It is no secret that the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University has been proclaimed the top public high school in Kentucky – and even in the nation – for years. After all, Gatton is basically a highly competitive magnet high school that draws top students from across Kentucky.
And, as members of the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Education Committee heard today, the new Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University is now poised to join Gatton as Kentucky’s second statewide magnet math and science resident college campus high school.
While the Bluegrass Institute likes the choice option Gatton and Craft offer, today’s legislative briefings about these two schools made something else clear, as well. Students in Kentucky who are only taught to the Common Core State Standards, called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in their Bluegrass State implementation, won’t be able to try for either school.
You see, the minimum course admissions requirements for both Gatton and Craft go beyond what Common Core provides.
The Craft presentation spelled this out very clearly. Among other things, applicants have to complete Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry by the end of their sophomore year before they will be considered. Gatton has the same requirements.
Now, here is the problem: to meet these math requirements, a student needs to take Algebra I in the eighth grade. Otherwise, it generally won’t be possible to complete the required math sequence by the end of the tenth grade.
BUT, Common Core doesn’t call for Algebra I until the ninth grade!
So, any school that only teaches to Common Core automatically locks its students out of contention for Gatton and Craft.
Because Common Core is the state standard, schools don’t have to teach beyond it, and – while I have seen no research on this – I suspect a number of Kentucky schools don’t.
However, students in a No-More-Than-Core school are locked out of Gatton and Craft.
In fact, students in a No-More-Than-Core school are pretty much locked out of any opportunity to go on to more competitive colleges and to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, as well. Those college programs are tough to enter – or survive – without completing high school trigonometry and pre-calculus course work. Common Core omits those subjects, as well.
Thus, Kentucky’s unenlightened adoption of Common Core could be creating inequality of opportunity for students – regardless of the potential of those students – simply based on where they live.
That’s just not right. But, that’s the way it currently is.