The contrast between independent schools and public schools reflects the difference in their student populations. I've taught at both a college-prep K-12 school and in public schools and my kids go to a public school system where only about 30% of the graduates go on to college. In the independent school, we had some well-meaning parents who had expectations for their kids that their kids didn't necessarily share or couldn't fulfill. We also had many students applying to competitive colleges where it was important to think about whether calculus could make a difference to admission. In the public schools, the primary task often can be to just get students to graduation. The needs of the college bound, especially the best of the college bound, often are not addressed, not due to malice but due to prioritizing and limited resources.
In our local school district, the revision of the district math curriculum coincided with the development of the NCTM standards. Although the secondary teachers and administration would not support calculus at the high school, they did agree to offer an alternate course for math students (usually seniors) who had completed a standard high school math sequence. Although I don't know the content of that new class or its enrollment, I do know that each year a group of seniors chooses to instead enroll here at LCSC for two semesters of calculus. These students have been very successful, despite parent and district concerns that the workload would be "too much for them". The curriculum is rigorous and these students complete the full college level course.
We have encouraged the access of our high school students to college level calculus by scheduling classes at 7:30 am so they can attend as their first hour class.
If the standards are to be supported, we need to have more alternatives, especially for small and rural schools. One initiative we are trying here at LCSC is delivery of courses in the core curriculum to students who are denied access to campus courses because of distance or employment schedules (shift workers). This year we have been piloting courses to students who meet in study groups at outreach centers or at workplaces and communicate with their instructor with e-mail, fax, video, phone, and/or courier. Next year we hope to extend the program so that we can offer Finite Math to high school students in rural schools. These students would work under the supervision of a high school teacher but could receive college credit for their work. The key, obviously, to all of these alternatives is to make sure that the content and student work in this system is equivalent to that expected from on-campus students. The goal is to have calculus "on-line" the following fall.
The first year hasn't been without difficulty. The usual problems occur despite planning -- faculty need time to design, problems occur with modems and computers, smaller class sizes are a requirement (we're holding at 15 per section) which means an increase in faculty salary budgets, etc etc. The hardest part is that the expectation of some at the state level seems to be that technology reduces costs per student. That doesn't seem to be the case!
If any of you are interested in the design of the Finite math course, I'd be glad to give you the e-mail address of the designer. We are also currently offering an interesting "variety" of college algebra based on the text "Earth Algebra" over the network.
------------------------------------------------------------- Laura Petersen firstname.lastname@example.org
Division of Natural Sciences PHONE 208-799-2484 Lewis-Clark State College FAX 208-799-2064 500 8th Avenue Lewiston ID 83501-2698 USA -------------------------------------------------------------