Overhaul of NC high school math courses underway

The State Board of Education is considering revisions to three required high school math courses that would distance them from the controversial Common Core standards the state has used for four years.

The recommendations come from the state Department of Public Instruction as part of a regular five-year review cycle for state standards.

The proposal would reorder the timing of introducing math topics to high school students. For example, geometry lessons related to circles would be delayed until the last of the three courses.

Preparation for the changes started last year. But the proposal comes as the state continues to face heavy criticism from some state legislators and parents for its wholesale adoption in 2010 of national Common Core standards for math and English/language arts.

DPI administrators described in detail Wednesday how they sought input from teachers, school districts and charter schools as they worked on changes.

The State Board will be asked to approve the new high school math standards in June, with the aim of having them in place for the next school year.

Some board members worried that the timetable was rushed.

“Districts anticipated this being a year-long implementation,” vice-chairman A.L. Collins said.

In a news conference, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said the State Board faces competing forces: one that wants the pace to pick up and another that wants it slower. A representative from Wake County schools said the district has been anticipating the changes and would be ready by July, when students in year-round schools begin class.

Atkinson said the changes make the standards coherent, make them “flow,” order them from simple to complex, and add clarity.

Teachers would be offered training over the summer to prepare for the changes.

The State Board of Education adopts content standards — the blueprint for what students should know by the end of each grade. School districts decide on curriculum.

Standardized tests would change to reflect the revised courses. The recommendation is to have final exams in Math II and Math III courses that wouldn’t count. DPI hasn’t decided what to recommend for the Math I test, typically taken by high-school freshmen.

The three high school math courses integrate algebra, geometry, statistics, with the topics increasing in complexity as students progress through the grades.

A few members of a now-disbanded Common Core review commission, a group of political appointees, wanted the state to go back to offering two algebra courses and one geometry course for high school students, as it had for years. The commission forwarded an outline for how the standards should be rewritten, but stopped short of recommending specific changes.

The revised standards reorganize topics, but keep the integration, which Jennifer Curtis, DPI’s math section chief said “broke down silos.”

DPI is collecting public comments on the draft until May 20 at