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Data show that Hall, Georgia students struggle with new math curriculum

Rate of tax collection is behind last year's

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Test data presented Tuesday night at the Hall County Board of Education meeting suggests Georgia high school students are having trouble with the state’s new integrated math curriculum.

Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for the Hall County school system, reported Tuesday that Hall County’s ninth-grade nonaccelerated Math I students answered on average of about 39 percent of questions correctly on the Math I midterm test. Comparable scores statewide ranged from about 34 percent to about 46 percent of correct answers, according to a report by Georgia’s Online Assessment System.

Implemented this school year, the new math curriculum combines elements of various math disciplines, such as geometry, algebra and statistics, to create a conceptual Math I class for high school freshmen. The state Board of Education approved the new curriculum that requires students to pass four years of math in high school to graduate rather than three.

Following a year of disappointing math scores — by eighth-graders on state tests and high school seniors on the SAT — state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox called for higher standards in Georgia math classes.

This year’s batch of ninth-graders are the first group of students the state Department of Education is requiring to earn four math credits to graduate from high school. The eighth-grade students who produced alarmingly low Criterion Referenced Competency Test scores statewide last year are the same freshmen struggling with the new curriculum this year.

Barron said the new approach to the state-based curriculum is a difficult adjustment for these ninth-graders because they were taught math in a different manner before the changes. Barron said the lag between implementing the new math curriculum in kindergarten through eighth grade is causing alignment problems for the current high school freshman.

She also said the pacing of the new curriculum is off, and is forcing teachers to choose between spending enough time on concepts for students to comprehend the subject material or barreling through the material to keep pace with the curriculum and end-of-the-year testing.

"It’s more than just kids not being ready. There’s a flaw in the (implementation of the) curriculum," Barron said. "... It is frustrating for the teachers. It’s frustrating for the students, frustrating for the administrators."

She added that these Hall County math students have performed adequately on standardized tests this year.

"It tells us our kids are not getting worse," she said of the results.

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said he has some qualms about the new math curriculum.

"I think there’s some real questions as to whether this is the right math curriculum for the state. I think we may have to be big boys and girls and say maybe we made a mistake," he said of the state Board of Education’s decision.

Schofield said he anticipates the state school board may not budge on the issue, leaving it up to local school systems to take the initiative to help students conform better to the new approach.

Barron said the school system already has designated two high school math teachers who can facilitate more professional learning among high school math teachers. Also, credit recovery opportunities and math support tutoring classes during the school day are in place to help students meet the math challenge.

Also Tuesday, Lee Lovett, deputy superintendent for Hall County schools, said the school system’s property tax collection rate is down 3 percent compared to this time last year.

Lovett said the Hall County school system has collected $39.4 million, or 51 percent, of an anticipated $77.25 million tax collection total.

"At this time of year it doesn’t affect us a great deal because we’ve collected half already and we have money," Lovett said. "If we don’t collect it at the end of the year, it’ll be a problem, but we trust we will."



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