One of the classes I’m working in during my pre-internship is Grade Nine Math with 9 students who all have differing levels of learning disabilities. I have to say, this is quite an interesting class! The students range in ability, but for the most part are all willing to learn. As I am working with them, I’m learning more and more about the new pilot program they are trying for grade nine math! Details:

– The teacher cannot assign homework – any homework the students do at home are completely at their own will.

– The students exams are rated on a scale of 1-4. On each exam, there are three sections: level two, level three, and level four. Level two is the basic knowledge that students must know. Level three is more difficult (usually include multiplication and division of fractions with a variable). Level four is typically a word problem. At the top of each test is the outcome clearly stated, and a rubric of what is expected for each level. If a student can complete the level 2 section with very few errors (I was told one or two minor things like misplacing a negative sign), the student has achieved the outcome. Though level 2 is considered a “pass” level three and four just shows a higher level of mastery of the desired outcome.

– If the student doesn’t achieve a 2 or higher, they must re-write the exam. The students are allowed as many re-writes as it takes to achieve a level 2. For those who achieve a 2 and want to re-write to try a level three or four are also allowed to do so as many times as they like. The only catch with re-writes, is the mark of the last test is the one that is used. For example, a boy I work with received a 3 on one exam and wanted to re-write. The next time he only got a 2.5; therefore, his marked dropped down to a 2.5.

– If the student has a great deal of support from an EA or a teacher, the highest he/she can get is a 1.9. If the teacher provides guidance or suggestions and the student receives higher than a 2, the highest they can get is a 2. However, how much guidance is given is at the teachers discretion; therefore, there is no strict line as to what is considered “too much support”.

– The student needs a level 2 on all exams before he/she can move on to grade 10 math.

– One issue I have heard about is grading. As I was talking to the math 9 teacher, she was explaining that she is unsure how the levels will average out, and how she is supposed to transfer that over into a grade.

– Though I believe re-writes are okay, I think it is a little strange that students are allowed as many re-writes as it takes them. Therefore, I’ve noticed that students don’t try as hard when studying, because they know if they don’t achieve a 2, they will have multiple chances to re-write their exam during class time that would otherwise be spent learning a new concept.

– The other thing I am torn about in this pilot program is how teachers cannot assign homework. I’ve noticed that the teacher I work with “recommends” having certain questions done for next day; however, students rarely take their books home and have the questions completed for next day. I have to admit I was a little frustrated by this at first – it seems that in math 9 there is a lot to cover, and if students don’t do any work at home, class time goes towards students finishing their assignments that they could have done at home.

– One thing I think was interesting about this pilot program is that the first week and a half is spent reviewing key concepts from Math 8. The students then write a test the second week of school, and from there are placed in classrooms based on their mark from that test. I am definitely on the fence about this issue. The room I work in is small, and all students there have some form of a learning disability. I think that works okay for them, because it is more one-on-one, and they are all on similar levels. However, at the same time, if we group students based on abilities (a room for students with a learning disability, average students, and gifted students) we are kind of labelling them right from the get go. I would like to see another math 9 room and see how diverse the learners are in each room.

It will be interesting to see how this pilot program works, and whether or not they find it successful.