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Sandy Garrett Urges More High School Math

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ If state Superintendent of Schools Sandy Garrett has her way, Oklahoma high school students will have to take four years of math before they are eligible to graduate.

Garrett plans to present her math proposal to the state Board of Education on Thursday. It would require all high school seniors to be enrolled in a math course, even if they choose not to take calculus.

The plan, which will require public hearings, is expected to be opposed by students, some high school principals and a few superintendents.

``I'm getting a lot of support from the business community, and a lot of parents are saying right on,'' Garrett said. ``But mainly there is a culture out there that everyone should learn to read and but not everyone should have to learn math.''

One school official criticized the proposal as a potentially harmful ``one size fits all'' approach, while others who support the plan wonder how they'll find and afford more math teachers.

``There are some students who will benefit from taking more math,'' said Bill White, superintendent of Ponca City schools.

``But I believe there are some students who will not receive the benefit of a fourth math class because they'll have to give up something that's maybe more important like vocational training,'' he said.

Oklahoma's average math score of 19.7 is a full point behind the national average.

Analysis shows Oklahoma students who took at least four years of math scored at least a full point better of the math section of the ACT than those who took less than four years. Students with more math also fared a point or more better on the overall composite score.

In 1999, 31.5 percent of college freshmen required remedial courses in math, according to the state higher education regents. That's far higher than the remediation rate of 14.1 percent for English, 5.2 percent for reading and 4.1 percent for science.

Garrett's call for more math is backed by Gov. Frank Keating and state Education Secretary Floyd Coppedge.

Coppedge said more stringent requirements at the high school level will raise the bar for lower-level students and improve performance at elementary and middle schools.

He also said Oklahoma eighth-graders should be required to take algebra instead of waiting until their freshman year of high school. About 8 percent to 10 percent of Oklahoma eighth-graders take algebra, compared with about 25 percent nationally, Coppedge said.

Currently, high school graduates must take algebra, algebra II and geometry or courses of equal rigor.

Leigh Todd, principal at Idabel High School, said he's in favor of tough standards and won't oppose a four-year or senior-year math requirement.

``The only problem I see is an inability for us to hire the extra personnel to implement that. I see it as a big problem,'' Todd said.

With only half of Idabel's seniors taking a math class, such a new requirement would mean hiring more teachers, the need for more classrooms and more materials, Todd said.

Garrett said finding enough teachers is her worry, too. Oklahoma simply isn't producing enough teachers in many areas, including math.

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