There has been a flurry of comments and speeches about what is both good and bad about Senate Bill 167. It’s called the “Anti Common Core Bill.” However, Common Core is not mentioned in the bill. From this school board member’s view, here is what I see as positive – curriculum freedom for both the state and individual district. Why is that important?
Almost a decade ago, the state of Georgia began the “Great Math Experiment” with Georgia’s students. Under the leadership of Kathy Cox, then state school superintendent, the state ushered in Integrated Math. With great fanfare, parents and school board members were told this would really help Georgia students understand math and excel on both national and international tests. Turns out, that’s not really true.
From the beginning, parents questioned the research behind the switch from traditional math to the new model, citing general unhappiness around the country with school systems or states that experimented with it. New York tried and abandoned it for ineffectiveness before Georgia ever started down this path. The implementation of this new model has not gone well, to understate it. One need only speak to a high school student or look at the lack of available math tutors to see the effect. Math tutors in Fulton County command $50 an hour now, if you can find one.
There are a host of specific issues with Georgia’s math program; however, the most important thing is that some parents and districts would like to go back to traditional math – desperately. In Fulton County, our board and superintendent are unanimous in wanting to return to a traditional sequence of Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. The State DOE has told us, “Go ahead, teach traditional math. But your students will still have to take an integrated test.” That test will make up 20 percent of the student’s grade and have an effect on teacher evaluations – per Georgia’s laws and rules.
S.B. 167 specifically outlines a path for an individual system to go through a process that includes their stakeholders and adopt a curriculum other than that adopted by the state. Of course, the assessment piece is critical to this option. Right now, our legislators are considering an amendment that would require the state to provide a traditional math assessment. It is very important that that amendment be included in S.B. 167 to allow Fulton to move forward.
The Great Math Experiment has now been going on for almost 10 years. It’s time for Georgia to allow districts to choose to stop treating our students like lab rats. This bill at least provides a path for an individual community to decide what is best to teach their children. If you want traditional math back in Georgia in Fulton County, contact the governor, your legislators and the State Board of Education and let them know.