2-pronged approach to NC math earns initial Senate approval


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers are planning to reintroduce traditional math courses into public high schools in response to students’ and parents’ complaints that the multistate Common Core standards are confusing and overly complicated.

The Senate on Wednesday granted tentative approval to a measure that would direct school districts to offer traditional math courses like algebra and geometry alongside the newer “integrated” Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3 pathway that the state adopted as part of Common Core in 2012.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, who is shepherding the bill in the Senate, said Common Core courses emphasize critical thinking but are frustrating to average or struggling students who need to learn basic computational skills.

Supporters said parents have been complaining about the Common Core approach to math, which draws skills from multiple subjects, prevents them from helping their children with homework and test preparation.

“At the very essence of this bill is giving parents and students a choice over not what they learn, but how they learn it, and that is something we should strive for,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake.

An amendment from Barefoot pushed back the starting date of the two-pronged approach to 2018-19, giving districts time to create new assessment material to reintroduce the traditional courses.

Critics said the bill will handicap smaller schools without providing the additional staff and resources they would need to simultaneously teach both approaches.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said good math education relies less on the curriculum and more on whether teachers are given time and professional development to teach it.

“Unless the resources are there to make sure the child performs, it doesn’t happen,” Robinson said.

Tillman said larger and mid-size schools should have enough teachers to offer both pathways and vowed to explore ways to provide those resources to smaller, rural schools.

Other opponents worried the bill would not ensure parents and students understand the positives and negatives of each track to make an informed decision at the beginning of the school year. Sen Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said a student’s entire academic track could come down to a split-second decision.

“We are willfully failing these students,” Jackson said. “You know they are going to show up on the first day of school with no idea what this is about.”

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, a former math and science teacher, said she supports the bill for promoting individualized education but warned that Common Core has repeatedly been shown to improve ACT scores and career readiness.

“We have to let parents and students know in this choice you are risking some opportunities in the future,” Smith-Ingram said.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, asked the Senate’s final vote be held until Thursday to allow for some technical changes.

If passed, the Senate version of the proposal will return to the House for approval.

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