Franklin County

Revamping of math education sought

FRANKFORT — The state Senate Education Committee approved a joint resolution Thursday that would revamp the way math is taught in Kentucky schools.

Education experts and sponsors said the measure would make Kentucky math standards "higher, clearer and fewer." The proposed curriculum standards would boost achievement, better prepare students for mathematics in college, and mean fewer youngsters would need remedial help, they said.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 is sponsored by Sen. Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, and Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray.

It would direct the Kentucky Department of Education to develop more "concise" math standards for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and develop objectives for each standard, along with tools for teachers to use to accomplish those objectives.

The new math standards would be based on principles by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The resolution would require that new standards be completed by Aug. 1. But some at the education committee meeting Thursday said that might be a tough deadline to meet.

Kelly, who outlined the proposed resolution, said it grew out of a state task force that studied Kentucky's Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS.

Alice Gabbard, diagnostic intervention director for the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, said Kentucky's standards now require teachers to cover many "big ideas" in math as rapidly as possible. As a result, many students don't get the depth of understanding they need, she contended.

Gabbard noted that the tiny nation of Singapore has a curriculum that covers only about 52 percent of the material on the International Math and Science test. Yet Singapore has some of the world's highest math scores.

"That is maybe a good lesson that we don't have to teach children a whole lot of content every year in order for them to become proficient and have high achievement," Gabbard said. "If we have (Kentucky) teachers who are just covering these topics quickly in order to cover other topics, then we have students who are not well prepared."

Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, said he liked the proposal, but questioned whether new standards could be ready by August.

Interim Education Commissioner Elaine Farri said preparing teachers to use new math standards would take time.

"We agree with the concept and we already have begun some work on narrowing the standards. But it's not as easy as some people might think," she said.