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Common Core changes could ease 'traditional math' worries


Bill for Georgia opting out may have silver lining for traditional math testing



March 10, 2014
ATLANTA – Within the fine print of the controversial bill dealing with the Common Core educational standards could be help for the Fulton County School System and its goals for teaching traditional math.

Georgia legislators are considering Senate Bill 167, which could essentially separate Georgia from the Common Core standards by prohibiting any testing of students based on the national curriculum. It would require Georgia to develop its own standards and create assessments to go along with those state standards.

In August 2012, Georgia joined more than 40 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting a set of academic core standards called the Common Core Performance Standards. The standards were developed to provide a consistent framework of education across the country. The standards were initiated by state leaders, however some groups maintain there is too much federal intervention in the policies and funding.

Many educators are concerned that taking the teeth out of the Common Core standards could hurt students – especially those who transfer in or out of Georgia schools during their K-12 years. However, officials with Fulton Schools see a silver lining to the potential chaos.

By forcing the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) to develop state assessments, Fulton could finally get an assessment tied to traditional math.

For nearly a decade, Fulton parents have fought hard against the integrated math curriculum that became the standard for Georgia in 2004. Under integrated math, concepts are blended each year instead of taught by subject in progression, like Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and other courses.

The meshing of the math, and the focus on inquiry instead of direct instruction, struck a nerve with parents who began seeing their once bright math kids struggle under the new curriculum. After years of watching math scores tank and getting heat from parents, the Fulton School System gained approval from the GDOE to return to a traditional math curriculum in 2011.

The celebration was short lived when it became apparent the GDOE, while granting approval for traditional math, had no intentions of developing an End of Course Test (EOCT) for a traditional math curriculum. Regardless of what was being taught in the classroom, high school students still had to pass the EOCT on integrated math to get their diploma.

"This makes no sense at all and does not serve students or teachers in Fulton," said Fulton Board member Katie Reeves. "The assessment makes up 20 percent of a student's grade and affects teacher evaluations."

To get around this, Fulton began teaching primarily traditional math in high school, with enough of the integrated concepts needed to pass the EOCT. This approach, while solving one issue, creates another by packing a year and a half of math into one year – a pace much too fast for many students.

Reeves is pushing for an amendment to Senate Bill 167 that would require the GDOE to provide for a traditional math assessment. She believes there is legislative support to get this done after 10 years of upheaval.

"One of the key ideas behind [S.B. 167] was to give people in the state and in individual districts the opportunity to help shape what their students and children learn," said Reeves. "While there are many pieces of this legislation, many of which are still being debated, there is a path for Fulton to return to traditional math."

JC 03-13-14

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