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Ohio students face tougher math requirements

Jan. 4, 2010 (AP): Ohio high school students entering their freshman year this fall will face tougher math requirements as part of a growing effort by Ohio and other states to better prepare students for college and careers in the global economy.

Ohio will require the incoming freshmen to complete four units of math for graduation, compared to the three now required. Another new requirement for graduation is that one of those four units must be Algebra II.

``With Algebra II, students will get a stronger background in math going into college, and career-wise—with technology growing at such a fast pace—there is a demand for students to know more math,'' Scott Blake, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said Monday.

But even Algebra I can prove to be a major hurdle for many students. A 2006 study at Florida International University found that students who fail Algebra I are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who passed.

At least five states currently require four units, while at least 12 states, including Ohio, require four units of math with future graduating classes, according to the Education Commission of the States.

The new Ohio requirements that will affect students graduating in 2014 were part of legislation signed into law in 2007 establishing the Ohio Core curriculum aimed at improving student achievement in core areas such as math and science.

The Ohio Department of Education is trying to assist districts concerned about helping students meet the new requirements.

``We're trying to build support for districts to answer those kinds of questions,'' said Brad Findell, director of the department's Mathematics Initiative.

Achieve's American Diploma Project Assessment Consortium based in Washington, D.C., has created Algebra I and II end-of-course exams to learn whether students have mastered the subject and are prepared for higher-level mathematics.

Ohio was one of five states that participated in the first administration of the Algebra I exam in spring 2009. Students were tested and scored in the categories of advanced, proficient, basic and below basic. Of the 2,031 Ohio students tested, 60.2 percent scored below basic.

One approach being used productively around the country to help students consists of providing twice the amount of instruction time during ninth-grade algebra, Findell said.

Educators say support for students struggling with algebra needs to start as early as middle school and that those struggling the most often did not master the basics in the lower grades.

``If you struggled with math all along, you've got an accumulation of deficits that are following you all the way up to that course,'' said Ultan Killean, who teaches geometry and statistics at Wyoming High School in suburban Cincinnati.

Algebra I has been taught in some middle schools, especially to students who excel in math.

One eighth-grader at the private Guardian Angels School in Cincinnati who already takes Algebra I at a nearby high school thinks more high school math will help students with college math.

``You get more experience with it,'' Wall said. ``When you take a year off, you seem to forget a little bit of what you did.''





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