New Alabama Math Standards

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New Alabama Math Standards

Sarah Roach, Contributor

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After Alabama ranked dead last with math scores in the nationwide NAEP assessment the state board set out to improve them. Their solution? New Alabama Math Standards. The board held a vote and the new standards passed, they will be put into place for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. According to WSFA.com the vote was 5 to 3 with the other board members stressed concerns about fixing the state’s math teacher shortage.

Although the major changes will take place in the middle grades, high school courses are seeing significant changes as well. In al.com’s article, they explain the changes to the middle grades including an accelerated pathway that would be offered to 7th and 8th graders and the new changes to the high school courses. Algebra 1, which is also known as Algebra A and Algebra B, would change. The first course would be renamed Intermediate Algebra with Probability, which will be taken in 10th grade and Geometry will be moved to 9th grade. Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey said was, “One of the troubles that teachers have bemoaned is that we teach Algebra I [in the ninth grade], then we interrupt it for a year with geometry [in the tenth grade] and then we come back and teach Algebra II.” The other significant change is the addition of two high school math courses, Applied Finite Mathematics and Algebraic Modeling.

Things didn’t just stop there, Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey announced his plan to hire math coaches to bring up the scores. As stated on al.com’s article about math coaches, Mackey hopes to fund 220 math coaches to start with which won’t cover every single school but should cover the state. The coaches’ jobs would be to help teachers implement the new math standards that were approved by the board. The plan is to have a math coach available for every school with students in kindergarten through fifth grade. 

When asked about the benefits of coaches, students were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea, believing that the more help the students have, the better. Some students, however, had a few concerns about whether or not the math coaches would truly help. Maggie Brown, a junior, said, “Math coaches might raise the scores of some students, but their teaching style might not work on others. It’s a case-by-case basis.” Another student, Aaron Michaels, believes that even with the opportunity to have extra help, students won’t take it, “I think it would be beneficial. I’m less confident in how many people would seek to put in that extra effort.”

Most students did not know about the new changes to the math standards and the ones that did know, do not know the specifics of what they are. 33 out of 46 students had no idea that new math standards were being set and 11 knew of the change, but not the specifics of it, that leaves just two students who did know about the standards. When it comes to the students’ opinions on the matter, they are nearly tied. 25 of the 46 students said yes and the other 21 said no. Lenora Lee, a junior, said, “They will improve Alabama’s education but they won’t be beneficial for teachers because they have to completely change their curriculum.”

Teachers at the school, however, have confidence in Bob Jones’ current math programs. Mr. Chambers, a math teacher at Bob Jones, said, “The State is addressing a problem that is prevalent in many schools throughout Alabama. Of the hundreds of schools in the State, there are indeed schools that struggle with Math Test Scores. However, Math Scores at Bob Jones HS are well above the State and National Average. I think our Math Teachers and Administration do a great job staying ahead of the curve. We have implemented strategies already that keep our students ahead in Math. Bob Jones has always been proactive instead of reactive.” Although Mr. Chambers has full confidence in Bob Jones’ ability to help their students he thinks the new standards could be helpful, “With that said, if the new standards can help increase scores for all students Statewide, I think it is worth it. In my 30+ years in education, I have seen many changes to the curriculum. Some work great, while others result in no change. Only time will tell if this change is beneficial.”