Editorial: Return to old school math is a bad move

Posted June 8
Updated July 7

If state Senate leaders want to make sure high school students are effectively prepared, abandoning a 21st century course of math study for a horse-and-buggy curriculum, isn’t the way to do it.

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A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, June 8, 2015; Editorial# 8016
The following editorial is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The Senate Education Committee has opened the door to rolling back a successful integrated high school math curriculum and returning to a “traditional” math subject sequence – algebra I, geometry, and algebra II. The proposal approved Wednesday would allow students to choose between two high school math routes, the "traditional" or "integrated" curriculum. Committee Chairman Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, has said that moving back to the older course of math study is “a no brainer.” He's right and that’s the problem.

If the senators exercised their brains, rather than knee-jerk ideology, they’d scrapped their misguided meddling. The math standards now in place weren’t arrived at by whim or bureaucratic fiat. It is a course of study designed to better provide students with the knowledge they need for advanced education as well as meeting the skills employers expect for our data-driven workplaces.

A move toward this change came up earlier, in front of the legislature’s hand-picked Academic Standards Review Commission, created to provide cover to dismantle the much maligned and equally misunderstood Common Core curriculum. Curiously, a June 1 memo prepared by the legislative staff says that the commission “recommended a return” to the traditional sequence of math study. In fact, the members of the commission couldn’t agree. The final recommendations, made no mention of going back to the old way.

Surveys of teachers show overwhelming support for the integrated math course of study, saying they see improved academic growth. Students in the curriculum showed a 4.2 point ACT gain compared with students enrolled in traditional math sequences.

Taxpayers have spent millions providing teachers with the training and professional development to be effective in the classroom. What would there be to show, if the integrated math course of study were scrapped now, for that work and investment in teacher training and curriculum development? It would be a retreat from the academic achievement that’s been demonstrated and precious taxpayer dollars down the drain. With a 45 percent turnover in teachers over the last four years, a change back to another curriculum would be added expense for more professional development.

In 2010, a Fordham Institute study gave North Carolina a “D” – a mere 3 out of 7 points for the content and rigor of the state’s 2003 academic standards when the “traditional” math curriculum was in place. They were described as “among the worst in the country.”

Three years later, with the adoption of the new integrated curriculum, North Carolina’s math standards improved to an “A-“ in the study, with 41 other states now using integrated math.

It doesn’t take an Einstein – or a Tillman – to know the Senate Education Committee’s bill is a move in the wrong direction and needs to be scrapped.