrast, Mary would be counseled into a course where she would study a challenging set of new topics, building on what she had learned in the previous grades and taught by a teacher well prepared to teach these topics. The 8th grade mathematics curriculum would be based on standards that are coherent, focused and challenging by international benchmarks. Her teacher would have training on interpreting standardized test scores and other information to diagnose student problems. He or she might hold a master’s degree in mathematics. By the time Mary finished high school, she would be prepared to enter college math at the level of calculus, giving her a solid background to follow whichever career path she chooses.