NY State Regents Abandon Integrated HS math for algebra, geometry after Math A fiasco
State Regents Adopting New Approach to High School Math
New York State's Board of Regents is expected to adopt sweeping changes today in the way high school mathematics is taught, reorganizing the subject into three one-year courses, each with a single focus.
The board will also consider adding a third Regents math exam to the two that are already given, officials said. But according to draft documents about the changes, students would still need to pass only one of the exams to graduate.
The new standards would reverse an approach adopted in the 1980's that emphasized the integration of many different areas of math into each grade. And they put New York back in step with the way most other states teach high school math: freshmen study algebra, sophomores learn geometry, and juniors study algebra II and trigonometry.
The new system is intended to emphasize conceptual understanding over rote learning.
Under the new standards, schools would be encouraged to teach pre-calculus to seniors, but they could opt to teach some other form of math.
If adopted, the changes will begin to take effect in the fall of 2006.
The Board of Regents, which convened its regular monthly meeting yesterday in Albany, began to reconsider the math standards in 2003, when two-thirds of the high school students who took the Regents Math A exam failed, prompting a storm of complaints and criticisms from students, parents and teachers. State education officials eventually rescored the test, a high school graduation requirement, and appointed a math standards committee to analyze what went wrong.
The committee researched math programs around the country and the world and released a draft of its proposal for public comment in November. After receiving more than 2,000 comments - mainly from parents, math professionals and the business community - the committee revised its proposal and submitted it to state education officials in December. The state officials have recommended that the Regents adopt the new standards.
"It is unfortunate that it took a fiasco with the Math A to bring us to the changes in the math program in New York State, but now that we have these changes, it's well worth it," said Dr. Alfred S. Posamentier, a member of the committee who is a professor of mathematics at City College, and the dean of the college's School of Education. "Students completing these three courses will have a solid background knowledge of mathematics, both from a skills point of view as well as a general understanding."
Dr. Posamentier commented on the new standards yesterday after a draft of the document began circulating among teachers.
"The college-bound kid is going to get the proper step toward college, and the noncollege-bound kid is going to get vastly more mathematics than his counterpart of 50 years ago," he said. "And in all grades, there will be a new emphasis on problem-solving."
Dr. William Johnson, the chairman of the Curriculum Committee for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, applauded the return to a three-course curriculum.
"I think in the long term it makes more sense from a content point of view," said Dr. Johnson, who is the superintendent of the Rockville Centre schools on Long Island. "It's easier to structure the courses and to identify ways that we can examine kids at the end of the courses."
Until now, schools lacked a clearly defined plan of instruction for math education, officials said. Schools and districts tried to develop courses that would prepare students for the Math A and Math B Regents exams, but class titles and course content differed from school to school around the state.
The goal of the new standards is to introduce course titles that are clear and widely understood statewide and nationally, and to give each course a yearlong focus that would allow more depth of understanding. And the concepts are more challenging, Dr. Posamentier and others said, incorporating probability and statistics as well as 3-D and transformational geometry - topics that used to be left for college.
Cathy Seeley, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said she was a little surprised by New York's move back to a course-based curriculum because the state had been among the first to adopt a model similar to what is used in countries where students outperform Americans. Recently, she said, several states have begun to think about using the system that New York is now abandoning.
"It's kind of interesting to see them back away from that decision," Ms. Seeley said of New York.
Separately yesterday, a Regents committee recommended that the full board approve a request by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to open five new charter schools in New York City next fall. Mr. Klein had initially hoped to open seven schools, but two applications were apparently rescinded at the last minute after it became clear that state officials would urge that they be rejected.
One of the rescinded applications was for a school to be operated by Achievement First, a nonprofit group that runs the acclaimed Amistad Academy middle school in New Haven. The other was for a school to be opened in Brooklyn by KIPP, which operates a middle school in the South Bronx and another in Harlem, part of a network of schools in 15 states. Achievement First and KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, will each open two charter schools in New York in September. The fifth school recommended for approval yesterday will be run by the Future Leaders Institute, a group founded by city teachers in District 3 in Harlem.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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