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Minneapolis may up math requirement

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government Updated: June 29, 2012 - 10:36 AM

If you're entering a Minneapolis high school in August as a freshman, you may need to take an extra year of math.

But you may graduate with less seat time in social studies, health and physical education.

Those are the changes in graduation requirements that the school board will be asked to approve this summer for the class of 2016 and its successors.  Approval seems likely, given that the board earlier this year asked administrators to consider upping the math requirement. 

Math would go from a three-year requirement to a class every year.  Ken Simon, the district's director of college and career readiness, said the impetus for the proposal is an increase to four years of math by the University of Minnesota for students arriving in 2015.

The proposal started months ago with a staff recommendation to cut social studies from four years to three and one half, and trim health and physical education from a full year to half a year.  That was an effort to introduce more flexibility for high school students who find it hard to juggle schedules loaded with four core classes of English, math, social studies and science, plus a foreign language, health or gym, plus music ensembles, not to mention other electives.

Simon said the district will examine what math classes students are taking now and how to anticipate demand for additional sections of math.  One possibility may be to offer advanced classes through video techology.  He said that the district also likely will move toward allowing students to begin taking health and physical education in the eighth grade to allow students more flexibility in high school. That also drives some of the topics covered in health, such as nutrition or drug education, down to to younger students who may benefit more, Simon said.

Kent Pekel, director of the university's College Readiness Consortium, said he lacks hard data on how many districts are requriing the fourth year of math in response to the U's requirement, but "we expected that to happen." Pekel said that when the university began working on the requirement, several years ago, about 12 percent of incomng students lacked a fourth year of high school math.  Those students didn't fare as well as others in college math classes, he said.  The university has eliminated most remedial classes for incoming students as it has become more selective. 

The district's required math classes now are intermediate algebra, geometry and algebra 2; no decision has been made on whether the fourth year course will specified, Simon said.  Pekel said he hopes that districts don't automatically require the next traditional step in math sequencing, such as pre-calculus, for all students; some may benefit from alternatives such as statistics or quantitative reasoning, he said. . 

The proposal is part of a larger document in which Simon and Chief Academic Officer Emily Puetz outlined goals and strategies for graduating more students who are ready to go to college or start other career training.

The goal is to produce students who have a clear plan for how to pursue their careers, with the skills to figure out how to succeed in post-secondary training, without needing remedial work,, and with the determination to persevere toward vocational goals.

The proposal sets specific goals for increasing the  share of students who graduate from high school in four years, boosting the number of college entrants, boosting the number of minority students who take advanced classes, increasing the share of students who get marks on advance course tests, boosting attendance and increasinhg the district's market share of students living in the city.     

 

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