Math for stu­dents might add up

Sci­ence re­quire­ment also could be added

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NEVADA & THE WEST - By Meghin De­laney

Ne­vada might soon join a hand­ful of states that re­quire stu­dents to pass four cred­its of math to grad­u­ate high school, a move crit­ics say would limit stu­dent choice.

“I re­ally strongly dis­agree that four years of math are re­quired for stu­dents to be col­lege- and ca­reer-ready,” Jesse Welsh, an as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent in the Clark County School District, tes­ti­fied at a state ed­u­ca­tion work­shop last month. “This is com­ing from a for­mer math teacher.”

The state is planning to re­vamp grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments for stu­dents in the class of 2022, who will be high school fresh­men in the fall of 2018.

At the mo­ment, the plan in­cludes the ad­di­tion of one credit apiece of math, sci­ence and so­cial stud­ies to cur­rent re­quire­ments.

At a work­shop in Oc­to­ber, lo­cal school of­fi­cials were ex­pect­ing state Su­per­in­ten­dent Steve Canavero to so­licit com­ments on a plan that would in­clude one ad­di­tional sci­ence or one ad­di­tional math credit, not both, to the grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments.

In­stead, the plan pre­sented in­cluded an ad­di­tional math and an ad­di­tional sci­ence credit at the re­quest of the state board’s High School Grad­u­a­tion Com­mit­tee, chaired by state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber Mark New­burn.

“I have been work­ing on rais­ing the re­quire­ments for the stan­dard diploma for sev­eral years,” he said. “Re­search from NSHE (the Ne­vada Sys­tem of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion) in­di­cates that the to­tal math and sci­ence cred­its a stu­dent takes in high school

is a strong pre­dic­tor of ini­tial suc­cess in col­lege.”

No de­ci­sion has been made yet, and the com­ments made at the work­shop were to be fur­ther dis­cussed by the grad­u­a­tion com­mit­tee be­fore any changes are adopted and im­ple­mented.

A num­bers game

To earn a stan­dard high school diploma in Ne­vada now, stu­dents must earn 22.5 cred­its, 15 cred­its from core cour­ses and 7.5 more from elec­tive cour­ses. In ad­di­tion to bol­ster­ing math and sci­ence re­quire­ments, the state wants to up the num­ber of re­quired cred­its to 23.

The pro­posal to add one more credit of math, sci­ence and so­cial sci­ence would cut to five the num­ber of elec­tive cred­its needed to grad­u­ate.

That move would pe­nal­ize stu­dents who en­roll in ca­reer tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses, which pro­vide job skills, some prin­ci­pals said.

“It will force some of our kids to make de­ci­sions where they may not

take CTE cour­ses where we can give them men­tors and get them into job-shad­ow­ing pro­grams,” Cen­ten­nial High School Prin­ci­pal Trent Day said.

Canavero coun­tered that some CTE cour­ses might be able to fill a math or sci­ence re­quire­ment.

“I think there’s a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties where stu­dents can have both,” he said.

A magic num­ber?

An­other con­cern aired at the work­shop was that the new re­quire­ments would leave stu­dents lit­tle room for er­ror to grad­u­ate on time, es­pe­cially since most high schools op­er­ate on a six-pe­riod day.

“We’re as­sum­ing a stu­dent never fails a class,” said South­east Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal Academy Prin­ci­pal Kerry Pope. By the end of the first quar­ter, about 200 of her fresh­men are on track to fail a class, she said, adding that the num­ber drops by the end of the first se­mes­ter be­cause of in­ter­ven­tions.

Some schools, in­clud­ing Ran­cho and Bo­nanza high schools, al­ready have moved to a seven-pe­riod day, but that re­quires care­ful planning and co­or­di­na­tion, said Ran­cho Prin­ci­pal James Kuzma. He said the seven-pe­riod day, which cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity to earn more cred­its, could be im­ple­mented at all schools if the state pro­vided ad­di­tional fund­ing.

Re­quir­ing four years of math is be­com­ing more com­mon, said Jennifer Zinth, the di­rec­tor of high school and STEM at the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of the States, a non­profit that stud­ies ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies across the coun­try.

So far, two states, Florida and Texas, in­creased the math re­quire­ment to four cred­its then re­versed course and went back to three, but most states that added a fourth-credit re­quire­ment have held their ground, she said.

“It’s ac­tu­ally in­creas­ingly nor­mal,” she said, adding that the move is par­tially in re­sponse to stu­dents tak­ing three years of math and grad­u­at­ing high school but need­ing re­me­di­a­tion cour­ses in col­lege. “Some­times they’ll even spec­ify one of those math cred­its (has) to be taken se­nior year.”

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