Texas poised to ease high school algebra requirements

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 8:06 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 29 at 8:20 PM

The Texas State Board of Education is meeting in Austin this week. They are expected to finalize new high school graduation requirements by the end of the week.

Among the most controversial changes is a decision to drop the requirement that students take Algebra II. Many see the move as not only significant for Texas students, but students in other states as well.

Some education groups believe this will become a trend in high school graduation requirements across the country.

When Texas adopted more rigorous standards in 2006, it was considered ahead of the curve by requiring students to go beyond basic math and pass Algebra II in order to graduate. It’s considered by many educators to be a strong predictor of college readiness.

Texas was one of 16 states and the District Columbia to make the change.

But last November, the State Board of Education voted to drop that requirement, despite concerns raised by some parents and educators.

"Math is very important, and without it this country is not going to make it," said Paul Quinn College math and computer science professor Dr. Mohsen Farid.

Farid said the board is dropping the ball when it comes to preparing students for a global economy. At Paul Quinn College he said some 60 percent of students must take remedial math.

But a coalition of industry trade groups called Jobs For Texas said the standard was too rigid. Spokesperson Mike Meroney said back in November in a statement that "a more flexible education will allow schools to meet the diverse interests of their students and the needs of businesses."

The group said changes would let more students graduate and pursue more vocational education opportunities.

But Dr. Farid said those students still need more math.

“Even at Toyota or in the telecommunications industry working as a technician — not necessarily at the engineering level — you do require certain minimum level of stem subjects — science, technology and math,” he said.

The Texas Education Agency reported improvements in graduation rates since the more rigorous standard was put in place. Nearly 88 percent of students in the Class of 2012 graduated on time.

Concerns are being raised about minority and low-income students not being college-ready as a result of a reduced math requirement.

Nahydiel Molina wants to be an engineer and says minority students are able to defy stereotypes when required to take more challenging classes.

“When they see you taking those classes and passing, it says a lot," he said

Whether or not the change will solve or address some education issues that are as complex as the toughest math problem remains to be seen.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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