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Date Posted: 14:19:34 02/21/11 Mon
Author: John Konop
Subject: Math 123: Failed Policy Masquerading as Progress

Math 123 may be a well-intended effort to prepare students for a globally competitive workplace, but itís a proven failure thatís causing substantially more harm than good. Math 123 radically changed our high school math curriculum without properly reviewing it with teachers and parents. It replaced the traditional math sequence (Algebra I & II, Geometry, and Trigonometry) with Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3, which teaches each subject in parallel, rather than starting and completing one topic before moving on to the next.

Unrealistic goals for students

Every Georgia child is now required to pass Math 123 to graduate from high school, which means they must complete the equivalent of Algebra II. That is too aggressive of a goal for some students. Prior to Math 123, less than one-third of students were able to complete Algebra I. Those that canít pass Math 123 are dropping out of school in shocking numbers, which damages their self-esteem and long-term economic prospects. Many resort to taking the GED, which doesnít require Algebra II, in an effort to salvage their futures.

Math 123 makes the same mistake as President Bushís unpopular No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program: itís unrealistic to ask all high school students to complete a college-prep curriculum. Some kids would be better served by a strong vocational and/or technical option.

Unrealistic goals for teachers

Math 123 also harms the morale of our math teachers. Georgiaís high school classrooms face an explosion of pregnant teens, immigrants with poor English skills, drug users, and kids with parents that donít support academics. Itís not reasonable to call our math teachers failures because they cannot teach every student Math 123ís higher level of requirements.

A rushed and careless policy

Math 123 leaves Georgia with an oddball math curriculum compared to other states, which puts our kids at a disadvantage as they compete for college acceptance. It has also created a nightmare for students transferring in and out of the Georgia public high schools. Thatís because itís very difficult to determine where a student that is part way through Math 123 belongs in the traditional structureóand visa-versa. Finally, Math 123 does not track correctly with the math skills needed to complete high-level science courses, such as chemistry and physics. Thus, students now face topics in science before theyíve learned the underlying math.

What can we do?

First, Math 123 should be withdrawn and Georgia schools should return to the traditional math curriculum. Math 123ís underlying assumption that every high school student can pass Algebra II is simply false and is driving up our dropout rate, as the recent blizzard of state-issued waivers given to students failing Math 123 demonstrates.

Second, public high schools should link their curricula and graduation requirements with local universities, junior colleges, and technical colleges to give kids a chance to pursue vocational training or advanced academics. This would not only save tax-payer money, it would match students with their best opportunities to become productive tax payers after high school. Also, graduates that earn vocational certificates could still expand their education down the road. For example, a nurse's aide could train to become a nurse.

Third, college-prep students should be eligible to have their course work coordinated with a university system, either on campus or via the Internet. This would challenge Georgiaís top students and give them a leg-up when competing with students from other states for college admissions.

Finally, we should increase the linkage between our schools and business communities by creating local all-star teams for math and science students based on criteria established and judged by the business community. This program could reward top students with scholarship money and truly celebrating their achievements.

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