GARRETT pushes for four-year math requirement in high schools

Thursday, July 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Students should take four years of math in high school so they won't have to take remedial courses in college, the state schools superintendent said Wednesday.

``Far too many of our 12th-graders cruise through their senior year, putting them at a disadvantage for college work or further vocational training,'' Sandy Garrett said in her state of education address in Tulsa.

``We must overcome the senior year slump and high rate of math remediation in Oklahoma.''

According to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 31.5 percent of college freshmen required remedial courses in math in 1999. The remediation rate for English was 14.1 percent and it was 5.2 percent for reading. Science had a remediation rate of 4.1 percent.

Garrett said she will present the increased math standard to the state Board of Education in August. High school graduates now must take three years of math, including algebra I, algebra II, geometry or courses of equal rigor.

A spokesman for Gov. Frank Keating said the governor was encouraged by Garrett's comments. Keating pushed a program called 4 by 4, with four years each of English, math, science and social studies.

``The governor has always been in favor of strengthening academic rigor,'' spokesman Phil Bacharach said. ``We applaud her idea and would support it.''

Superintendents and principals at the annual leadership conference said they share Garrett's call for higher standards, but are skeptical about what it means for their schools and students.

``Raising standards is good because we certainly need to,'' said Rick Banta, assistant principal at Tuttle High School. ``But it's not going to be easy to make all that come together. It could be difficult for some schools.''

Cheryl Steele, superintendent of the Midwest City-Del City School District, said her district is helping students improve their math skills through methods such as end-of-course tests. But there aren't enough math teachers.

``The pool for highly qualified math teachers is just shallow,'' she said. ``No doubt this would make it even more of a struggle.''

Garrett said many of the unanswered questions would be left to state board members, who will decide whether to approve a fourth year of math and what courses would comply.

``We may not specify what course it is,'' said Garrett, who chairs the state board. ``But I would hope that its going to be very rigorous.''

Moyers schools Superintendent Donna Dudley said requiring senior-year math should increase ACT scores.

``If they aren't taking math and they take the ACT their senior year, I just don't think their scores are going to be high,'' Dudley said. ``Even though we encourage them to take the math, a lot of seniors just don't.''

Garrett also said the state needs to do something about the poor health of Oklahoma children and those living in poverty. She said the state has set standards for academics, but now needs a ``unified caring, collaboration and commitment for children.''

``Of course, we want good roads, secure prisons and stately domes, but we must focus on children first,'' she said.

Garrett unveiled the Education Department's new logo, which depicts children and the motto, Oklahoma Children Priority One.