Today’s high school students are likely to get a reprieve from proposed state college admissions standards that would require a fourth year of math.
But the same may not hold true for their younger siblings.
The state Higher Education Coordinating Board has been considering changes that would increase the math requirement from three to four credits, with at least one credit completed in the senior year of high school.
The panel, which could vote on the proposal July 28 in Yakima, is expected to delay when the requirement would take effect from 2008 to 2010. That was the recommendation it received Thursday from its staff after five public hearings across the state and written testimony over several months.
“It’s basically a response to allow folks sufficient time to get ready for this change,” said James Sulton, executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board.
The agency’s staff does not, however, plan to back down on proposing the tougher requirements in math and science, despite some complaints.
“To say we have been Draconian is a little bit of a stretch,” Sulton said.
The new standards are not just about getting accepted into college, Sulton said, but about increasing the percentage of students that earns college degrees.
As it stands, most students who are now being accepted to four-year universities are already meeting the proposed admissions requirements because the universities are considering the rigor of the students’ schedules amid a space crunch.
“We don’t want students coming in thinking they are college-ready when they are not,” said Terry Teale, executive director of the Council of Presidents, which represents the state’s public universities. “That’s not fair to them or to the taxpayers.”
Along with math, the proposal would increase the lab-based science requirement from one to two years. Of those, one year would require students to understand and use algebra.
College admissions standards are different than high school graduation requirements. Some who testified at the public hearings feared the proposed admissions requirements would cut elective courses and cause some students to lose hope of ever attending college.
Many educators from kindergarten through high school urged the board to consider delaying the requirements. They argued that high schools already have their hands full helping the class of 2008 – the first class that must pass reading, math and writing sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. The state is also requiring senior projects.
The delay is a good idea, but the stricter standards would have merit, said Terry Edwards, executive director of curriculum for Everett Public Schools.
High schools will continue to counsel students to go beyond the minimum, whatever the standard, he said.
“It’s not about doing the minimum required to get there. It’s taking what you need to be successful once you get there,” Edwards said.
One member of the class of 2010, Nick Persha, already has a head start on the requirements. He took eighth-grade math as a seventh-grader this year at Valley View Middle School in Snohomish.
Nick’s father said he welcomes the higher admission requirements for his son.
“He didn’t enjoy science at all. But I’m for having more math as an entrance requirement into college,” said Scott Persha, who has a degree in finance.
When he was in college, basic algebra and precalculus were part of the higher education curriculum. But that’s not true anymore.
“Getting into college these days and just to excel in life in general, you need to do more than the minimum,” Persha said.
Eric Stevick and Melissa Slager are writers for The Herald in Everett.