Education

Elementary and middle school math set to change

Zaman Timmons, left, and Ethan Rivers, fifth-graders at Montlieu Academy of Technology in High Point, participate in a math class for intellectually gifted students.
Zaman Timmons, left, and Ethan Rivers, fifth-graders at Montlieu Academy of Technology in High Point, participate in a math class for intellectually gifted students. Travis Long

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade will learn math according to revised state standards beginning in 2018, if the State Board of Education approves the new guidelines Thursday as expected.

It would be the last step in retooling Common Core standards for math and English.

The new guidelines for math were written so they are easier for teachers and parents to understand, although learning concepts rather than simply memorizing formulas would remain the focus for students.

“We’ve not changed the difficulty or lowered the bar on what we expect students to know,” said Jennifer Curtis, the state Department of Public Instruction section chief for K-12 mathematics.

Standards describe what students should know by the end of each grade. Local districts decide how they are taught. Districts, schools, and teachers choose the materials used in classrooms.

Math and English/language arts instruction became a focus of parent and legislative fury after schools began using Common Core standards in 2012. Some parents denounced the math standards as confusing and frustrating for them and their children.

Common Core standards were developed under the sponsorship of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and were presented as the way to better prepare students for college and jobs.

Legislators tried to force changes, but plans for revisions ended up following the typical five-year cycle for changes to standards.

As it described the latest changes, DPI took pains to show how it considered parent and teacher comments, and asked teachers, local district leaders, and university specialists to help write the standards. One of the knocks against Common Core was that the state adopted national standards without consulting North Carolina teachers.

DPI also sent the math standards out to experts in five states for comments.

In the year before standards are introduced in classrooms, teachers will learn how to use them, districts will come up with plans for telling parents about them, and standardized tests will change.

Board Vice-Chairman A.L. Collins encouraged informing parents of the changes.

“So much of the push-back was parents didn’t understand what was going on,” he said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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