Schools require minimum of math

Most school districts in Washington exceed the number of English and social studies credits required by the state to graduate but just meet the state minimum in math and science.

And Snohomish County mirrors that trend, which was reported in a state Board of Education study released earlier this week.

Statewide, 92 percent of districts exceeded the state minimum three-credit requirement in English, while about 60 percent required the state minimum of two credits of math.

All districts in Snohomish and Island counties require more than three English credits. Only Mukilteo, South Whidbey and Sultan require three math credits for next year’s graduates, according to the state report.

Several districts, including Everett and Marysville, have already decided to require three math credits in the years ahead. Their requirement will take effect before the state adds a third math credit around 2012.

The Legislature voted last spring to require the state board to revise the high school graduation requirements to include a minimum of three math credits.

Twenty-seven states now require three or more years of math. That number will jump to 37 by 2011.

The state board gathered information about credit requirements from Washington’s 246 districts that have high schools.

The study found that larger school districts generally require fewer credits than small districts. It also found that just 19 percent of school districts exceed the state’s minimum two-credit requirement in science.

Kathe Taylor, policy director for the state board, said it is interesting that the majority of districts require a state minimum in math but exceed the requirement in English.

“At the same time, student performance on the WASL is most impressive in reading and writing versus math,” she said.

The state board will need to decide by Dec. 1 what will be required within the three credits of high school math. Many districts now requiring two math credits don’t specify what that math includes and many students graduate without taking geometry. In some cases, the math they take is not considered high-school-level math.

In Marysville, for instance, a study last year found 14 different varieties of math instruction offered to students over the four years of high school.

“The goal is we need kids to be taking high-school-level math,” said Marysville Superintendent Larry Nyland, a member of a statewide panel reviewing the state’s math programs.

Taylor said the state board has already decided to require that the three credits be at high school level but has yet to decide what that means.

“I think that probably is the $64 million question,” Taylor said.

It could mean the equivalent of two credits of algebra and a credit of geometry. One credit is equal to about 150 hours of teaching time.

The state study also found:

  • 89 percent of districts exceed the state minimum 5.5-credit requirement for electives.
  • No districts exceed the one-credit requirement in the arts.
  • 76 percent meet but don’t exceed the minimum two-credit requirement in health and fitness.

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