Schools to implement changes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Andalusia Middle School eighth grade math teacher Meredith Beck explains a problem to Jaxon Rudolph.

Local school systems are working to formulate plans to follow the common core standards passed last year by the state board of education, which are set to go into effect at the beginning of next school year.

Last week, the state board of education voted 6-3 to stick with the decision that would implement national standards, called Common Core in math and English.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson told school board members Monday changes are coming to middle school math instruction as a result.

Watson said historically, algebra I had been offered at the middle school level; however, because of the common core standards, it has now been pushed to the high school level.

Also pre-algebra, which is now offered in the seventh grade, will no longer be offered.

“We want to offer algebra I in the middle school for those students who are ready,” he said. “And we’re not alone in that wish.”

Watson said a test, given in the second semester of the seventh grade, along with class grades, will be used to identify those students who are ready.

Watson said if students do not score high enough to take the class in eighth grade, they will have an opportunity to take the class in ninth grade.

Combined with 10th grade geometry, it will put students on target to take calculus in the 11th grade.

In Opp City Schools, Superintendent Michael Smithart said school officials will decide in the coming weeks just how they will work their math schedules to make sure eighth graders who are ready don’t lose their vital class.

“It’s a curriculum issue,” Smithart said. “It may be that they have to take the eighth grade curriculum and have the algebra class as an elective.”

Smithart said he feels that algebra I is extremely important at the eighth grade level because it allows the school to offer calculus to its older student, a move he said puts his students in gear for college.

“Our students win awards in college after taking calculus,” he said. “I think it is very important for our kids.”

Smithart said the new standards would increase rigor in the eighth grade curriculum, and he’s worried about time and space allotment to allow the teacher time to teach the 41 standards.

“We knew it was coming, but we’ve been hesitant because of the uncertainty at the state level,” he said.

AMS Principal Vickie Anderson said the new standards are to make sure that students are better prepared.

“Each grade has to learn something a little harder,” she said.

According to the core standards website, the goal is to build a strong foundation in K-5, where students can do hands-on learning in geometry, algebra and probability and statistics. Students who have completed seventh grade and mastered content and skills through the seventh grade will be well-prepared for algebra in grade 8.

Additionally, the middle school standards are deemed robust and provide coherent and rich preparation for high school math, the website says.