The New Honors Math

A recently released study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, found that a majority of public schools teaching honors Algebra I and honors Geometry are in fact teaching intermediate Algebra I and intermediate Geometry according to student test scores. Following is a quote from the study:

Approximately 73 percent of graduates in “honors” algebra I classes received a curriculum ranked as an intermediate algebra I course, while 62 percent of graduates who took a geometry course labeled “honors” by their school received a curriculum ranked as intermediate geometry. Graduates who took rigorous algebra I and geometry courses scored higher on NAEP than graduates who took beginner or intermediate courses.

Presumably, honors mathematics courses are only offered to the most capable students and therefore they should be able to learn honors course work. Why do a majority of public schools promote honors math courses on ly to teach intermediate level courses? Are qualified teachers to difficult to find? Have high schools seen the results of poor primary and intermediate schools for so long that they now know even the most capable students are not prepared to handle rigorous course work and therefore intentionally mislead students to believe they are getting honors courses? I suspect it may be both of these.

The important thing that I take from this study is that the public schools that need fixing will not be fixed in time for those currently in the system. If your public school is failing to prepare students for college or a career, as 75 % of them are, see my previous post,, then chances are the most capable students are not being prepared either.

Consider the information in the table below which is made up of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment Rate Degree Average Weekly Pay
2 Doctoral $1,550
4 Masters $1,270
5 Bachelors $1,040
10 High School $630
15 Some High School $440

This table, which is based on 2011 income and unemployment data, is a major indicator on why education is important and becoming more important with each passing year. The United States education is experiencing an “arms race” with the other industrialized nations and we are loosing. Our children are in desperate need of a quality education and the majority of them are not getting it. Even those in failing schools offering honors courses are not getting what is advertised.

My intent is to propose a low-cost, hybrid education model as a means to cope with the current systemic education deficiencies. This task is more difficult than I initially anticipated, but work goes on. I plan to post progress on a weekly basis with additional posts as developed.

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