Here’s a math problem for the state to solve: When does two not have the value of two?
The state Board of Education is looking to tighten the state’s graduation requirement by making sure that the two years of math that students must take is actually high school level mathematics.
“There are students who are meeting their graduation requirement taking two credits of math and passing them but they are not taking the right level of math,” said Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the state education board.
Some students who have fallen behind in math in middle school are taking remedial math courses when they get to high school to try to get to grade level.
Although they are math classes, those courses would not count toward the math graduation requirement.
“We wanted to make it crystal clear the two credits have to be aligned with the ninth- and 10th-grade learning expectations,” Ryan said.
The state board is expected to make the clarification in the next two months.
Essentially, students will need to learn algebra and geometry to meet graduation requirements, although many math classes integrate those subjects into the same class.
Tightening the requirement is one thing the board can do to improve students’ chances of passing the 10th-grade math portion of the WASL, said Edie Harding, executive director for the state board.
Passing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning is a high school graduation requirement. School district studies show that the more math classes students complete, the greater their odds of passing.
“This is one of the issues the state board can take on,” Harding said.
Granite Falls School District Superintendent Joel Thaut said he understands why the state board is considering clamping down on what counts as a math credit.
He believes more students will be taking higher level math even before they reach high school.
“My hope is we are doing the right thing to increase our students’ math abilities at lower levels so by the time they get to high school it is a moot point,” Thaut said.
Eventually, a third year of high school mathematics could be required. The state board, which sets statewide graduation requirements, has been examining trends across the country.
There are 43 states that require specific numbers of credits in specific subjects. Washington is one of eight states requiring only two years of math, Harding said. Some local districts choose to go beyond the state minimum and already require three years of math.
College admissions standards are different than high school graduation requirements. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board sets admissions standards and has proposed increasing the math requirement from three to four years.