Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Four years of math (eventually)

Blogger Dean Dad offers what he sees as "A Real Forehead-Slapper," asking "Why do so many states require only two years of math in high school?"

For this fall's tenth graders, Kentucky's got that one covered. The class of 2012 must take Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II and take a math course every year of high school.

Less happily, we don't have it covered for students in the classes of 2010 and 2011. Those students need three mathematics credits, including Algebra I, Geometry, and an elective. Especially for students who took Algebra I in middle school, it will perfectly possible for those students to take no math at all for two years and enter college with skills that have faded significantly.

When the Kentucky Board of Education agreed to raise the requirements back in 2006, members wanted students to be able prepare for the higher standards in middle school. Switching standards for students who were already in sixth grade would, they thought, be unfair.

Only, if we believe that students need Algebra II for college and the workplace, and if we believe that math every year is the best way to build lasting skills, the phase-in means that we're still sending graduates out into the world without a sound foundation. Surely that, too, is unfair to the students who will graduate in the coming two years.

On this issue, I think we're making the right move at the wrong speed.

Source: Kentucky's high school graduation regulation is 702 KAR 3:305, available here.

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